The ancient saying “The Unexamined Life is not worth living” hits home today in so many ways. Our society is being given a look at ourselves through the twin mirrors of a health crisis AND the brutality of those sworn to protect AND those who would burn down their own houses in response.
But here’s where the Church comes in to “Prophecy.” We who are the Body of Christ are here to speak in this moment through both words and actions the truth of both Repentance and Healing. All of the plans of men have failed, as they always do, and now the Church speaks about the Resurrection and the Coming of the Holy Spirit. And this Prophetic message invites us all to look into these mirrors of suffering and fear and discover, without shame, who we really are and what we really need!
That’s where prophecy comes in. Remember, prophecy is more “forth telling” and “fortune telling.”
Look at our lesson today in Acts 21:8-14:
IN THOSE DAYS, the apostles departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabos came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”
As we approach the Feast of Pentecost, I want to focus on the readings from Acts so we can see the results of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church after Pentecost.
And today’s lesson is a powerful example of the transformation of this small band of believers into the Church that will “turn the world upside down!” Actually, the Church turns the world right side out again, but that’s for another time.
St. Paul has converted to the Faith from being a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. And he is doing his missionary work primarily among the Gentiles, and that is causing a great disturbance among Paul’s former friends! But look at the scene in Philip’s house. Four unmarried daughters who “prophesied” and another “prophet” named Agabos. And Philip himself was one of the 7 deacons ordained in the earlier chapters of Acts. But let’s focus today on “prophecy.”
St. Philip’s daughters prophesied, but not today for St. Paul. No, another “prophet” named Agabos was given the insight to tell Paul what he could expect from the religious authorities in Jerusalem: arrest and possible execution. So, what did the people around Paul do? They begged him not to go. But Paul insists he must go and he is willing to pay whatever price he had to in following Jesus Christ.
This “gift” of prophecy is very important here. And while some may want to sensationalize this work of the Holy Spirit in His Church, for their own ego’s sake, let’s take the more sober path and discover that this is a direct consequence of disciplined passions AND intimacy with God in His Church. The ability to have insight on coming trouble isn’t a result of some magical moment, but the clear result of being a close companion to God. Each of us in the Orthodox Church have been chrismated, given our own “personal Pentecost” for the purpose of fostering this intimate communion with God in Christ. Of course, this active, purposeful, daily, disciplined result of living close to God every day in the fastings, and feastings, in daily prayer, and in wanting to know God more and more will always give us access to His wisdom and His insight. No wonder Agabos knew what was coming. He was awake. He was connected. He was listening and expecting God to be actively present in his everyday life!
Today, you can also learn how to see what’s coming AND have the grace to deal with whatever happens, as you choose daily to be Orthodox on Purpose!