My Pentecostal background shaped me to expect that God wouldn’t ask me to BE like Jesus Christ and then not give me the power to actually DO that! But being cut off from the continuity of the wisdom of the Church meant we had to make it up as we went along, usually with tragic results! Discovering Orthodoxy opened up a whole new vista of wisdom in the Power of the Holy Spirit in my life.
Being chrismated into the Church was my own personal Pentecost; that gift of the Church that means I can be free to be like Jesus Christ. Imagine my surprise when I found out that so many Orthodox aren’t really aware what they were given in their baptism and chrismation!
I guess that’s why I am so confused when even Orthodox people don’t realize just what the Church is giving them when they are anointed with the oil of chrismation, or healing, or blessing!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 2:14-21:
In those days, Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maid servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
St. Peter is preaching his first Feast of Pentecost message on that fateful day when the promise of the Lord to His disciples before His ascension occurred. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the coming of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task of sharing this “Good News” with the whole world.
And the “whole world” seemed to have been in Jerusalem that day! There were pilgrims from all over the place there in the city to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and God had fulfilled His promise to empower His disciples with His Presence that very day! Of course, when it happened the disciples declared boldly and in languages that everybody could understand the “Good News” of the Lord’s Resurrection and His salvation to all mankind!
What made this such an amazing moment was that this authority, this boldness, this power was usually reserved for the prophets or the few leaders around. But now God had given His power to “regular people,” fishermen, and others who usually didn’t get such an intimate experience of God’s Presence in their lives. God was fulfilling another Old Testament promise and St. Peter was telling all these people about it. Yes, the same St. Peter who had denied he even knew Jesus when He was arrested. The same St. Peter who ran and hid from the Jewish authorities. The same St. Peter who is now bold to speak to the whole crowded city! Something powerful had changed, and it was the coming of the Holy Spirit.
And now St. Peter is telling these folks that this same power and intimacy with God is available to everyone, “all flesh.” Sons and daughters, young men, old men, servants, and maids; all can now enter into this empowered living by their intimate connection and relationship with God Himself! And from that day until this day, this is the message of the Church; to invite everyone, even folks who no one ever thought was “good enough” to be in loving relationship with God Himself through Christ!
Today, do you realize what the Church gave you when you were baptized and chrismated with the oil? The Church hooked you up to that long line of family empowered by God’s Spirit to be a visible proof that God loves the whole world and wants them all in His Church! You have the power to be Orthodox on Purpose BECAUSE the Church has given you what God has now given the whole world!