Recently a famous Evangelical pastor came out and stated that he is discovering that the history of the Church was plain that the Eucharist was the center of the Church’s life and not merely a sermon. I remember when I learned that the sermon wasn’t the normal center of Christian worship, it opened the floodgates of information about how normal Christianity was practiced for centuries AND the implications of this information for my own formation as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.
The greatest implication was that my Faith was meant to be practices; not merely thought about!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 20:1-8:
At that time, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question; now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know whence it was. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
It seems that most people always start with “Who gives you the right to do that/say that?” or “You can’t judge me!” This seemingly automatic response by most of us, even if we don’t say it out loud is both a positive and a negative. It’s positive because it is usually a smart thing to “test the spirits.”
Finding out what’s behind directions and commands is a key element in growing up and developing discernment. My teenage daughter is in that stage of life where she challenges me with “I don’t understand why you have these rules for me.” And it would be easy to react with anger and say “Because I said so” but that rarely works out well. Instead, I take the educational opportunity to try and explain my reasons for the disciplines I ask of her. Sometimes, it even works!
It is also potentially a negative when that attitude reveals an unwillingness to be led or trained. That negative internal pridefulness always leads to a perpetual immaturity and, worse yet, actual disaster in one’s life when you refuse to hear correction or wisdom.
Our Lord Jesus confronts that negative aspect here and it shows just how far these Jewish religious leaders had drifted to a normal and healthy relationship with the ancient Faith. And the Lord uses the Baptism of John to expose this deep poverty in these leaders. They judge their answer to the Lord’s confrontation based on their own well being: One answer leads them to have to confront their own disobedience and the second possibility leads them to have to deal with the disapproval of the people. they’re caught, but they are too prideful to admit they are caught so they resort to false ignorance.
But that false ignorance never works. It leaves us stuck in our own arrogant pride. We actually do know what we should do, especially after we are confronted with the wisdom of the Faith. Now, all that is left is the humble repentance that leads us to the freedom of “slavery” to following Christ!
Being confronted with wisdom, with the timeless vision of “normal” Christianity will give you moments of choice: Will I see the wisdom in this consistent message of Faith? Will I be curious enough to seek out WHY this wisdom has been so consistent and transformative for so many? Or will I insist that my own understanding is superior or unassailable by this consistent wisdom and pretend to be either superior to it or “ignorant” of it? That choice will define your freedom or your slavery to delusion.
Today, are you regularly allowing the Faith to confront your life with wisdom, or are you hiding from this wisdom by either claiming ignorance or actually hiding from this wisdom. Being Orthodox on Purpose means the humility to know both the Why of the Faith AND the courage to actually practice the Faith!
P.S. During this Winter Lent, one of our lenten disciplines is Generosity! Once a year we reach out to you to help us continue this ministry with a gift to support Faith Encouraged Ministries, and now is that time of year! Please go to https://faithencouraged.org/make-a-donation/ and you can make a tax deductible one time gift or a sustaining monthly gift to help us encourage people all over the world!