Christ is risen!
It actually was funny, but I had to get past my embarrassment first! You see, I had taken off my coat one winter day in Middle School and, lo and behold, I had put on my shirt inside out. All the kids saw it and started laughing. I had been in a hurry. I was going to miss the bus, and I didn’t pay attention. But it was surely obvious to everyone my shirt was on wrong! But what made it even worse was that Shelley noticed it too. What made it not so bad was, she didn’t laugh!
It’s obvious to people paying attention when something or some situation just isn’t right. The clear signs of dysfunction punctuate the whole situation. What’s worse is when we are deluded by our inattention and can’t tell when something or someone is “inside out!”
Look at our lesson today in Acts of the Apostles 17:1-9:
IN THOSE DAYS, when the apostles had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
The earliest Christians were seen as just another sect of Judaism. But now the Christians are reaching out to the Gentiles as well; to the Romans; to the pagans all around them, and inviting them all to come to the Faith. This is what all of St. Paul’s missionary journeys were all about, and here St. Paul and St. Silas are doing as they normally do, starting with the folks in the Jewish synagogue there in Thessaloniki.
And several folks believed and were converted. Some of these converts were from the group called “the devout Greeks.” These were Gentiles who had come to reverence the Jewish way of life and had become followers of the Mosaic Law. They had not officially converted to Judaism, but were “friends.” But then St. Luke (the writer of the Book of Acts) mentions another group: “the leading women.” These were probably women in the city who were part of the upper class; wives of prominent politicians or business leaders or even business leaders themselves. In any event, these people were drawn to the Faith and that meant that somebody was going to be upset! And they were!
Look at what the angry crowd said: “These men who have turned the world upside down…”
It reminds me of the story of St. Peter’s crucifixion. It is said that when the Romans were going to crucify Peter, he insisted to be turned upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die as his Lord had died. One commentator observed that when Peter was there on the cross upside down that he saw the world as it really was “upside down.” You see, our world really is upside down; it really is “inside out.” Our world, our society is suffering from the delusion of living life as if there was no God and as if Jesus hadn’t come among us. The lives of the people are really inside out. But the Faith comes and sets the world aright. St. Paul and St. Silas were accused of turning the world upside down, but in reality, they were setting it right side up again!
Today, too many people are painfully unaware that their “world” is turned the wrong way! The message of the Faith is meant to fix that weakened poverty. But, when we declare it, we have to be ready to be accused of messing things up for everyone as we, by our lives and our actions, live Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, You set the world right side up again through Your Life-giving death and resurrection. And through the coming of the Holy Spirit, You empowered Your Church to declare that message to a world still gripped by the “upside-down” delusion of self-centered living. I confess I don’t even notice all the ways my own view of the world and healthy life is still gripped by this delusion. Please forgive me for my inattentiveness and help me pay attention when my life goes wrong to see these moments of invitations to allow You to right my life and turn me towards You! Amen