When I was a boy the movie The Wizard of Oz was always showing around Easter time. I’m not sure why the TV executives chose that time of year to show this movie, but I do remember looking forward to it every year. I especially like the spot toward the end where Toto pulls back the curtain hiding the professor who is running all the gadgets that he created to trick others. Once he’s discovered all of us are let in on the secrets of the Wizard of Oz.
And this is what the story of Orthodox Christianity does for humans. Orthodoxy pulls back the curtain on the physical and spiritual world and reveals the whole picture of why we humans exist and what we were created to become. And this story is a story of hierarchy, opposites, monsters, angels, and the fight between a false existence and the real existence we were made to live.
I want to revisit our reading from a few days ago in Luke 10:16-21:
The Lord said to his disciples, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
This is such an intriguing moment in the ministry of Jesus. He sends out His 70 disciples into the surrounding towns and villages to “spread the word” about the truth that the Kingdom of God is here. And He empowers them to do for the people what He’s been doing for the people; setting them free from sickness and the oppression of fear and the demons. And when they return, they come back to report to the Lord all that had happened. They are on Cloud 9! And Jesus joins in with their joy.
This moment literally pulls back the curtain that separates the physical and spiritual worlds. And, in doing this, Jesus tells you and me what is really going on all around us right now.
First, He empowers them to be like Him. He sends them out to multiply His physical presence in all the surrounding areas. He is still doing this today in His Church. The very purpose of the Church is to be a physical icon of Jesus in real communities. We are meant to be Icons of Paradise in the world SO THAT the world can see what all of us were meant to be.
Next, He reveals to them the extent of His power. Look what Jesus says to them when they report that “even the demons” obeyed them when they commanded the demons in His name. Jesus tells them “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” When we embrace our intimate connection with Christ, the results are always the defeat of the evil one and his plans to steal, kill, and destroy. This spiritual warfare is what’s behind the curtain of all this chaos in our modern society. And it is why we Orthodox MUST embrace the enchanted creation of the Creator WHo is real and intends us to participate in the healing of the physical and spiritual reality!
Finally, He insists they keep perspective. Jesus rejoices with His disciples over their spiritual warfare victories over darkness. But He also warns them away from the danger of focusing on their “power” over the demons. He tells them the key to really appreciating what happens in their joy is keeping their perspective on the GIFT of their names being “written in heaven.” The tumbling into the arrogant and prideful gloating over power always leads to the destruction of the person or the society. The key to really expressing the truth of the Kingdom of God is always centered on gratitude and the ability to celebrate the kindness and grace of the Lord in our lives.
Today, the Lord pulls back the curtain on the true intentions of God and the evil one. The wisdom of the Church, the disciplines of the Church, all center on equipping you to stay awake to this reality and to advance the Kingdom of God in your heart and your community. Being Orthodox on Purpose makes you the capable spiritual warrior by the grace of God.
P.S. Dear Lord, You have shown us what is good, and what You require of us: To do justly, and to love, mercy, and to walk humbly with God. When we embrace our true purpose, Lord, we see that we are called to make You physically present and available to everyone around us. Please help me, Lord, to keep my focus on Your kindness towards me and to stay attentive to my true purpose in pressing the everlasting Kingdom of God deeper in my own life. Amen.