Growing up in that sliver of Christian sub-culture of the American South in the 70s and 80s, that was the time of the Left Behind novels and constant speculation about who is the Anti-Christ and if Jesus’ Second Coming was just around the corner. Was Russia going to invade Israel? Is the bar code the “mark of the beast” from Revelation? Are you ready for the Rapture?

Frankly, it was all both terrifying and exciting. It began to feel like being at the sideshow and the County Fair with carnival barkers all trying to get you to give them your quarter to see some amazing marvel behind the curtain.

I was blessed to be in a church where the pastor really was a wise man. He refused to participate in this circus of guessing and predictions and “prophecy mania.” And he inoculated us against such foolishness. Thank God. But the rest of the American Christian Protestant world was all feverish, especially when someone came out with a “prophecy” that Jesus was returning on Sept. 1, 1988! Oh BOY, that got things stirred up. And, as usual, nothing happened.

Turns out when the Scriptures talk about prophecy, they aren’t talking about future-telling, but FORTH-telling. It’s more about proclamation to prepare for all of our “ends” than it is in satisfying the curiosity of this or that “amazing” prophecy. It’s about proclaiming the Truth about the purpose of our future, not telling you what the lottery numbers are going to be next week!

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 continue 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 into oncoming trouble isn’t a result of some magical moment, but the apparent result of being a close companion to God. Each of us in the Orthodox Church has 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!

This attentiveness to reality is what feeds the strength of the martyrs of our Faith. Today we remember St. Theodosia of Constantinople. Theodosia was a nun in the Imperial City at the time when the Empire was fighting anyone who held to the Orthodox veneration of the holy icons. This brave young woman stood up to the combined might and temporal power of Emperor Leo when he ordered the holy icons destroyed and she was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for the Reality declared in the mystery of our iconography. Some may say this is a foolish way to through your life away, BUT the reality is her willingness to hold to the Truth regardless of the cost means she saw the future and knew that this temporary pain was worth eternal joy!

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 a Normal Orthodox Life!

P.S. O Lord Jesus, unto You Your lamb cries with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, You I love; and seeking You, I now contest, and with Your baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Your sake, that I may reign with You; for Your sake, I die, that I may live in You: accept me offered out of longing to You as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions since You art great in mercy.

As the Summer months approach, please remember that your support means so much during this time of year!

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