Christ is risen!
The old apocryphal Chinese curse seems innocuous at first, but when you really think about it, it is truly a curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
To wish for someone to live in times of turmoil and upheaval really is an ironic wish. But most of human history is turmoil and disruption. The United States has been around since 1776 and has fewer years of peace than conflict. And today there are some who seem to promote the horrid idea of “perpetual war” all across the globe. It seems we moderns can tend towards violence just as much as the “barbarians” we claim to be beyond.
But conflict is essential if you are going to grow and mature. Peace, at least how Christ describes it, isn’t the absence of conflict but the Presence of wisdom that navigates the conflict well.
To be sure, even Jesus Himself said “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” in Matthew 10. And, true to His word, His message really did, and does, disrupt the world. But this disruption isn’t caused by hatred or political differences or racial or economic differences. The disruption of the Message of Jesus to humanity is because Humanity is UPSIDE DOWN, and turning the world right side up again is going to shake things up!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 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 on being 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 they were setting it right side up again!
On this 6th Monday after Pascha, no one can live in such a fantasy world where we ignore the real change to all of human history since the Birth, Life, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and promised Second Coming of the Person of Jesus Christ. Even those who foolishly attempt to recreate the old pagan religions all use Christian language. It’s unavoidable. There is no reset button for humanity that wants to pretend the effects of the Person of Jesus Christ can either be ignored or even excised from Humanity. This is exactly what Jesus said would happen when His Message of salvation, transformation, and victory over Darkness is declared in an upside-down world where it seems the madness of immorality and the selfish narcissism of human immaturity is reeking chaos in society. Madness always assumes sanity is bad! And the reality of the Normal Orthodox life will always be counter to the insanely passion-filled world inverted from its true purpose.
Today, too many people are painfully unaware that their “world” is upside down! 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 Normal Orthodox lives!
P.S. O Faithful, let us sing a hymn of praise and worship to the Logos, coeternal with the Father and the Spirit, who was born of the Virgin for our salvation. Of His own will, He went upon the Cross in the flesh and suffered death, to raise the dead through His glorious Resurrection.
Your Support for Faith Encouraged is very much appreciated!