St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Weekly Message / Weekly Message 05-16-10: Our Commission
Weekly Message 05-16-10: Our Commission

Our Commission

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth
Acts of the Apostles 1: 8.

This is the commission that still stands, that still obliges, that still empowers, that continues to obtain, and holds true for today. This is not only given to the corporate Body, the Bride of the Lord, our blessed Church, but is our commission, our personal and individual commandment as baptized participants in the salvation of Christ. This is a very personal command to each believer, individually shared personally, privately, to be publicly lived and made known. It is given to the disciples even before the Holy Spirit comes to establish the Church so that their vocation is perfectly understood and thereby lived with the empowerment of the third person of the Holy Trinity. It is a direct command for you and for me this day as we look forward to the coming of the Paraclete. It is our responsibility, our business to make known the treasured Word of God in our world. We must share, we must provide a compelling example for it. We cannot just simply say it is up to the Church, that is to priests and consecrated religious, that is, monastics, to share the richness of the gospel message. We cannot sit back and let others do the job of the believer while we simply passively observe.

So the all-important question is whether we do in fact share the message of the Lord. How do we go to the ends of the earth to witness to Christ's truth? Do we support a missionary financially, prayerfully and with enthusiasm? Are we personally involved in the spread of our blessed faith? Yes there are many people who like to speculate about the times and seasons of his coming, of his returning among us, but who do not want to actually get involved in sharing the Word of God. But that is his commission, his command, his expectation because He desires souls be saved, including our own. And of course, we are not going to save our own soul unless we are involved in saving others as well.

So what is our witness? It means in all circumstances, particularly in our times of illness and deprivation, in times of pain and sorrow, in times of distress and affliction, we are as eager to witness for the Lord as we are in our times of best and invigorating health. The words of Scripture, "in Jerusalem" applies to our home town, here in the immediate area, we should be witnessing by our lifestyle and behavior to Christ's meaning and influence in our living. "All Judea" is equivalent to our community; "Samaria" represents the other side of the tracks, the folks we don't necessarily associate with. Although we may not meet with these people socially, we are to take gospel richness to them. Of course we cannot associate with everyone but we can select our friends as everyone else does because it is part of the freedom in which we live. Are we the kinds of people others want to have around them?

Are we willing to change ourselves so that we appeal more to our husbands, our wives, children, our families, so that we are in a better position to authentically echo Christ to those with whom we come in contact?

How many Orthodox people are there in our area who are not interested in coming to church because this is not their church by which they mean they are Greek, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, etc. and cannot seem to understand it is Orthodoxy that is most important, not at all national identity. The only irrefutable language the Church is to utilize is the language of Christ's love which all can understand. And we say silly national identity because we mean there are too many Orthodox who have never been taught it is most important to bless God, to worship God, to praise God in an Orthodox church every Sunday and holyday, but because their national ethnicity trappings are not present here, because we praise our God in the American language, they make excuses it is not the church of their cherished childhood. They make adjustments on all levels of their lives, but refuse to incorporate themselves into a pan-Orthodox parish and comfort themselves in grand delusion by saying they belong to a parish at a distance which is their own. The one which is most convenient is foreign to them and so too late will they find out salvation is also foreign to them because they choose foolishly to pursue their own ideas instead of the salvation of Christ.

How many Orthodox faithful desire salvation on their own terms and don't want their style cramped. And how many Orthodox priests encourage such thinking! But it is our privilege and our responsibility to witness to Orthodoxy as it actually is, not how some would imagine it to be. A big sin of Orthodoxy is that it does not teach responsibility of the believer to a spiritual father, to priestly directive. We like to think our priests are something extra, something nice to have, but certainly in most instances, to be ignored.

This witness to Christ is to go to the uttermost parts of the earth. We never lose sight of the fact that this is the Lord's intention and we cannot circumvent it except to our peril. He insists if we love him, to keep his commandments and these commandments to share and spread the faith are personal. We cannot evade our responsibility by saying this is the responsibility of the Church so the individual believer personally need not get


Unquestionably we are sick spiritually if we do not sense a compulsion to observe faithfully what the Church teaches, and then make a sincere and serious effort to daily live it!

The charter of Christ's strategy for telling the world of God's love is something different than we have been accustomed to hearing. He witnesses through each of his followers wherever they may be, day in and day out. Christ's message is being hurt or suppressed in our home style activity, in the way we relate to our wives or husbands, how we reverberate the words of the Lord to our children.

So we are all indispensable, each follower of Christ is to spend much of his or her time where the professionals, our priests, and consecrated religious do not touch with unbelievers or non-Orthodox. And we must never forget that love works only on contact!

That is precisely the point of the coming feast of the Ascension at which time the Lord reminds us He has done all that He can do, so it remains for us to do our part. The object of Pentecost, the sharing of the Holy Spirit was given to the some hundred and twenty disciples, not just to the twelve. Subsequently, the Holy Spirit finds his way to fulfill the faith of the three thousand who responded to the words and witness of St. Peter's sermon exhortation. Pentecost fulfilled the amazing promise of Christ in his last discourse: "Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these" John 14: 12.

What Jesus began in his Incarnation, in his own physical body, is to be continued through the bodies of every believer simultaneously, wherever they are. Jesus began something during his brief ministry which is to continue uninterrupted through His Body the Church after He ascends to the Father. The book, Acts of the Apostles is the record of that continuation and that book is still being written! Let us add our genuine spiritual endeavor and activity to it for Christ's glory!

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