Our God is a Consuming Fire!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
What is the regular rhythm of your life? Looking at your daily routine, what does it teach you about your “habit” of prayer and devotion? The questions are not meant to bring shame or confrontation, but revelation. St. Basil taught that to know God one must get to know one’s self without falling into the trap of self-centeredness. Yes, I know, very difficult.
But now we have arrived at the midway point between Pascha and Pentecost. Now, the Church begins to tie together Pascha and Pentecost with the teachings of our Lord Jesus in the Temple. Today the Church has us read and contemplate St. John’s Gospel 7:14-30. Jesus is teaching in the Temple and speaking plainly and openly about the desire for some to have Him killed, and others confusion about the Lord’s identity.
About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. The Jews marveled at it saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teacher is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is not falsehood. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The people answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man upon the sabbath. If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? Yet we know where this man comes from; and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.
This whole necessity about getting the identity of the Lord correct is directly tied together with getting my own identity correct. If I know Him, I will know myself. Simply put – being made in His image means that I best know myself when I know Him.
This is why Pascha and Pentecost are tied together. The revelation of the resurrection of Christ with His complete victory over death and the giving of the Spirit to all humanity are theological “mirrors” held before you and me to show us who we truly are. We are persons meant to be God’s eternal companions, connected to and sharing in His eternal life, AND filled with and consumed by His Spirit. We are made to be the companions of the Three Hebrew Children in the fire. We now join them in the “furnace” of God’s unquenchable Love and walk around in the fire with that Fourth Man. This “fire” does not burn us, but purifies us.
With this challenge before us, let us today look back with joy at the Resurrection and forward with anticipation to Pentecost where the Lord fulfills His promise to send “another Comforter” to empower us to be and grow into who we were meant to be. All has been provided for us. There is no grace withheld that could assist us in being truly free. God has emptied Himself into His creation precisely for this work – to make you His able companion.
Today, set some time aside to “think on these things.” Be grateful that your Creator loves you so very much. Be busy giving yourself over to His abundant mercy to transfigure you, your thoughts, your actions, your very life. Today, know Him and you will know yourself. Today, let’s get ready for the “fire” of Pentecost by being Orthodox on Purpose!