I Am ReadyFr. Barnabas Powell
The great Curtis Mayfield wrote a song in the 1960’s that was heavily influenced by his early years in the church of his youth. This song, “People Get Ready,” hit the American music scene at a time of great social turmoil. The lyrics hit home with me even today!
People get ready, there’s a train comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
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.”
St. Paul is fulfilling his calling as a witness, an Apostle (the word means “sent”) and a missionary for the Faith. Here, in this poignant scene recorded for us by St. Luke, the author of Acts, we see the brethren beg Paul not to go to Jerusalem because they are going to arrest him and turn him over to the Romans for trial. This event will mean Paul will appeal to Caesar and be taken to Rome for his trial, and there St. Paul will die a martyr’s death by beheading.
But I want you to notice three startling truths about this moment!
First, the Presence of the Spirit. The church gathered together considered it normal for those gifted by the Spirit to be able to speak boldly concerning what the Lord revealed to them. Notice how normal the closeness of the Spirit to the Faithful seemed to everyone. There was no astonishment at Agabos’ clear warning to Paul or the faithful. They seemed to consider such closeness and insight to be the normal life of the Church filled with the grace of God and the Presence of the Spirit.
Next, the Power of communion. Look at the deep love all shared in this scene. All the faithful, out of love for Paul, beg him not to go to Jerusalem. As an aside, look how quickly they all sensed the truth of Agabos’ words. And then Paul’s response showed he loved them in return. This sense of close communion, of family love, is also considered normal life for the Christians here.
Finally, the Peace of Paul. St. Paul tells these dear ones whom he loves “I am ready…” And what is he ready to do? He is ready to go to prison and even die for the Faith. This peace flows, not from Paul’s own courage, though I’m sure he is a courageous man, but from love for Christ and the certainty of his own changed life and the lives of those he has seen transformed by baptism and life in the Church.
These startling truths invite us to examine our own Christian community. Do we consider it normal to have such an immediate awareness of the Spirit and intimacy with God that He can entrust to us the knowledge of the future? Do we love one another so much that this love creates a real sense of “family” in our parish. And, finally, is our faith, our love for Christ so strong that even the thought of death loses it’s power to enfeeble us in the face of our Faith, our Lord, and our eternal life in Him?
Today, are you ready? Are your ready to embrace an intimate and normal Orthodoxy that empowers you and your parish with such closeness to God, each other, and to an unwavering hope? It’s time to get ready through daily practice, prayer, and adoration to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Did you miss last night’s Faith Encouraged LIVE. My special guests, Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker talked with us about their new book “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home.” Learn how to nurture an Orthodox rhythm in your home by listening at our Archives Page, and then share this link with two other friends as well! Thanks!