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OK, I know this will be controversial, and I admit to being torn about this, but The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album “may” be my favorite Beatles album (It’s in competition with the “White album”). And one of my favorite songs is “With a Little Help from my Friends.” Great song!

Because it’s really true. I really do “get by with a little help from my friends! This is an old idea that is rooted in creation itself. We humans were meant for communion. You’ve heard me say this a thousand times! And it’s because we are created in God’s image and He knows Himself as Persons in Communion.

Just look at our Lesson today from Acts 18:22-28:

IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesos. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

It’s a great story. St. Apollos was a very gifted teacher and speaker and he was a zealous preacher for the wisdom of God revealed by St. John the Baptist and his message of repentance. St. Apollos had been instructed the “ways of the Lord” up to John’s message and ministry, but he didn’t have the whole story, and that was a problem! (by the way, it always is!)

So here comes Priscilla and Aquila, as wife and husband team who were faithful Christians and had “the rest of the story!” They fill Apollos in on the Incarnation and the message of Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection, and Apollos, having been instructed in “the way of God more accurately” became a powerful teacher and leader of the Faith! He eventually became bishop in the city of Corinth, but that’s another story.

The truth is none of us will ever be healthy Christians alone. We need the wisdom and even the conflict of rubbing shoulders with one another, learning from one another, and even experiencing conflict together if we are ever going to be healthy people who know ourselves well and who are humble enough to be students as well as teachers. This wisdom of community, of relationships means we do ourselves spiritual, emotional, and even physical harm, when we think we can “go it alone.” We were meant to experience the Life of God, the Faith, the whole of creation as connected and reachable persons.

Today, where are you cut off from others? Where are you trying to “do it by myself?” How’s that working out for you? It simply is no mistake that the center of our worship as Orthodox is the Eucharist, Communion. We were meant to press out this very daily faith in the midst of the hard work of communion. We are suppose to not only do this hard work, but not give up on this hard work when it gets really hard! It’s in staying faithful to communion, to community, that makes me able to love others as God loves them. Community sets me free to finally be my true self. In fact, I will never truly know myself by myself! So, I really do “get by with a little help from my friends!” Ok, maybe a lot of help!

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  • Gary
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Father, thanks for this article. I’m going to respectfully push back a bit. I’m a lifelong Protestant but I’ve been an inquirer of the Orthodox Church for some time now. There is so much I love about The Church. Frankly, this issue of community is one of THE main things that drew me towards Orthodoxy. Coming from the American megachurch scene where one is simply not allowed to even speak to the senior “pastor”, the idea that my local Orthodox priest could know me and counsel me and help me along on my journey towards salvation was most appealing. Sadly, my experience at my local (medium sized) O parish has left me a bit disillusioned. Honestly Father, I see no more community there than I did at my Protestant megachurch. I just see people with a different set of theological beliefs. The overwhelming majority of folks come for 2 hours on Sunday morning and that’s it. Again, just like at my former megachurch. The Priest is a wonderful man, but has his own family to deal with, along with all the issues that come with being the Priest of a growing parish. He seems super busy. To use your own words Father, it seems to me that most (all???) of the folks in the parish are trying to “do it by myself.” Forgive me Father. I’m not trying to be difficult my any means, just frustrated. I welcome your comments, thoughts, and advice.

    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted January 13, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Well, Gary, sure! Community is hard work and we really don’t like hard work. Besides, theology is just “theory” right?

      OK, the truth is we Orthodox, though blessed with this full theology and blessed with timeless treasures, are just as guilty as the rest of the human race when it comes to actually living this theology. We are sinners. That’s why the main prayer in Orthodoxy is “Lord, have mercy!”

      The truth is Gary, this realization still frustrates me as well. After all, when I was a Protestant I could use the excuse “Well, I didn’t know about this.” And now that I’m Orthodox, I have to confront my deeper spiritual illness of sloth! But, Gary, that’s the true value of Orthodoxy. It isn’t that it makes we Orthodox “perfect” but it does strip away the excuses to get to the “heart” of our problem. AND it forces me, if I allow it, to confront, not those around me, but myself. So, use this frustration, this real and legitimate frustration, to turn this wisdom to your own heart. It will save you if you do!

  • Gary
    Posted January 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Wow…..thank you very much Father. Wise counsel from you and I greatly appreciate it!

    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Brother, we’re in this together and we need each other! Thanks for helping me put words to all this.

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