The Heaven Was OpenedFr. Barnabas Powell
I never will forget the thrill of anticipation as we waited outside for the doors to open. It was my very first concert, and I was wide eyed at the spectacle of the crowd, the chance to see a favorite band, and to hear the music that rocked my world at that time. It seemed my whole self was attentive, anticipating, and alive. And when the doors opened to let us in – WOW! By the way, Huey Lewis and the News was great! Turns out it’s hip to be square!
We humans share this common emotional response to an “opening” of doors. It seems the opening of a door invites us to hope; to anticipation of possibilities; to crossing the threshold into a new space. Opened doors are a pathway to “another place.” Let’s face it, our whole lives are filled with opened and closed doors; with crossing thresholds and moving on or standing still.
But what is introduced to us when God Himself opens a “door?” What does it mean that “the heaven was opened?”
Look at Luke 3:19-22:
At that time, Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by John for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
As usual, this scene isn’t just a narrow peek into the reality of life, but a full throated embrace of the whole spectrum of human existence. Present here is Herod’s evil AND Christ’s baptism. Over and over again the scriptures sets “light” and “darkness” side by side so we humans can finally wake up to the contrast of our choices; to the reality of what is at stake by our lives and our purpose. Whether we are are of it or not, every moment of our lives invites us to choose which aspect of reality we will support or deny!
St. John is baptizing the people with the “baptism of repentance” that act of marking a moment when the choices of one’s past are “washed away” and a new life begins with new and different choices. And Christ Himself submits to baptism, not because He needed to repent, but so that a “door” could be opened for all of the creation to experience and live out what was going to happen next! Heaven was OPENED and the Father’s voice was once again heard in His Creation. Just as Adam heard God’s Voice in the Garden calling out to him “Adam, where are you?” so now these people surrounding the Son of God heard, once again, the loving Voice of the Father identifying Him Who opened the door of heaven for us all! And this Voice is affirmation that God is still happy with His creation. He is “well pleased” with the New Adam standing there just as He declared that His creation is “very good” in Genesis!
And standing at this open door is all the hope, all the joy, all the strength we will ever need to stand up to the darkness of Herod’s evil, and the mistreatment of the prophets of God.
Today, what darkness do you face in your life? Do you realize that heaven’s door is now been opened for you by Him Who pleased the Father on your behalf? What will it take to wake you up to this cosmic invitation to love and joy and peace? What needs to happen in your life to move you across the threshold of this opened door into a Purposeful Practice of this timeless faith? The door to heaven is opened. Christ has made it possible for us to live in His Kingdom of the Church. It’s time to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Your prayers please. This Saturday I am honored to be the guest speaker at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Orleans for their Autumn Family Retreat. The presentation is open to the public and the schedule is on the parish website at www.holytrinitycathedral.org. I hope to see all my friends in the area there!