The PromiseFr. Barnabas Powell
“I promise!” And with that my daughter assured me she would really clean her room. A few hours later, her room was indeed clean, with some snack breaks along the way!
The word “promise” is such a wonderful word. But the value of the word always lies in the character of the person using it. I guess that’s true of all words, isn’t it? For instance, my daughter’s promise holds more weight with me that say a politician’s promise or a stranger’s promise.
So, a promise made by someone I know and love has greater influence on me that a promise made to me by a stranger. At the very heart of of the value of a promise is a relationship.
But that cuts both ways, doesn’t it? How many times have we struggled with the pain of someone close to us becoming so unreliable that their promises are always treated as empty and untrustworthy. In my own life, I watched as an addiction and a mental illness stole someone close to me and made all their promises to seek help and to “get better” ring so hollow and empty that every successive promise was more a wound than a source of hope. There again, the context of the relationship was key to everything.
And this is why these saving days of Bright Week are filled with the challenge to relationship, growing relationships, establishing healthy relationships, and maturing relationships. This is the central work of faith and salvation and not the foolish and shallow notion of some contractual agreement between me and God to keep me out of “hell.” No, in fact all of the Orthodox Christian faith is from stem to stern about relationships; my relationship with God and my neighbor. And the very central truth that my relationships with others will reflect and directly image my relationship with God. It is this primary relationship that informs, effects, and strengthens (or weakens) all other relationships in my life.
And it all starts with a promise!
In our Scripture Lesson today, we are taken to the Day of Pentecost just after the Resurrection of the Lord and the empowering of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus to fulfill the command of the Lord to them to “make disciples” of all nations.
St. Peter is preaching his Pentecost homily in the Acts of the Apostles 2:38-43, and here he makes a powerful statement. In verse 39 of Acts 2 he declares to the thousands listening “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” The “promise” is for you, your children, and even those who are “far off,” every one!
The Promise St. Peter is talking about is the promise, not of escaping hell or getting God to let you into heaven, but the promise of God made to us that He will reorder our lives and banish the disorder of our lives. The Promise is that God Himself will so transfigure your life that you will be both a suitable habitation for Him in your life and you will become so much like Him you will enjoy His Presence forever.
Pretty big promise, if you asked me.
So, today, the question to be settled in our hearts is two-fold.
Do you trust the Person Who made this promise to you? Of course, your ability to trust this Promise is anchored in your relationship with the One Who made the Promise. The great truth is the more you know Him, the more you will be able to embrace His promise to you. The stronger your faith, the more purposeful your practice of that faith and the more attention you give to your faith, the stronger the bond between you and your Promise Giver!
And, do you want the promise to be fulfilled in your life? Every promise made depends on an assumption that you want the promise fulfilled. If you embrace this Promise for your own life, the life of your family, and your community, then the Promise of a new life in Christ not only holds a priority in your life, your choices, and your behaviors, but this Promise informs all other aspects of your life as well.
As we bask in this Bright Week, let us constantly renew the embrace of God’s Promise to make us like Himself. Let us be so close to Him that His Promise not only makes me new, but “infects” those around me with a hunger to see the same for their lives. Abandoning the sterile and empty concepts of salvation as mere contract and faith as merely a collection of precepts to be intellectually assented to or a philosophy to be thought about; and embracing a life-long purposeful exploration of this beautiful theology of love and relationships as well as doing this faith daily, let’s not only be promise believers, but promise sharers with all around us, even those who are “far off.”
Christ is risen!