What Do You Mean?Fr. Barnabas Powell
The act of communication is an amazingly difficult task, because we humans communicate on so many levels: Verbal (obviously), Visual (both in writing and gestures, facial expressions), Auditory, and Sensory. We communicate, intentionally and unintentionally along all these spectrums all the time. And guess what, we still struggle with misunderstanding!
Just think of the multitude of “messages” you send everyday, both great and small. It’s an amazing thing this art of communication.
Just the other day, I was sitting in our livingroom with my wife and we were just sitting and talking. During the conversation something came to my mind that I had been concerned about for some time involving some ministry work, completely unrelated to our conversation. But, in an instant, my facial expression changed and she noticed, and concluded that I was upset about the subject we were discussing! In an instant, that one facial expression set off a whole host of misunderstandings that had to be straightened out!
Exhausting! But that’s how communication works (or doesn’t work!)
In today’s Gospel Lesson, the Lord checks in with His disciples after giving them several “word pictures” about the Kingdom of heaven. He want’s to make sure they “get” what He is saying and they understand the implications of His revelation to them about the Kingdom of heaven. Look at Matthew 10:1, 5-8:
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Jesus gives His disciples some specific directions and he doesn’t want them to misunderstand Him. He communicates clearly so they will grasp the task He is sending them out to accomplish! Go and preach and serve! Go specifically to the “lost sheep of Israel” those dear ones who have all the spiritual advantages but grasp none of them! And also give away all the gifts the Lord has given expecting nothing in return! Hmm, let me get this straight Lord…
Our Faith, especially in our own day, is subject to lot’s of opportunities for misunderstanding, so it is all the more important that we who say we are followers of Jesus are clear about the central message of this new and eternal Kingdom we have been invited to embrace, and share with the whole world. Only a serious and purposeful and focused attention will protect us from missing out on understanding. But, make no mistake, it’s worth the work! And it works precisely because the Lord gave authority! But this authority is never to RULE but to serve! Heal the sick, raise the dead, relieve the suffering of others; this is what the Lord has given the Church authority to do and be. But we’ve so misunderstood that we have reduced the Church to a club or a social gathering or even a school where lectures on self-help are handed out! All of these aspects aren’t wrong as much as they are TOO SMALL! Misunderstand the basic reason for the Church and look at what happens! People drift from the Church. They are confused about what the Church is, and they misunderstand! The evil one fans the flames of this misunderstanding so there’s no sense in helping the evil one do his work!
Today, are you exploring the reality of the Kingdom of heaven for your life here and now? Do you understand that the Kingdom is worth selling everything you have to acquire it? Do you understand that the Kingdom is worth whatever price you are called on to pay for it? Do you understand that the Kingdom of heaven is filled with all kinds of people here and now and that we will have to be creative in using valuables both old and new to make His Kingdom clear and available to all people today? Misunderstandings are inevitable, so it is all the more important that we who follow Christ have a clear communication about our purpose, our calling. No wonder we desperately need to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Our Video Project is something that has been a prayerful desire for some time. We’ve heard from many of you about your interest in this project and we shoot the demo video July 10th. This project is designed to be an introduction to the Orthodox Faith to the average American. This treasure of this Faith is worth our best efforts and our best attention. Is this something you and your parish may be interested in having? Email me at email@example.com and let me know!