Will You Be Surprised?Fr. Barnabas Powell
My girls love when I do this. Well, not really, but they do laugh. Sometimes, when we are all in the car, just driving down the road, everybody minding their own business. Conversation has lagged and the music on the radio is boring, when no one expects, I’ll holler real loud and scare everyone in the car! Infantile, I know, but boy does it get the juices flowing and after the initial shock everyone dissolves into laughter, and then the little voice from my three year old invariably says: “Do it again, daddy!”
But that’s the power of expectation. When you are awake to what’s coming, you’re ready.
And that is exactly why the Lord taught His Church that He will come again. No schemes, no hidden agendas, no “blood moons” or “gnostic” secrets to be revealed only to the ones “really in the know!” Just the power of expectation and wakefulness to keep us ready for His return, whether it is at our own mortal death, or at the Parousia, the Second Coming!
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Matthew 24:42-47:
The Lord said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.”
The power of not knowing when but knowing what will happen is the key to understanding the wisdom of the Church and Her teaching about the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus Christ is going to return, and that’s all we need to know. The reason for this isn’t so we will be ignorant, but because Christ is the object of our love and devotion. Whether His coming is preceded by “Great Tribulation” or the always present “antichrists” who have always tried to usurp the Lord’s place in our hearts, or whether we meet the Lord in our own mortal appointment in death; we love Him and we desire to be with Him and we long to go to Him, and that motivates us to be watchful for Him.
This is the significant and profound difference in what the Church has always taught concerning the Second Coming and the multitude of sensationalistic counterfeits that scream for our attention in this day and age. In fact, the more sensational, the more proof that their lack of sobriety and peace shows their incompatibility with the timeless message of the Faith! So, don’t be captured by “rapturemaina” and all the silly (and suspiciously complicated) popular “systems” being promoted by those only interested in capturing your attention. No matter how slick the presentation, the truth is better suited to make you ready for His coming again!
Today, are you motivated by love or fear? To be sure, fear may be the initial motivation for wakefulness. After all, most of us have alarm clocks to wake us in the morning. But the spiritually mature move quickly from the weak and unsustainable motivation of fear to the maturing and healing and sustainable motivation of love when they see just how lovely Christ and His message really is! The message of the Orthodox Faith isn’t one of sensationalism or fear, but the awe inspiring motivation of God’s eternal and unchanging love for you and me. And being in love with Him means you will never be surprised by His return or your mortal appointment with death. You will be awake. No wonder it is precisely the LIFESTYLE and rhythm of worship, prayer, and practice that transforms our Christian faith from “something” we know to SOMEONE we love! This difference makes all the difference! It makes you Orthodox on Purpose!