Monday, June 20, 2016

Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace

Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33), says Jesus Christ, and so, His disciples, those who are called by His holy apostle Paul the Body of Christ, are called by Him into His heavenly kingdom of great peace. In the Body of Christ, there are many parts, they are not all the same, yet they work together for the good of the whole.

‘Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink’ is how the same holy apostle puts it (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), and he elaborates even further, saying, ‘From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work’ (Ephesians 4:16).

How beautiful is the Body of Christ!

How beautiful the hands that served the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth! How beautiful the feet that walked the long dusty roads and the hills to the cross! How beautiful the heart that bled that took all our sin and bore it instead! How beautiful the tender eyes that chose to forgive and never despise! And as He laid down His life, we offer this sacrifice: That we will live just as He died, willing to pay the price.

How beautiful the radiant Bride who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes! How beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live! How beautiful the feet that bring the sound of good news and the love of the King! How beautiful the hands that serve the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth! How beautiful is the Body of Christ!
(Twila Paris)

What unites the saints is the freedom of the Spirit. They are free from their wills, from themselves. This is the proof and assurance of the genuineness of their truth. It is not the man speaking, but the Spirit of God. Thus a trinitarian balance reigns within them and flows round about them because in them is no ‘individual’ initiative, no arbitrary dealings, no partial view, but a universal manifestation. The Lord's judgment is just because He seeks not His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (cf. John 5:30).

The Comforter consoles the people of God and leads it ‘into all truth’ because He does not speak of Himself. What is important is not that we should achieve the project we have set ourselves to achieve, but that the Holy Spirit should do with us and within us what He wishes, when He wishes, regardless of whether this seems, or is, disastrous for our projects and our good resolutions.

This release from his own will and total captivity to the freedom of the Comforter means that man's theological testimony can be heard, like a message of resurrection, from the whole of his behavior and his being. It makes the course of his life into a script which can be clearly read, theologically mature and universally saving. Theology is a creation, a superabundance of life, a gift, an overflowing, an involuntary movement. It emanates from the whole body of the life of those who are spiritually liberated, like the sound that comes from all the vibrating metal of a bell.

Fortunate is the man who is broken in pieces and offered to others, who is poured out and given to others to drink. When his time of trial comes he will not be afraid. He will have nothing to fear. He will already have understood that, in the celebration of love, by grace man is broken but not divided, eaten and never consumed. By grace he has become Christ, and so his life gives food and drink to his brother. That is to say, he nourishes the other’s very existence and makes it grow.
(Archimandrite Vasileios)

The life we share in Christ puts all of us ‘into the arena’ no less than it put the early Christians. Why is this? Are we any different from them? No, we are the same. We are the early Christians. The world puts us into the arena, but actually they do not know what they are doing. They are only following the orders of the One they do not know, who loves us so much that He is willing to let us share with Him His passion, so that we can share His resurrection. There is no other way to life. He says, ‘Do not be afraid. It is I’ (John 6:20).

Like our Lord Jesus Christ who after His baptism by the honorable forerunner and prophet John the Baptist went into the desert where He was put to the test by satan, we are driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for exactly the same purpose: to provoke the evil one to reveal himself, so that he can be overcome. How overcome?
By ourselves?
Not at all, but by the Word of God who lives in us and has already transfigured us into images of Himself, full of His own authority and power.

Yes, we are put into the arena. We are driven into the wilderness. That is what this world is, what life in this world is, a battle, yet we are called to live in the heavenly kingdom of great peace. What is this kingdom? Where is this kingdom? ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst,’ says the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 17:20-21), who is both king and kingdom, and who alone is our peace.

‘Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!’ the liturgical greeting that must be lived and not just said, is the road and the destination at one and the same time. How can we not be at peace with one another when we are in Him who ‘makes His home in the praises of Israel’ (Psalm 22:3)? We recite and we preach, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:5), yet we tear the Body of Christ apart with our own hands and words, putting to death in our bodies not sin as Christ put to death in His, but rather the peace that He came to give, the peace that He alone is. ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,’ as the holy apostle writes (Ephesians 2:14).

Have we forgotten what is written? ‘Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:10-12). Let’s remember these words, ‘Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:1-3).

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

Yes, brothers, the heavenly kingdom of great peace!

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