When our Lord stood up on Pentecost before His Passion, He declared, “He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7.38) He was speaking about the Holy Spirit, which we as Orthodox Christians believe we received at our baptism. We also believe the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church “into all truth.” (John 16.13) Today, the Feast of Pentecost is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and truth coming to guide the Church.
When Christ spoke these words some two thousand years ago, immediately it caused a division in the people. Some insisted that He was the One for Whom they were waiting, while others insisted He was not. Interestingly they both believed they were following God, but they couldn’t agree on Who Jesus was. Was He just a prophet, or was He the Messiah? Of course we as Orthodox Christians know the rest of the story; we know He is the Messiah.
If we believe in His promise on that day, the Holy Spirit lives both in us as individual Christians, and among us guiding the Church. Among the divisions in those days, there were disagreements over who the Messiah was coming to save. That’s also where the Feast of Pentecost brings clarity. On Pentecost after the Resurrection, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, and came to rest upon the heads of those gathered, another miracle took place. As the Apostles began to teach about Christ, each person in the crowd heard the teaching in their own native language, confirming that indeed Jesus had come for everyone in the world, not just the Jews, or the Greeks.
Fast forward to our society today after more than two thousand years of history, and some are still arguing whether everyone is welcome in the Church. Reiterating what Jesus promised, if we believe in Him “as the scripture has said,” rivers of living water will gush forth from our hearts. Instead of living water, our society continues to gush hatred and division. It isn’t enough merely to post slogans on the internet, we must not merely allow others into our Church, we must welcome and invite them into our Church. We must teach through our interactions with others, the love and peace of God.
Not everyone will always agree with the Church’s teaching about who Jesus Christ is, and why He came, but at least they should not question whether they are invited to join us in His House. In order for people to feel invited, we must actually invite them. When was the last time you invited someone to join you in Church? Admittedly, with the current attendance limitations due to COVID19 restrictions, we may not all fit inside the Church building, but we will always fit inside the Church. If we believe “as the scripture said,” then the time has come for us to allow everyone to hear the Good News of Christ. The time has come for us to trust the Holy Spirit and go out and share the Orthodox Church with everyone we meet. The time has come for us to allow the rivers of living water to flow freely from our hearts and beyond the doors of the Church.