God Is God (Three)

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.             (Acts 12.6,7)

 

THIS WEEK, I want to encourage you to reflect on three moments in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12.1-11). First, let’s look at Herod. I quote from the New Jerusalem Bible because its choices in translation strike me as being particularly deep.

A)  12.1 It was about this time that King Herod started persecuting certain members of the church.

2 He had James the brother of John beheaded,

3 and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he went on to arrest Peter as well.

Herod is concerned about pleasing the crowd. The kind of power he has is dependent on appeasing his Roman overlords and at the same time somehow pleasing the populace of the puppet-kingdom they allow him, in full cooperation with the Empire, to “rule”. Herod is a symbol of the worldly political mover. He is ready to sell out all integrity for the sake of maintaining his own position. Peter, James and the other post – Pentecost followers of Jesus are willing to die rather than trade in their fledgling Christian integrity.

 

Where do you see Herod today in – the world – the church – yourself? And where in these do you see Peter or Paul?

How far should today’s church/you be seeking to please people, the state, the individual? At what price?

 

B)5 All the time Peter was under guard the church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

Unremitting – never slackening or stopping; unceasing; constant…

The next sentence sets the

scene for the angelic deliverance of Peter from the prison.

 

How important is the unremitting prayer of the faithful toward the liberating action of the passage? What is the writer’s intention in the inclusion of verse 5 at this point in the narrative?

 

Where is the unremitting prayer of the church in evidence in this parish? Are there people here who could provide this important ministry in a structured or coordinated way? How might this benefit the mission of the church in this time/place?

 

C) 10 They passed through the first guard post and then the second and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him.

11 It was only then that Peter came to himself. And he said, ‘Now I know it is all true.

 

There is great light in the cell. Peter’s shackles fall off and, as he walks with the angel, all barriers to his freedom are removed. But it is when the angel leaves him at the end of the street that Peter realises his liberation is not just vision but reality.

 

Where is the angel now in – the life of the church – your life? What is the vision? What is the reality? Why are the barriers to Peter’s freedom removed? What are the barriers for us/you now? How ready are we/you for the shackles to fall or the gates to open of their own accord?

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~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on July 3, 2014.

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