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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 10, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 4:13–31

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. (NRSV)

I am struck by the first sentence of this passage, because it implies that Peter and John’s adversaries assumed that Peter and John were not smart enough or cosmopolitan enough to be as bold as they were being in their proclamation of the gospel! Have you experienced that kind of skepticism in your own life? I have.

Yet neither Peter nor John even blinked an eye. They did not seem to care what any of their opponents thought about them or about their IQs. Rather, they continued to stay true to who they felt God had called them to be—bold and prophetic preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When their opponents told them they were no longer allowed to speak of Jesus, they just let the threat move right by them. “Sorry,” they said, “but we cannot keep silent about all that we have seen and heard. We cannot keep silent about the way that God is at work in this world. We cannot keep silent about the good news of God’s justice and love that has been unleashed in and embodied by Jesus our Savior. We understand that might upset you, but you will just have to be upset.”

Courage. Their courage makes me wonder, what could our lives be like if we refused to keep silent about our experience of God’s love and grace in our own lives? What could the life of our church be like if we refused to subdue our witness because we did not want to be seen as less intelligent or as less sophisticated? What might happen if we had the same kind of courage and boldness as Peter and John?

Grace-filled God, help me to breathe in your courage this day. May the breath of your courage enable me to be all of who I am, all of who you have created me to be. Don’t let me try to shrink myself down in order to make someone else feel big. Rather, give me the boldness I need to stand tall and to proclaim your love and mercy for all. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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