A reading and a reflection
Acts 5: 12 – 16
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
This is quite a shift from the text yesterday — the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, one of the first scandals of the Church. Luke moves us from the Church at her worst to the Church at her best.
Solomon’s Portico was a stone’s throw from Herod’s reconstructed temple. It was either a safe space for the early followers of Jesus, or a dangerous one and they just loved the risk. For legal reasons, it was a segregated space, as Gentiles had their own area and could not cross the line for fear of death. Anyone who has been to 21st century Jerusalem and the West Bank can testify that not much has changed.
Yet I have reason to believe the early, radically inclusive Church broke this rule intentionally.
In one sense, what is happening after the scandal that rocks the Church, is the Church coping in the aftermath of it. One might say that they are doing some inner work, and that inner work ultimately allows them to transform lives beyond their inner circle.
In another sense, inclusive ministry is intentionally dangerous work…tune in tomorrow. In the writings of Luke, miracles are a sign of restoration, God reclaiming order out of disorder. Inclusive ministry is restorative work.
For the early Church, shadows were not images of death, but rather signs of growth and empowerment. It’s evidence that they are handling their trauma and surrendering to God’s “holy energy” despite the mess that they are carrying. A commitment to the inner journey teaches us that there are other places from which we can lead other than fear and anxiety.
Fear never goes away—I still wish there was a way I could completely dismantle my fear. But we can learn how to reject the leadership of fear in our life. So the “shadow ministry” that Peter is able to accomplish are opportunities of healing for the infirm and of growth for those who strive to live the faith.
O for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe…Lord give us such a faith as this. ASE and AMEN.
(William Hiley Bathurst 1796-1877)