Meditation by the Rev Peter Johnson, Aug 2020

Acts 23:10-11

I want to begin with a very well-known statement. If you’re not being shot at you’re not in the war! Well, that’s all very well, but it’s even more poignant right now as all sorts of things are getting in the way, and Covid 19 isn’t the only one. Attributing all sorts of evils to, and making fun of, the Church has become a fine art; using the mass media as an enemy of those who worship Jesus is commonplace nowadays; belittling Christians has become so widespread that it approaches being the norm. And yet we’re still here.

 

But, before we start getting tired of it all, I want to remind you of a passage from the Acts of the Apostles (23:10-11). Paul was having a hard time of it. Just listen to this. ‘The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.’ This must have been an awful moment for Paul, but it’s the next verse that’s so wonderful. ‘The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said’, and yes, here it is, ‘the following night the Lord stood near Paul and said; take courage, as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’ Yes, Paul was having a hard time of it too, and no, the modern generation of opponents to us haven’t (yet) got up to the fury of the persecutors that Paul had to face. But Paul got encouragement from Jesus.

 

However, the words of comfort brought to Paul by the presence of Jesus contained a commission. ‘As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’ And Rome was ultimately going to get even nastier to Paul. So, lets listen to this very carefully. Yes, Jesus knows our difficulties. Yes, Jesus encourages us too. But no - - Jesus does not send us into retirement; Jesus does not take away from us the path he has chosen. Jesus continues to use us! And we must all be prepared to continue in his service no matter what the devil throws at us.

 

Remember, if you’re not being shot at you’re not in the war! I’d like to pick one example of this, an account of someone getting confused when he tried to follow Jesus, and to do so I want to introduce St. Peter, and what better a person to pick. Peter had a habit of getting himself in a mess; Peter was often confronted by difficulties. But look at him; look at Peter at his best. I bet Peter got a horrible shock when he tried to walk across the water to join Jesus. Or would it have been a shock? After all, he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. So, what are we to make of this story; what’s the nitty gritty of the message it gives to each one of us personally; and where does it fit in with our every-day Christian lives?

Of course, each one of us faces all sorts of challenges in our spiritual lives too. Each one of us has our own given mission; yes, that’s right, every one of us here among all Christians, each and every one of us has a ministry. Yes, and that’s true both individually and corporately. And, as we all know, because we’ve already found out, each one of us is going to feel lost some of the time. Don’t be surprised. Certainly, Peter had bitten off more than he could chew, and he must have felt very lost indeed as he floundered. But whenever he tried too much or got things so wrong, look what happened. With God’s help he got back up. And, of course, he won in the end.

 

So, here’s the point. Getting things wrong is not something shameful. Failing is not the ultimate disgrace. The overwhelming error into which we can fall is not trying. Falling short on occasions is not something about which we should be embarrassed. Aiming too low and attempting too little is the problem. In fact, the real truth is this; it’s not striving to do everything for Jesus that’s the ultimate folly. Have there been problems making decisions about MW34; yes! Did we have to postpone the Ultreya on Flinders Island; yes! Has our mission been complicated by the ‘shut down’ resulting from Covid 19; yes! Have we had to cancel other Ultreyas; yes! Are we meeting by Zoom instead of the joy of being together; yes! Has evil started to win? Of course it hasn’t! To believe that would be unthinkable. But remember, when we’ve got through all this, the Lord will want us to face other difficulties. And, having realised this, then let’s thank God that he will.

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