Scripture:Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching. (Acts 5:17-21a)
Reflection:If the mission comes from God, it cannot be stopped. A spirituality of mission recognizes this, just as the reader of the Acts of the Apostles recognizes it. Nothing can stop what God wants accomplished. If authority gets in the way, God sends a messenger to move things so that his message about a new way of life can be heard. The place where the message that Jesus is the Messiah is best heard is the temple, the religious meeting place for Jews. Even though the apostles were arrested while teaching at the temple, God sends them back there to teach more.
Authority is often threatened by what is new, and the response is jealousy, rivalry. The author of Luke and the Acts declares that the Sadducees support the actions of the high priest. However, there is more to this narrative. The Sadducees represent temple worship according to the Torah. Furthermore, they politically align themselves with the Roman government in their attempt to keep control of the temple. And most importantly, they deny the resurrection of the dead – the very heart of the proclamation concerning Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, they represent the power structure of their time. When resurrection is preached to them, the Sadducees revert to jealousy. But they are no match for the angel of the Lord!
Those engaged in mission, like the apostles, are always meeting power structures. Almost every church contains one or more; they may be committees who control the finances or who hire and fire the employees. If someone proposes something new, jealousy keeps them from even listening to the idea. Missioners come face-to-face with ministers, who, rather than hearing the word of God, spring into jealousy and attempt to put out the fire of the message before it bursts into flame. Nothing is better in the face of rivalry than the way something has always been done! And there are those members of churches who manipulate with jealousy when a new teaching begins. These folks refuse to move closer to the front because they have sat in a particular pew all their lives. They don’t like the renovation or building plans so they campaign secretly to have them redrawn. They begin rumors that destroy the good name of those proposing the new teaching. Such are the power structures where witnessing seems to stop; however, God’s mission will be accomplished – even if he has to send an angel of the Lord to open the prison doors of closed minds.
Journal/Meditation: Most recently, when and how have you borne witness to the truth in the face of power?
Prayer:Almighty God, you permit nothing to stop the spread of the good news of the resurrection. Send your angel to me to give me the courage to witness in word and deed to the life of Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.