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Visions from The Catacombs, Week before May 11 2014

 

Acts 2:42-47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

1 Peter 2:19-25

19For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 22“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

What I am Learning:

Key to these passages is the word “saved” or “salvation” from the Greek word “sozo.”

In Greek this word’s basic meaning is “to deliver from a difficult situation.” It does not mean “getting to heaven when you die.”

This word is used to describe rescue from danger

To our inner being

To our collective life

The danger we are rescued from includes

Soul stealing cultures or religion

Dignity crushing economic and social conditions

The salvation that Jesus brings delivers people in their inner and collective lives, from soul and dignity crushing economic and social conditions.

Both readings express how early Christians received this salvation, and took part in the ongoing work of salvation.

In Acts this happened as they gathered for “the Apostle’s teaching, from the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” This is a key part of our baptismal covenant – a core expression of our identity and practice as Christians. As God continued the process of saving them, they experienced awe and joy. As a community, in the power of the Spirit’s presence, they began to share their wealth and so everyone had enough. As a community they began to experience the joy of God’s generosity and to express that generosity with each other

They no longer had to live by the dog-eat-dog worldview of the Roman empire in their inner life, interpersonal life and their collective economic life. It was a period of great freedom and excitement for the early followers of Jesus.

Peter addresses a totally different situation. In Peter we see a letter to a community of Christians who are being resisted by their larger culture, and continuing to experience soul and dignity crushing social conditions. Peter expresses a strategy for how they as a community can effect change. This strategy is today known as “active non-violent resistance.”

People have often interpreted this passage as one of several that seem to say that we must open ourselves to abusive relationships. I do not think that is what Peter is trying to say. I think abused spouses are right to protect themselves! All the pronouns in this passage should be translated “you all.” He is talking to the whole Christian community here.

The idea here in short is to expose the domination and submission system by publicly not playing by its rules. Instead of returning violence for violence he encourages them to do as Christ did by loving his enemies while claiming his own human dignity. This allows the Christian community to gain a kind of moral and relational high ground that facilitates change in the community and even in those who are perpetrating violence.

How could they possibly maintain this kind of active and non-violent stance?

Because Jesus has already taken this stance with us! Because he loved us in this non-violent way, we can begin to follow in his steps of non-violent engagement.

And here is the thing about salvation. First it only resided with Jesus of Nazareth. At first he was the only one who understood his human, God given dignity as God’s beloved child. Then he preached, taught and lived that inner spirituality to others who then learned from him. And they did the same and others joined them, by the power of God. And they did the same.

Peter is saying that the salvation that Jesus offers delivers people in their inner and collective lives and that these two are a part of each other. Sometimes we glimpse salvation change in economic and social conditions that changes our inward life as in Acts. Other times we glimpse salvation in a way that leads us to work for change in the economic and social conditions as in Peter.

God’s salvation in Jesus includes both the restoration of our human dignity and our God given belovedness AND expressing this dignity and belovedness in every day life.

God’s Way of Mutuality is God’s love, grace, and shalom in everyday life, in every aspect of human relationship: public, private, economic, political, personal and communal, body, mind and environment.

May Jesus, who has begun our salvation as persons and as a people continue to save us from dog-eat-dog worldviews and spiritualities. May Jesus continue to help us to see that our salvation in bound with the healing and creation of all the earth and all human beings.

Jesus came that we might have inner and collective life, and have it abundantly.