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Visions from The Catacombs, Week Before April 26 2015

Acts 4:5-12
The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
`the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.'
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

What I am Learning:

The church tends to remember Peter as the “rock head” (the name Peter means “rock”) who was slow to understand Jesus, who tried to boss Jesus around and who denied Jesus.

The Peter we meet in this text is the post-resurrection and post-Pentecost Peter. This Peter has gone through a transformation. His worldview and his sense of his own agency have been transformed.

Where once the disciples were locked in their room for fear of the Judean Authorities, now Peter is in the Temple teaching that Jesus is the messiah and healing those whose lives had been impacted by despair.

He knew he could get in serious trouble for doing this. But in the resurrection of Jesus he understood that punishment by the authorities had been emptied of its oppressive power.

How many times do we hold back from doing what we know to be right because we are afraid of the reactions of other people based on the expectations of domination culture?

How often are we held in passivity because we think that to do anything to respond to the pain of the world means we must fix it? And since we know we can’t fix it, we do nothing.

By the power of God Peter is no longer held captive to the expectations of his larger culture. By the power of God Peter is willing to be engaged in public leadership, making his public witness to what God is doing in Jesus the messiah.

But there is a word in this passage that we have so reduced and distorted that it makes Peter’s leadership into almost nothing: “salvation.”

At the end of this text Peter said: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

The typical understanding of salvation is: individuals having converted to following Christ are assured of God’s love, forgiveness and a place in heaven when they die.

The typical understanding of “salvation” makes this sound like Peter was saying that the followers of all other religions, including Judaism, are rejected by God.

The typical understanding of “salvation” makes this sound like the goal of Christians is to convert all people to Christianity or else they will burn in hell.

The word salvation means healing in the broadest sense possible. It is the process of healing by which God makes God’s way of mutuality emerge in the real world:

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.

Now we can perhaps begin to understand Peter’s proclamation.

What he is saying is that God’s way of bringing the healing of salvation to every aspect of human experience as a part of the created world is revealed in Jesus. God enters into the woundedness of oppressed and marginalized human beings and brings healing through loving relationship and nonviolent public leadership.

Peter is not proclaiming personal salvation, religious colonialism or violence toward those of different faiths.

Peter was rejecting the idea that God would bring salvation to the people of Israel through violence as the Zealots believed. He was at the same time rejecting the path of the High Priests and Sadducees which was the path of collaboration with the Romans

Peter rejected both violence and collaboration and was publicly witnessing to the power of God expressed in Jesus life, death and resurrection.

In the midst of this, Peter was not only proclaiming that Jesus reveals how God acted in Jesus, but how God always works.

Peter’s life, then, was empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody Jesus’ way in his own life, even when it meant being arrested and threatened.

This Peter + the Holy Spirit is not the Peter we remember, but a way to understand the courage and clarity that the Holy Spirit is creating in us. This happens in us too, when the Holy Spirit + ourselves leads us to new and courageous life.

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