Today's lectionary reading: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24 ; John 10:11-18
Passage selected for reflection: Acts 4:5-12 (NRSV)
5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John,[a] and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 When they had made the prisoners[b] stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 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, 10 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,[c] whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Like me, has the last year beat you up, knocked you around and even shaken your faith a little (or a lot)? In America, we are still living through some of our darkest days. The past year seemed to be on some sort of cruelly endless bad news cycle:
Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Innocent black and brown people continue to senselessly die at the hands of law enforcement.
The January 6, 2021 insurrection in the Capitol building.
Millions of Americans lost jobs last year (myself included).
Many people are struggling with isolation, fear and anxiety as they enter a full year of social distancing and spending most days at home.
As we look full on in the face of these circumstances, we can begin to ask, “God, where are you? Where were you? Why?” (All legit questions we probably should ask and take to God). Yet if we stare at these events too long--just the circumstances that took place--we can begin to feel hopeless. Because it does seem that the world is crashing down around us. All the reality we thought we knew, well, just isn’t. Everything is changing. Fast in some ways. Not fast enough in others. And honestly, the questions seem many and the answers seem too few. I have often felt helpless, like I wanted to do more and say more and encourage people more through these trying times. But my words didn’t seem enough or the right words didn’t come. And full disclosure--at times I just did not have the energy or courage to do what may have been best to do.
But as I reflected on today’s reading, I found three unshakeable, unchanging and timeless truths that have the power to anchor me, you, and all believers through the ages, no matter what is swirling around us:
God is here. God is with us. We are not alone. This makes all the difference.
Peter and John healed the disabled man, and boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not by their own power or might, but because they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name except the name of Jesus Christ by which we can be saved.
These truths bring the light of the presence, love and power of God to bear on what for many has been the most difficult year of their lives. They show us that no matter what events inform our experience, there is One who never changes, never leaves, never fails. We can cry out in pain, mourning, and loss. We can cry out in desperation and anxiety and sadness. And yes, we can cry out and give praise to God. Because we know God is with us wherever we are and whatever we’re going through. And this momentary chapter is not the final word. The Holy Spirit fills us and energizes us to move. And we know our salvation is secure. Nothing--not coronavirus, not racial injustice, not anxiety or isolation-- will disrupt the eternal, wonderful plans of our Mighty God.
Spend a few minutes rereading Acts 4:5-12 and ask simply, “Holy Spirit, come. Speak to me, your servant. I am listening.”
Now, think of all the times in the past year you have been afraid, lonely, sick, hurting or suffering. Spend a few moments mourning if that is what you need. Then, turn your eyes to God. Say, pray or write what you need to express. Respectfully, but honestly. Understanding that God is with you and for you, open your heart to Him. Then, call to mind all the times God has met you in these moments, whether you needed courage, healing, or simply to believe in the powerful Name of Jesus. Thank God for the many times He has met you where you are, and allow yourself to rest in the presence of the Holy Spirit for a few moments before you end.
Dear God, in you, Father, we have endless love and faithfulness. In you alone, Jesus Christ, we have salvation. And in you, Holy Spirit we find the ever-present God who emboldens us to believe, to act and to speak in God’s Name. Be with us now and go with us. Help us to speak and act in love, with courage, and to proclaim your Name as we go. Amen.
About the Author
Amanda is wife to Joey and proud mama to the world’s cutest fur-baby, Kona (the cute puppy who's now five). Amanda graduated from Northern Seminary in 2007 with a Master of Divinity degree. Her interests include writing, social justice, news, coffee, walking by the lake and laughing with friends. Every year she somehow finds new opportunities to engage in lots of existential questions and is always looking for the “right path” but is starting to understand that trusting God daily is more important than having all the right answers. Feel free to reach out to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org