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Coming to the light

by davesandel on April 9th, 2021

Friday in the Octave of Easter, April 9, 2021                        (today’s lectionary)

Coming to the light

After they healed the crippled man, the Sadducees confronted Peter and John, disturbed. They laid hands on them and arrested them. But many of those who heard Peter came to believe.

What does the old guard do when young people and new ideas confront them? Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are A-Changin.” Established citizens resist the influence of the less-established. Equality is sacrificed for the sake of freedom, or perhaps just the protection of the already free, already successful.

Henrik Ibsen wrote “Ghosts” in 1882 when he 54, a de facto member himself of the Norwegian old guard. In Act 2 he wrote:

I almost think we’re all of us Ghosts … It’s not only what we have invited from our father and mother that walks in us. It’s all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we can’t get rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.

Pitifully afraid of the light. Ibsen knew he was not much different than those he wrote about. We are, all of us, pitifully afraid of the light. But some voices break through, or need to break through.

Peter said to the court, “There is no salvation through anyone but Jesus, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

This was revolutionary language in the first century, and Peter’s listeners were definitely not interested in revolution. They had settled in to their comfortable seats and, like all of us, expected to be there forever. Who dies? Surely not me. Everyone else might die, but if I just close my eyes, I can sit here forever.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done. And THIS is the day that Lord has made.

Thank God he opens my eyes. I close them again, but he opens them again. My myopia is of no concern to my Father, my Mother, who opens my eyes again and again, gently but firmly helping me see that I am a child, not a god. God made me to be creative, but not to recreate myself in images alien to his. Can dust be creative? Yes, but it will always be dust.

Jesus revealed himself again.

I never get this story at the end of John’s gospel out of my head. It is vivid, and I hear it personally. Peter, perhaps depressed and despairing after his betrayals of Jesus, went fishing, but his friends refused to let him fish alone. Then all night they caught nothing. Approaching the shore a stranger unexpectedly shouted out to them, “Throw your net over the other side of the boat!” Resisting his know-it-allness, Peter did just that, and immediately fish were jumping everywhere. The net was too full to retrieve into the boat.

Even then, Peter didn’t recognize Jesus. But John did, and in a release of pent-up anxiety Peter ran up through the surf to where Jesus stood. No more walking on water for Peter. His humility was growing new layers every day.

Simon Peter dragged the net ashore full of 153 large fish. “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus said.

Previously Jesus asked them, “Do you have any fish?” They gave him some. Now he returned the favor. And in the next scene, he restores Peter’s confidence and inspires his loyalty forever.

Ibsen said of his play, “It seemed to me that the time had come for moving some boundary posts.” When is it NOT time, actually? You could say boundaries are always intended to be temporary, erased every 49 years during the year of Jubilee. What should be left after those erasures should always be what Peter experienced that day sitting beside the fire with Jesus – purified heart, cleansed conscience, humble obedience, joy in Jesus and never myself, and deep, everlasting peace.

(Acts 4, Psalm 118, John 21)


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