Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
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.
When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
I have always found great joy and challenge in reading the Book of Acts. Today’s reading is an opportunity to reflect not only what happened post-resurrection, but an opportunity to imagine what can happen when we come together in unity and allow our faith to hold a central place in our lives. We are all moving through this moment with wonder about our present condition and questions about what the future will hold for our homes, families, community and even the world in which we move and operate. The disciples that followed Jesus must have been filled with questions and wondered what the future would be like not only as they witnessed the difficult experience at the cross but also the seemingly unbelievable realty of the resurrection. We see them in these moments filled with fear and now we see them operating by the power of faith. Change, emergencies, crisis and simple unexpected events can create moments and seasons that are very unsettling in our lives. As we read through this passage we see these same disciples healing, encouraging, rising to confront challenges and moving in ways that many would have described as impossible. The unsettling moments they had experienced also allowed for incubational moments that would transition them into the powerful change agents we see in this passage. We are in a moment that is unsettling and filled with questions and wonder. Prayerfully it is also a transitional moment for each of us. I grew up being told, “The task ahead of us is not as great as the power behind us.” As we look at the task ahead of us, we are able to be victorious in any struggle because of the power behind us and the power that is working through us!
Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Your altar! The quietness in Your temple of silence again and again rebuffs us: For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting, And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Your spirit. For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts— The confusion is so manifest, there is no starting place to take hold. For some the evils of the world tear down all concentrations and scatter the focus of the high resolves. We do not know how to do what we know to do. We do not know how to be what we know to be. Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Your altar! Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of life, of release That we may find strength for these days— Courage and hope for tomorrow. In confidence we rest in Your sustaining grace Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and love in hate. We rejoice this day to say: Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Your altar!
“Our Little Lives” by Howard Thurman