June 7, 2020

Let God Be God

Passage: Acts 12:1-25

Acts 12 vividly describes
the supernatural deliverance of Peter
from the hands of his would-be executioners.

Peter is thrown into prison.
He is chained there.
He is surrounded in his prison cell
by four squads of four soldiers.
Peter falls asleep between two of those soldiers.
Peter is destined to die by execution.
Suddenly an angel appears.
Peter’s chains fall off.
A steel door opens by itself.
Peter and the angel walk freely
past the sixteen guards.
Peter comes to his senses in the street
a block or so from the prison.
He makes his way back to his friends.
Peter is delivered.

The super natural power of God made it all happen.

Truly a miracle of deliverance
has occurred in these 25 verses.

But what are WE to make of this bit of scripture?

Is it even possible for us to relate to this story about God’s supernatural intervention in Peter’s life?

More importantly,
is there a message in this story for us today?

Let’s reflect for a moment on these questions,
“What meaning are we to make of this scripture
and what message might it hold for us?”

Maybe we should simply dismiss the miracles it describes as being the amazing things that happened in the days of the formation of the early church. But that are no longer possible in the lives of we modern Christians in the church of today?

For we moderns, we rationalists, the appeal to this approach to finding the meaning of this scripture, is that it allows us to put God in a safe place.

If we allow that God only performed super natural acts in this world in the past, then we can breathe more easily because God becomes for us, not a reality we need to deal with, but simply an intellectual construct that we can manipulate to fit into our deeply materialistic understanding of the way the world works.

If we limit God’s supernatural power to the time the deeds described in this scripture occurred,  we effectively lock the God of the Universe safely in the prison of the past.

So, I don’t think that saying the works of God as described in Acts 12
are limited to the past is an appropriate way to get at the  meaning and message of these Bible verses.

How then are we to interpret these verses?

I don’t know about you but I have literally never been in prison.

I have certainly never been thrown into jail for declaring my faith.

Because I live in a free country organized around the rule of law, God has never had to save my life by physically delivering me from the hands of people intent on imprisoning and executing me unjustly.

But are there other ways of being held captive in this life?

Is it possible for us to experience the very real pain of spiritual imprisonment yet today as we allow guilt and condemnation to hold us back from living the abundant life God calls us to in Christ?

Can it be that even in the wonderful country of Canada with all its freedoms and opportunities for living in material abundance, we live with the reality of mental imprisonment  through our personal fears and anxieties?

Are we not at times imprisoned by, are we not at times prisoners of, the destructive habits that we ourselves have allowed to develop in our lives?

Do not our negative attitudes, reinforced by the often-painful circumstances of our lives,  drive us into the prison of self-imposed isolation from healthy and meaningful relationships  with others.

Do not those parts of our world-views that are culturally formed, rather than informed by the love of God for others,  drive us into the prison of unjustly judging those others who are not like ourselves?

Are there not times when our greed and self-interest hold us fast in the prisons of our own small world, not allowing us to enter into the universe of generosity  that is to be found by allowing the Living God to be alive and well and performing miracles of healing in our hearts?

So, perhaps this is the lesson for us today, the meaning we are meant to find in the miracle story of Peter’s deliverance from imprisonment and death.

Perhaps we are meant to read in these 25 verses
the super natural power
that faith in God holds.

We see in Acts 12 the super natural power God’s Holy Spirit holds to set us free from the many things that would bind us to the darkness of this world.

The truth is;
if we can believe that the God of the universe
took on human flesh,
suffered and died and rose again
all for our deliverance
from the power of sin and death.

Then it is a small thing to believe
that that same God
is alive and well still today.

And that that same God is more than capable of entering into your daily life to perform miracles of liberation for you, today and every day for the rest of your life.

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this.

God the Father is with us,
for the sake of the Son,
through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Who then or what then can bind us?

I declare to you that in Christ,
by Christ
and for the sake of Christ,
you are free indeed.