Image: Inukshuk on the Aklavik Ice Road
I can’t help but have some sympathy for the Pharisees, the Saducees, the priests and others in authority who struggled with, “What to do?” with the rising tide of the early charismatic Christian community. Peter and the apostles were preaching without sanction and they were drawing crowds of enthusiastic listeners. In many ways they were actively disturbing the peace.
As the pastor of a parish in Saskatoon’s inner city, whose church doors were wide open on sunny Sunday summer mornings, I was never certain of what surprise visitors were going to make an appearance during the Mass. On more than one occasion I was interrupted in the middle of a homily by a passer-by who heard us praying and were certain that God had sent them to share a personal message and could they have the microphone please.
By nature I feel inclined to listen when another person announces that they have something important to say while, as a pastor, I can get defensive around the pulpit and am not likely to be comfortable relinquishing my authority to a stranger that I have never met. I can imagine that the the authorities who were oppressing the early Christian apostles felt stuck in the same dilemma.
In our society there is always going to be a struggle over the dominant message or prevailing narrative. It is even more the case as our country has grown to include so many cultures, free speech has become a protected right and social media has leveled the halls of power by giving a voice to all.
So where does the Christian voice belong in all of this?
Unlike the voice of the early Church, ours is generally not the minority although we are finding ourselves more and more in a pluralistic society. However, the unspoken rule has become, believe what you want as long as you keep it to yourself and so, disturbing the peace by sharing one’s faith has, once again, become taboo as it was for Peter and the apostles .
This goes against the grain of what the Word of God is all about, it is meant to be shared, it needs to be shared if it is going to remain alive. In John’s Gospel today we read,
‘He who comes from Heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted.”
Not only does the Word need to be shared but as Christians it is our belief that the world needs to hear it even if there are those in the world who would rather not.
I do have sympathy for the authorities who must deal with the apostles, their’s is not an easy job. But I am more inspired by the courage of Peter and those who spoke about their experience of knowing Jesus and who would not let the authorities silence them.
There is an old saying that a good preacher comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. In many ways it is our role as Christians in society to disturb the peace in order to afflict those who are comfortable at the expense of others.