Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
Acts 4:23-31 (NRSV)
After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
and the rulers have gathered together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
Our text begins with, “After they were released…” Peter and John have just gotten out of jail, and what do they do first? They catch up with their friends, tell them what happened during their night in the slammer, and they pray. Here’s where it gets a little weird…they pray to be able to speak God’s word with boldness. They don’t pray for safety, or security, or that their boss doesn’t find out about them getting locked up, or that the police don’t come after them again. Nope. They pray for boldness.
They remind me of a 16 year-old kid, Isaiah, with whom I worked at a church in North Philadelphia, which is in the heart of the “inner city.” Isaiah, his mom, and his 5 brothers and sisters have been in and out of homeless shelters, in and out of schools, and have days and weeks where there is no food in the fridge. There will be spans of time when I don’t see Isaiah at the church, because of something that has happened at home. But every time I see him, this cool, Black teenage rapper from North Philly runs to me like a child and picks me up (even as I loudly protest) and gives me the biggest bear hugs I have ever had. He inevitably tells me about how he gave the last of his bus money to a beggar or homeless person on the street, and begins to talk to me about caring for the poor, loving my neighbor, and welcoming the stranger. He always leaves yelling, “Love you, Ms. PJ!!” Talk about speaking…and LIVING… the word of God boldly! Isaiah does, even when he is coming up for air from the oppressive jails of racism and poverty and hunger…he comes up praying, speaking, and boldly living the gospel, the good news, the LOVE of God. May we all be so bold.
Loving God, we come to you again, narrowly escaping our jails of comfort, of privilege, of busyness, and worry. We ask you to re-focus us, equip us, and strengthen us to speak, to live boldly in your word. In the name of the Blessed Trinity. Amen.
Go with God.