Bag of Goods, Not So Good

Idol Examples

Fidelity is a loaded term and maybe more in a world of gossip where one hears of infidelity.  In the spiritual life there are subtle temptations that can come where we give affections meant for God alone and give it to the things that are passing way.  Occasionally those temptations can be quite blatant.  Here is an experience where Jesus experienced the latter.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him (Matthew 4:8-11).

Here is the temptation of material gain as an end in itself and of unfaithfulness.  If one ponders idolatry in all its forms one will see how so often in this world a giving aways of ones self to gods of this world happens.  This is why after so many profound devotional and theological statements in 1 John it ends with “little children guard yourselves from idols”.  This was not a distraction from what was shared but an encouragement to guard the beauty of knowing God’s love in an ongoing way.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain- – This is ironic because in a casual read of the gospel one can see many times that Jesus liked “getting away from it all” for teachable or pivotal moments of his ministry.  A lesson is that Satan may tempt us with an isolating way to bully us and make us feel alone.  With God, we are never alone.  In ongoing conversion as a Christian, it is good to take our own initiative to have a retreat with God for intentional reflection. Further, if we are finding ourselves alone in adverse circumstances we can pivot to God whose love is always there.

all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence– – There are three things that are considered transcendentals in the history of Christianity.  These are beauty, truth and goodness.  Beauty, when shown correctly, can draw the heart of someone to heavenly places.  As Christians, we are blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3).  If one continues to be grounded in the beauty of the divine beyond any beauty of our eyes we will not be shaken from the reflection of where we are truly seated.

All these I shall give to you– – Quite the salesman, Satan shows forth a counterfeit of grace.  This reminds me of someone who is a “loyal customer” of their drug dealer and he generously gives a “gift” on their birthday literally on their doorstep.  True joy is not for the drug dealer to give nor true power.  Satan is just one other kind of dealer.

The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve– – This is a gateway commandment of sorts and can be shown to have meaning in ones ongoing journey in Christ.  To worship God alone is fitting as the right boundary for mortals to the God who is not a type of species but just is. He is the I AM which is like “Something Other Than Being”.  God is not a genus of species that can be subjected to our mortal classifications.  The fidelity of worship based on this knowledge lends to a holy life with “these three things that abide” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  This is expanded on below.

The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD’ (Catechism of The Catholic Church, para. 2086).

To be rooted in ones life like this has a subsequent overflow.

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813).

Then the devil left him- – The formula on ones simplest means to deliverance from the devil is simple.  It is to “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  There are some who consider themselves believers in Jesus Christ but feel that the devil is after them.  If one believes that is really true, then it bears consideration on how much one is submitting to God in their daily living.

angels came and ministered to him– – Again, one is not truly alone if one is in relationship with God.  Even then, it is not God alone who accompanies you but angels of a celestial kingdom. In fact, if we let him, God can send us “angels” in the sense of human beings who make a catalyst for change.

One example I saw was in the area of addiction recovery.  As an intern in a substance abuse recovery program at the intensive outpatient level, there was a new member of a process group who was ambivalent about going to a 12 Step group that night. He cited  how “maybe I’ll go, maybe I won’t” due to feeling alone doing that.   The group leader, who was in recovery himself, said asked, “are you going to [expletive] go or won’t you”.  One volunteer after another in the group assured him that they would go with him.  He went with four new friends and engaged in recovery before the Higher Power of his understanding.  We commonly come to faith through community, abide in Christ in the context of full community and go towards a great gathering in the end before a loving and holy God.   When we restrict our worship to God alone it does not rob us but frees us.  The ministering of one to another is to reaffirm the greatness of that fact and the angels who come to Jesus serve as reference points of it.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).

So to say no to Satan and all his empty promises is to say yes to God who is above all the darkness of this world.  This is God who is Love that we can always say yes to in continual conversion.  And with God and his kingdom properly factored, we are never alone.

Being Shown The Way

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If one thinks of conversion superficially, there is a tendency to see it as solitary at first and with an emphasis that it stays that way.  But what if ones conversion experience is meant to start with someone else’s take on Jesus?  There is the message of the good news of Jesus Christ but messages typically come through messengers.

In western society we have a common phrase, just tune into the right channel, that one can accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Can that be valid as the central point of ones Christian faith?  A decent scan of the Bible and Church history will show that Christianity is communal or relational as well.  The evangelism and ongoing conversion of the experience is meant to be in both a communal context and ones personal decision.   This effects the person and the world can be effected by God through such a person.  Taking this fact in one way, this is what it can mean to be an evangelical Christian which can apply to Christians of any community.

In Protestant Christianity a common term is “led to the Lord” where someone makes a personal decision for Christ to be Lord and Savior but some mortal person was greatly involved in proposing Jesus (hopefully not imposing). Often converts of the last 2,000 years have converted through someone being an instrument of the grace of conversion.  But to give way to the idea that someone else knows more than you on an eternal subject takes humility.

Such was the case for a fisherman named Simon from the town of Capernaum who would one day be a fisher of men.  This is the beginning of the story of Jesus lived through his life.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter (John 1:40-42).

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother-  At the moment that this story takes place, Simon is just Simon.  The narrative throws in the full title with the hindsight of who Simon becomes, is better known as, and the irony that Andrew seeks him out. Again, to have the gospel proclaimed to us at any level will have some level of humility inherently tied to it.  Before Jesus, like any of us, was indeed lost without Jesus and needed to be found by Jesus vicariously through Andrew.  In away, Simon had to be found by the Church; albeit loaded with only two people.

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon–  What can be lost on the reader is that the conversion experience of Andrew is expressed too. Andrew’s expression of conversion was in part to share the extent of Jesus that he knew by that time.  Andrew had seen Jesus pointed to in the foundations of faith, be favored by the Father, and had been able to “come and see” where Jesus lived. Those beautiful experiences of “in-reach” should inevitably being expressed in outreach.  Jesus impressed something on Andrew that had to be shared and soon.

You will be called Cephas –  Many Christians of good conscience see Cephas and see a verse that Simon Peter is the first pope.  Others see the title as symbolic.  I must confess, I have a bias.  For a moment, I would like to step back from that controversy and point out that Jesus calls all of us to be on mission of some kind.  To be converted to Jesus is not to have a mental assent or a goose bump.  We are to express that grace according to the individual calling of God on our lives and at some point we should see in our decision for Jesus his specific calling for us. Jesus leaves a deposit into the heart of this man as a point of reference.  Weeks later, Jesus returned to this man while he is working on his boat and adds to the foundation of this moment.

which, when translated- This may seem like a peripheral detail but not with more thought.  The conversation from an objective perspective was three men chatting in Aramaic on an average 1st century day in Roman-ruled Palestine.  But in a spiritual hindsight when one reflects on conversion stories there is a beauty in extrapolating the relational dynamics and apply it to more than one place or culture.  That said, the disciple John departs from the Greek so the reader can be especially in the feel of how personal Jesus was and give a reminder how down to earth the background of the gospel must be read. Jesus is applicable to every scene because his presence is always practical to each culture and through each culture.

In review of this encounter of the three men, one can draw out the profoundness of a properly composed Christian community.  This is not a matter of social conjuring of excitement or group think.  Any called out community that is centered on Jesus Christ has a distinctive of thinking of the other, proclaiming the person of Jesus, humility, knowing his call on our lives and echoing that relational aspect through the world and through the ages.  That is the Church that Jesus builds one person at a time and one pair at a time.  Such are the followers of the Way.

Right Premise, Right Community

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I remember learning about mores in college.  They are cultural norms about how a people collectively are supposed to live regarding both big and small things. I had to take at least one course in sociology to get into my Bachelors in Social Work program I suppose to fit a proverb one teacher said that, “the macro helps you understand the micro” (Andre Pruit, personal conversation, 2012).

But in a religious context this could lead to what is a called a moral life.  In a society that embraces moral relativism, it is helpful to see the moral norms for what they are when fully expressed: objective realities that are pointed to by natural law implicitly but articulated in a religious life explicitly.  This is pointed to by those in authority no matter what society one belongs to.  What smaller rules there can change but on the bigger ones it is a matter of objectivity being unmovable if it is religious and calling itself divine.  Moral truth also would need to be the wisdom of the ages and not the wisdom of just this age right now.  Or another point would be a “Church that is not moved by the world, but moves the world” (GK Chesterton).

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life [fellowship], to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:20).

To be moved and illuminated by the apostles’ teaching was to be tied to the example of giving all of ones self to the will of the Father.  This meant that the original Christians saw that to tie themselves to Jesus was to be tied together in living the life of holiness.  The cultural norm for them was in the commandment of Jesus “to love one another, just as I have loved you”.

But that is just the principle of this holy people then as well as those who walk in that calling now and is both redemptive, internalized and continuous.

Resting on the fullness of the gospel, kingdom message, of Jesus Christ there is a proper definition of the dignity of the human person and of God’s covenant love in the Christian life.

But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy”

but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-3:1)

This is a word about being those who experience Jesus in a community setting.  God has touched them, they live out a life of grace and the glory is given to God.  When people of faith go off track is fundamentally because they go into a downward spiral from forgetting God as their first love, they live off of their guts and glory is withheld to a human kingdom (sometimes with the most fluent of Christianese).

But do the apostles put themselves out of a job if a community does so well?  Maybe in part if if in part a true overseer of God’s people would rejoice about it.  What can be said is that whether the Body of Christ walking in the fulness of truth is observed in the 1st century or the 21st, there is a divine calling of should that should be there.

But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

So can there be holiness in Church?  In as much as it is tied to first right instruction from apostles teaching/Sacred Tradition (which preceded the Sacred Scripture of the NT for hundreds of years in canon form) and unity in common life.  Do you, dear reader, know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?  If so, I rejoice over what God has done.  But to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into a holy nation that can be “sharing in a heavenly calling, reflect on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1). Most fundamentally in the balance of these principles is what I embrace now as a received member in the Catholic Church.

 

What The Name CAUSED

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Writing a blog through the Sermon On The Mount has had its difficulties for me in even having my best guess on the meanings in it.  But it has not been without its “A-ha” moments where I see how truth transcends the biases caused by human experience.  Such is how a walk in faith is supposed to be and also not without some mystery.

In teaching the Lord’s Prayer, it was not only a way to pray, but for prayer to be true to the essence of who we pray to.   In that sense, it is a theological lynchpin by which much of the gospel of the kingdom unfolds.  With that for a spiritual lens we can see He was challenging us to look up indeed but also behind.  Jesus, among many things, was the Jewish Messiah and thus the weight of salvation history makes certain things He says pregnant in context of what had happened long before the first century.  Case in point:

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

The verse above could work, so to speak, as the lynchpin of the lynchpin of the prayer.  The last blog, we looked at the definition of God the Father from Jesus the ultimate insider.  All of the grace shown in God being a familiar, righteous and transcendent father must be completed in the perspective of His name being “hallowed”.  But what does it mean, specific to the Bible, to hallow God’s name?

As I looked at scriptures that show God revealing Himself and man reaching up I came away with three principles of God’s values and corresponding actions done by Him or for Him consistent with divine nature.   These corresponding sets I will lay out also connect well to keeping God’s name holy, that is, distinct from any other kind of relationship we would perceive. I will attempt to lay out what keeping the name of God holy means and what is causes for those on earth who respond to the call of keeping God’s name holy. CAUSED is the key word.

C is for Covenant In Community

First we must understand that God has a communal context to His name even before there were human participants but yet with a covenant context.  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  God in Himself is community we know as the Trinity.  When he chose seven days to cap off creation is was in foresight to the number seven being part of “sealing the deal”.

So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3).

The covenant is in the seven and God’s name is hallowed in it.  “[שָׁבַע]186 verb swear “Probably, so to say, seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things” (Strong’s Concordance).  The number seven and making a covenant has an intentional wordplay through the Hebrew scriptures.  The community context is not lost in the Creation story nor is the context of community.  When we hallow the name of God, we hallow God who is faithful to covenant and is relational by nature.

As we know, the first parents messed everything up with sin.  But God being an initiator of grace and covenant introduces an important element into getting things back on the right path through a Hebrew named Abram in Ur (later Abraham).  God is too harmonious in the essence of the Godhead not to lay a pattern down for the road back.

A is for Altar

“He [Abram] journeyed on by stages from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at between Bethel and Ai,  to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:3-5). 

He found himself in the desert and re-centers himself in a place he had reached out to God before.  It says specifically that Abram is between Bethel and Ai.  Bethel means House of God.  Ai means Heap of Ruins.  This reminds me of our emptiness at the conversion point.  We may not have figured out where we fit in His house, we don’t like the heap of ruins of our sinful lives so we reach up any way we know how.  And God, being love, is too communal in nature not to give us a pattern for redemption as we see in any sacrifice for atonement.

When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:32-34).  Interesting to note is that in the first papal encyclical of Peter he refers to the redemption of the cross as on a tree.  Even here is there a shadow of things to come in the substance of the cross as Abraham calls on God’s redemptive nature.

Beersheba means Well of Seven.  Again a pattern of completion and covenant being the nature of God and in that context God is called upon.  But also of interesting note in the last time that Abraham calls on the name of the Lord is this sense of longevity in planting a tree and how God outlives them.  If these people are sensing the shortness of their lives as they happen, they may be aware of now of God who is above the fray of mortality.  This implies God’s covenant to go through the generations and leads well into a timeless element of calling on God in Exodus.

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.

If We Eat humility For Breakfast Part II

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If we have a foundation of humility that is grounded in receiving the power in the message of Jesus (Romans 1:16) and by being humble with the people around you, what is it for?  So we can call ourselves nice? Religious? We don’t need another person that qualifies for external qualifications only.  Humility that goes to our gut will draw us to God, self-awareness, sensitivity of the broader life that is in the Church and a perspective of grace when we suffer.  Such is the case that an older, wiser Simon Peter lays out the case for a continuing follower of Jesus.  

1 Peter 5

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time

The “therefore” mentioned is based on the preceding comments (see last post).  Peter is now presupposing that the reader is willing to be humble with people but not as an either/or proposition but both/and.  What you do unto your neighbor you are also doing unto God (Matthew 25).  Yes, prayer in itself is awesome and needed.  But isolating our experience of being humbled to prayer can be called being very heavenly minded while being no earthly good.  

But being submitted first to God has the benefit of knowing He is in control.  That is why we can cast our cares on Him reinforced by His love and submission to Him and not fear of Him.  

Discipline yourselves, keep alert.

Getting back to the above verse about being under God’s mighty hand, we examine ourselves on if we are acting consistent with being in His will.  If we are not walking in God’s will, we should not assume His protection and the ability to resist the devil.  

for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

Peter is switching gears by switching the reader’s perspective.  So far in this passage, Peter has been writing about spiritual dimensions in individual and small community contexts.  Now he is drawing them to see the worldwide Church in that knows suffering as a universal experience.  With this, Peter is telling them that suffering is inevitable and it is not just happening to one person.  

And after you have suffered for a little while

This “little while” could be for just a brief season of suffering.  We hope not to suffer for the rest of our lives even directly for being a Christian.  But in case the “little” in God’s eyes is years then we can know that He will bring things around but right now he will give you the grace to endure.  He is the “God of all grace”.  But make no mistake, it is rooted in eternity with a history of salvation offered to th world that is bigger than one person but accomplished with the cooperation of many.  In the words of Mary, “May it be done to me, according to your word.”  

  

If We Eat Humility For Breakfast Part I

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Bringing change to someone’s approach to life from dysfunctional to functional is like heart surgery.  First, it is like you crack open their chest with just enough anesthesia and then you can go deep without killing them.  In plainer language you talk with someone about what they see for a need for change, ask questions that help them assess the costs and benefits of the status quo.  From there, you help them see where their life has been and will be in the context of story. 

I applied this recently in a capstone project for my Masters in Social Work. I had my semi-existing client, “Sofia” and in the paper used motivational interviewing to bring illumination and then narrative therapy (story based perspective) to see where she can overcome conflicts and make a happy ending.  The illumination is a combination of my education and her own self-reflections.

Saint Peter was a wiser man than I and most people.  But his role is not as a therapist and his audience is not a client but the Church which he is a part of and has personally been formed spiritually in.  Also in his case he does not end with a story but begins with one we have heard referred to as The Greatest Story Ever Told.  He has been schooled by the gospel.  

1 Peter 5:1 Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

“God opposes the proud,
    but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter has come a long way about the hard truths of the cross of Christ.  The same day he was appointed as the first pope he tried to “straighten” out Jesus about the need to go to the cross.  But he speaks as someone that has come against the way of humility and now comes from experiencing it as a witness and as one who was persecuted.  He is also speaking as an elder which in the Greek is Presbyteros and is really the word that comes over to English as priest.  

Peter has a further connection to the mysteries of the Cross as a celebrant in the mass.  Many Catholic theologians say that if Peter were to walk into a mass today he would not understand many of the things done now except for holding up the bread that has been consecrated: also known as the Blessed Sacrament.

In light of being a witness of the Cross and a celebrant of the mysteries Peter exhorts the servant attitude to start with all who are sacramental elders.  That is, they would do their work “not for sordid gain”.  In other words,”It’s not about you guys, remember that.”  This humility would hopefully trickle down to the younger in a transmission of what I call needed with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition: Sacred Humility.  

And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another,

And there is the first uncomfortable blow in this passage.  To cover ones self in humility is to identify yourself with the sufferings of Christ and put other people’s needs above your own. If God is the potter and we are the clay, His calling is to be forged by one another in the context of intentional humility.  Will people let you down?  Maybe.  But what does it benefit you to be on your guard around everyone?  There is none.  And to comes to cloth yourself in humility is not a matter of intellectual assent but a process over time out of relationship with Christ through the Church.  Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?  Great! But by being humble you make the Cross a living truth and live it out.  

Whew! Is that all? No.  Peter is just warming up.  If you can humble yourself in the community that you can see, you can transition to humbling yourself to God who you cannot see; but also His blessings.  

 

 

Prison Break Out of The Box

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We are all under a death sentence.  Dying from birth, as they say.  Most people decide not to look at it that way but ponder how they can live best. Intentionally living the best puts the person into one of two paths (often both): eat and drink for tomorrow we die or preparing for a heavenly reward. 

            Where Peter comes into the story this time is that he had been on a course of living a life with a lot of purpose for several years by the time he was arrested by Herod.  He had a very unique mission given to him by Jesus to, “Strengthen [or confirm] your brothers” and “freed my sheep”.  But he had also been told very plainly that he would die a martyr’s death with an emphasis that he would be out of control.  Getting arrested after one of his best friends is beheaded must have looked like the scenario he had been told about.  This makes a passive role inherently for this first scene but in the context of a non- passive life in all of the right ways.  

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

            You don’t have to be a pope to be in community.  When I was going through a divorce and severely depressed I was freshly getting integrated into a healthy church and bible study that loved me warts and all.  In that dark season I knew God’s grace in the context of the prayers of my spiritual family. 

 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” .  Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

            This is profound.  God puts us in places where nothing is in our hands and in other places where things are in our hands but in context of cooperation with Him.  Like Mary carrying Jesus saying, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”  The latter applies to Peter here and he is given a hint if you remember where Jesus told him what to expect as shown below from John 21:18-19. 

            18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

            There is a contrast in terms of him being ordered to get up quickly, and fasten his belt himself.  But the “follow me” part work as more than just following and angel.  He is following the Lord who sent the angel. 

10 After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

            Orders given on how to respond and orders carried out.  Again we see Peter pushed in his thinking out of a box like the recent posts about sharing the gospel with the gentiles but even better: Peter is experiencing faith in Jesus even beyond even rightfully assumed expectations of Jesus. 

            Can I think of experiencing something like that? I think it may be true of my conversion (or I may say reversion) to the Catholic Church.  It has been nearly a year since I was received into the Catholic Church but I can remember stretching my mind beyond many of my Protestant assumptions (e.g. Catholics worship Mary, they don’t value the Bible enough, they overemphasize the papacy, salvation by works etc.).  But systematically things unfolded that showed me God can work in layers that I could not see and I was thinking far too small. 

12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying.

            Remember what I said about the prayers of the saints and community?  Peter experienced faith in the context of community like we are all called to.  He wastes no time. 

 13 When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14 On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” 16 Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed.

            Nothing profound here, but I think that is hilarious.  Peter was a holy man but he had a history of a temper!  I guess one practical tip is that if you don’t hear a response the first time you try to engage in fellowship, keep knocking!  The bookends of this story are community and community for a reason.  We are quirky people individually called to walk with quirky fellowship.  Whether we are in a passive state or participating state, let’s remember to intentionally believe big and love widely. To do both will pay off in openness to miracles, community and eventually a noble passage to the next life.