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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 1, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 5:27–32

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (NRSV)

Imagine what it is like to see and know something, from your own experience, and have to act on that knowledge—telling people about it, teaching them, taking action, putting your body behind it—when your known experience differs from “the authorities.” (Maybe you already do. Blessings upon you!)

Black Lives Matter. Bringing water to refugees in the desert. Stonewall. Protesting the Keystone pipeline. There is no shortage of examples.

It’s not difficult to imagine the next step. Being met not with praise but with a power determined not to accept blame, instead turning blame back on those who resist. Easy to imagine others turning away, not wanting that attention drawn to them. Easy to feel cowed.

Easy, perhaps, not to take action in the first place.

And how is this different from the language of abusers? “It’s your fault I hurt you.” There’s a whole dynamic there, shaped over multiple interactions, that can be impossible to counter, difficult to resist.

But the apostles are clear. “We must obey God.” “We are witnesses to these things.” “So is the Holy Spirit!”

In the story they are met with success—freed from prison in the first place, defended by others after. But we know, don’t we, that the individual story doesn’t always end well. And they knew this too. And yet they, and countless others over the centuries, drew strength from what they knew to be true, and from the examples of others, and stood firm.

God of justice and truth, may you guide us in discerning your truth, that we may also stand firm, speaking out as you would have us do, trusting in you more than in any human authority. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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