Be bold and don’t fold – Monday, 2nd Week in Easter tide – Acts 4:23-31
The Apostles Peter and John have been threatened by the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Making it clear that they will not stand down to the dictates of men, the apostles are allowed to walk free. However we know from the Acts of the Apostles that the next time they will be beaten and Stephen will be stoned.
It is interesting to note where the apostles now head to. We are told in the opening lines of today’s text that they went to their ‘friends’ or as some texts put it, to ‘their own’. In challenging moments we may often feel tempted to find comfort in things, the apostles find their support group. But this is not just any support group; this is a group that is proactive, prayerful and prepared.
The first response of these ‘friends’ was prayer. In fact the book of Acts in Chapters 3 and 4 is simply a template of prayer for times of trial that will be duplicated all through the Acts of the Apostles. The modern world is tempted to respond to trials by garnering public opinion, not so with the Early Church; their proactive response is to go to the right court of appeal; to God in prayer. When we understand that the book of the Acts is the blueprint of the Church we will also learn to accept that this must be the response of The Church in times of trial and I don’t mean this only as a collective trial but even when we stand individually in need of God’s grace.
This prayer that they make also has a pattern. It does not deal first with the problem at hand but rather who can deal the next hand; God alone. The prayer that the Church makes reminds them of who God is; omnipotent and above all. They remind each other that God is creator and bigger than the problem they face. Often in difficult moments we tell God first how big our problem is. The next time tell your problem how big your God is.
What is also interesting is not merely the first response but that this response to cry to God was of one mind, it was a united response. We are told that the group “raised their voices together.” My professor, the late Fr Leslie Ratus would often say to us in class that the worst scandal of the Church is not its sexual sins but that we do not stand united as one. This was the prayer of Jesus, “that they may be one, just as you and I Father are one.”
So what brought about this unity for we know that a few weeks ago these same men could not pray for an hour with Jesus? We know that some denied, many deserted and yet now astonishingly we see this united front. Unity is not merely an act of our will but the submission of our will to the Holy Spirit. Notice that in verse 24 they raised their voices “together to God” and the fruit of this unity is seen in verse 31 where they were “all” filled with the Holy Spirit.
This unity rewarded by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of ALL results in ‘boldness’( verse 31) we are no strangers to this word which has been peppered through the larger text starting from Acts 4:13. Boldness is not bravado; boldness or ‘parrhesia’ in Greek is the freedom and confidence which the divine spirit gives to its spokesperson despite all dangers. This is why the apostles could be bold and did not fold when hard times came their way.
The Church is in need of this Boldness, to be on fire with Christ. There is a story told of a village atheist who lived in a village whose faith had become that of a social club; many activities and little prayer. One day the village Church caught fire and running to douse the fire was also the village atheist. This prompted a believer to say to him, “that’s the first time I have seen you run to Church.” Pat came the response of the atheist, “that’s the first time I have seen the Church on fire.”
Fr Warner D’Souza