‘ In this lifetime, only a few will be saved. Only a few will live a life of self-emptying love. Only a few will endure the humiliation of honesty. Only a few will face the despair of hell and give thanks. Only a few will forgive everyone for everything.’ Fr. Stephen Freeman
Job 13-14; Acts 5; Psalm 38
It is interesting to note that Acts 5, in particular the story of Ananias and Sapphira does not occur in any lectionary of the church I have ever used for Sunday worship. As we so foolishly excise those ‘difficult’ bits of readings, Sunday by Sunday, either by dictat of the lectionary, or by skating over them in preaching – we seem all too ready to avoid the dark passages. We just want light
But what is Light, if we have no concept of the Dark
The story of Ananias and Sapphira comes crashing into the narrative of Acts as the most unwelcome of intruders – it is almost as if some vandal has cut down a favourite tree, or defaced a beautiful painting. Up to this point in the narrative all is well. There has been no persecution of the believers – their common life is a thing of beauty, and then all of a sudden two members of the infant church are dead, over what may seem to us to be a very small thing. We are shocked.
Like Job and his friends we argue over the ways of God, which seem unfair to us, and so too it may well seem is the incident with Ananias and Sapphira. ‘But they only told a lie!’
We want Light without there being any Dark – we want the blessing of God, but without any suffering. The treatment of Ananias and Sapphira seems to us unjust. Yet this is because of our failure to see the Light – our failure to apprehend what is happening amongst the believers, the enormity of the Resurrection Life.
It is the very Life and Light of the Living God, which flows through the veins of the early church, in whom there is no darkness at all. The very life of the Triune God is evident in the common life of the community of faith – wherever the Apostles go, there Life springs forth and the church grows and grows.
In Him, there is no darkness at all. Deceit, that hiding which was the outcome of the first sin of our forebears, has no place in the light. Ananias and Sapphira, as Adam and Eve, cover up. We must not miss the echoes of the ancient story. Deceit is in a sense The Sin. It is the Covering up that stops the flow of life. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins’
To Live in the light is to be honest about our own darkness, and so be healed – to cover up is the way of death. Ananias and Sapphira find the way to the Tree of Life is barred to them. There is no Life – and without Life the end is inevitable.
Confession is a Vital part of living in the Light
Genesis 46-47; John 19; Psalm 32
Our Psalm today requires much by way of meditation – that prayerful ‘chewing’ upon the Word in prayer that brings forth Life. For it is a text of truthfulness. Scripture throughout bears witness to the Truth – sometimes it is veiled, the revelation of Christ does not lie on the surface for all to see – but occasionally it is seen in all its glory. In other places, as in this Psalm, we are led into truth. The Psalmist declares, ‘Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven’. He then speaks of his own experience which has led him to this happy realisation – how he was wasting away in trying as our forebears did of old in the garden, to hide the reality of his life from God. But then he comes into the Light – we may well say he comes to Christ – and learns the blessed release of Openness, of Truthfulness.
As we first meditate upon the ‘Proposition’ – happy are those whose sins are forgiven – it may well be alien to us. We may accept it as the Word of God, but it is alien. It is a Fact which we accept in trust, but we have not yet become acquainted with it – we have not ourselves experienced this truth. We may not yet have come to the point where the fact of our own existence in its sinfulness has been any burden to us. But as He comes close to us, this state of affairs cannot pertain, we must either come to the light or flee ever deeper into the darkness. As he becomes ever more clear the crisis comes to a head.
And so Everything is brought to the point of Judgement. We see in Pilate a growing panic as the one who Is the Truth stands before him – the conflict between Light and Dark is exposed – the Light is brought out once more and the darkness os revealed for what it is – a refusal to come into the light. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ We cannot bear the light!!!
Pilate comes to see that for all his worldly power – he cannot do the right – he is given a choice – he is told where his authority comes from, but he refuses to step into it. He does not believe.
It is in this supreme revelation of the Truth of our existence in Christ, that the door to our forgiveness is thrown open wide. As Death is brought out into the open, Life is poured out.
As we wrestle ourselves with God, as had Jacob, who now in a most extraordinary turn, blesses Pharaoh, all this is brought to the fore in our lives. The Truth of Christ is made present to us, and we too have the opportunity offered to us of the fullest healing of who we are.
Truth is revealed to be Personal – a Person – the one who sets us free.
“Blessed are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those . . . in whose spirit is no deceit – who have stepped out of darkness and into light
Who know Christ, and are themselves Known, Apprehended, and Freed by Him
Genesis 20-21; John 7:25-52; Psalm 13-14
As we read on in the story of Abraham, a theme continues – that of Abraham’s inability because of fear to live in truthfulness. Once more he pretends Sarah is not his wife – once more there are hash consequences for others
We are encouraged to ponder how our lives are so interconnected that these small hidings, deceits, fracture a much broader reality. Once more we see how Words can create and destroy world’s – bring forth Life as the life giving promise of the LORD is revealed in the birth of Isaac – or how deceit closes off life, as the people of Gerar suffer for Abraham’s deceit.
The face of the father of lies is not well hid, and his narrative of death constantly struggles for ascendency, finding a home in our fears, the antithesis of faith.
Abraham may well have asked “How Long oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?” But what is at stake here is not the LORD’s faithfulness but that of his people. Abraham has been stood beneath the stars and shown the future – he is called to live in the grandeur of that vision, rather than with a constant eye to preserving his own life.
The centre of God’s revelation in the age to come is the Temple – and from the Temple of his body, life giving streams of water will flow to those who thirst. Yet as for Abraham, the question for us also is ‘who will believe?’ Who will trust in the one whose Word is Life – who listens yet for the whisper of the snake?