By Revd. Canon Prof. Martyn Percy
I like the fact that the Christian life does not give you short-cuts. Our contemporary culture is besotted with a desire for the quick, instant and quick fix. But the Christian life is slow work. It is a work of patience, grace and growth – in courage and in fortitude. Today we find Peter and John before the Council. They must have been afraid, even though Acts speaks warmly of their courage and their boldness. But they are human too. Their lives are on the line. And there is no quick exit.
Like many people, I spend much of my life living on the cusp of anxiety and hope. Woody Allen is perhaps not best-known for his contribution to theology. But he has a nice line for all of us facing challenge – whether it is at work, college – or even before the Council. How do we make God laugh? The answer: tell him our future plans.
One of our best-known Psalms (23) captures the essence of assurance. God will be with us – through whatever shadows or valleys we walk through. But we are not offered a detour. There is no way around the difficulties we face in life. Rather, faith offers a way through these things. So as we face the challenges ahead, we step out in trust and in hope. As one poet put it, many years ago:
I said to the manwho stood at the gate of the year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safelyinto the unknown.’
And he replied,’Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to youbetter than light
and safer than a known way.’
So I went forthand finding the hand of God,
trod gladly into the night.
Peter and John do just that, in our reading today. They follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, not because it will take them to any kind of easy success, but because they are faithful to a calling. A calling, indeed, that will in the end, lead to their martyrdom.
Why does God sometimes lead us into difficult situations?
How can we stay faithful to God when the going gets tough?
May God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
Revd. Canon Prof. Martyn Percy is Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon