A People Possessed

15 10 2010

Part One: Ra, Ra!

Reading Acts 4. Peter and John have just been a part of and have witnessed the healing power of Jesus in a person’s life who had been crippled at birth; they are beyond ecstatic to see that Jesus is alive and present through His Spirit. It’s all the same, but different. Yes, Jesus is in heaven, but yes He is absolutely alive and well and at work on earth.

Their joy at this realization is irrepressible! They are talking non-stop about how awesome God is and how He can take any life and turn it around and bless it. They are positively annoying in their joy (at least to the “establishment”). They get arrested because they won’t shut-up and Peter and John say, “Do whatever you want to us, but we can’t stop talking about what just happened. It’s impossible for us to stop.”

The Bible says, in verse 21 that their captors, “could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.” The word was on the street and it had gone viral. Stopping Joy, when it is the real stuff, is a hopeless cause. You can try your best to dampen It, but it has a Mind of Its own.

The thing that has my attention is that when the Good News about Jesus takes over our lives, it is the thing that decides. There is really nothing anyone can do to us to hold it back from going where it wants to go. If someone is actually able to stop our words, then our actions will speak. If someone can stop our actions, then our prayers will put runners on. And if someone can snuff us out altogether, then our graves, our legacy, will cry out that Jesus was worth it all. The truth about what Jesus has done for us absolutely possesses us.

I am thinking of the word “possessed” and how we are all owned by something; you know the old song by Dylan, You Gotta Serve Somebody (wow, that’s a really long song; never realized it):

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed…

Something takes over our lives and possesses our heart, mind and soul. Something does. We all have a sentence that begins “I am possessed by __________” even if it is a “legion” (inference intended) of things.

But we can be single-minded. We can be possessed, in the grip of, absolutely compelled by the beautiful, life-transforming love of Jesus. We can be so taken by it that it doesn’t really matter what anyone says or does, it is the thing that moves us. It is the thing, that no matter what, keeps putting us on our feet. We can go where He wants us to go, we can say the things He wants us to say, we can be about what He is about and though discouragement keeps coming our way, we can get up and do it all over again.

I love that no one knew what to do with Peter and John. There wasn’t a punishment that would work. Prison? That would only give them something more to sing about (and they did actually sing in prison):

“He sings the songs that remind him
Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him
Of the better times:
“Don’t cry for me
Next door neighbour…”
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing
We’re winning
We’ll be singing…”

(From “I Get Knocked Down.” The rest of the lyrics, not worth repeating…)

Part Two: plodding.

All that and suddenly this little verse pops into my head, “put your hand to the plow and don’t look back” (Luke 9:62).  I am reminded that life wasn’t one super-cool-miracle after another for the early church. There were definitely jaw-dropping miracles, but there were also people hiding in catacombs, hardly seeing the light of day. And, if it wasn’t enough that their lives were in danger, there were factions and frictions “among the brethren.” The “plow” illustration isn’t exactly Amazing Race. It’s feet in gumboots, slogging along, wrestling with an antiquated piece of machinery in hard-to-work soil. Sexy.

But who is looking back? Really? Really is there something out there that can even touch the incomprehensible love of Jesus? The forgiveness? The Hope? Not even close. So if something impossibly fantastic happens every other day, or if after 40 years you don’t have much to show for except faithfulness, it still should cause the same reaction to those looking in: people should have a hard time deciding what to do with us because of who God is in us. They should shake their head and ask, “What will it take to make them stop?” And come up empty because everything has already been tried.

That is what happens when you are a people possessed.

God!!! May it be so once again!!

— Teresa Klassen




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