Acts 2, Easter 3A, Osama Bin Laden, Personal History

Three Thousand Persons

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say…” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. (Acts 2:14a, 41, NRSV)

Three thousand persons had their lives changed, inspired by the apostle Peter, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a rather fabulous number and appropriate to a book that is probably mostly fable, but still wonderful in its own way. Three thousand. How could they all hear him? (Perhaps I stumble on the practical. I wonder the same thing about the thousands Jesus fed.) This wasn’t Billy Graham at Norfolk Scope. (Yes, I went, want to make something of it?) There was no megaphone much less a mega-church. Where did they baptize three thousand people? It seems impossible.

But it seemed impossible, too, what happened to three thousand other persons, in no time at all, under the orders of a different inspirator. And yet it happened.

I know I’m not the only one who, shaken at the way the world — my “rightfully” safe, American world — had shifted, made demands and decisions I might not have otherwise. We all shifted, with the ground under us. If you did not, well, don’t be too hard on the rest of us. We affected domestic mergers, or had babies, or got married, or got divorced. We personalized it.

And here I am, almost ten years later, personalizing it some more. The inspirator is dead; the relationship I moved forward in the wake of his heinous crime is over, too. And while I’m not sorry either is finished, and I see both endings as sadly necessary, the key word is sad. I read a fascinating, but wrong-headed from my perspective, comparison of Jesus (executed by the powers to please the people) to Bin Laden (same idea), but that just made me more sad. (Don’t make me explain where the comparison breaks down.) I think the blogger is trying to dramatize the point that as Christians our loyalties need to be different than the ones we have as Americans, and I feel that strain. I feel it. I’m on the one hand proud of our President and on the other horrified by the taking of any life. Any life. I’m heartsick that we take strong, brave, gifted young men and turn them into machines for killing. I am heartsick. And I’m sick to my stomach, both as a Christian and an American, about the way people in my own community responded, painting graffiti on a mosque early yesterday morning.

Gregory Rec’s photo from Portland Press Herald

Peter, in Jerusalem, told the story of Jesus to win souls. Peter brought them into the community of the One who died because humanity couldn’t stand his love. Let’s not kill him again with our hate, our fear and our thirst for revenge. Let’s remember Peter, who once pulled out a sword, until Jesus told him to put it away.

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