When the 'centres do hold' (Acts 21,37-22,22; Joshua 3 /'Tuesday after Fourth Sunday After Easter', BPC lectionary/)
These days, Acts has presented us with Paul's 'long apology'. He is put on trials time and again by Jews or Greeks. In these speeches he explains his conversion to Christ. When talking to his own peoples, to the Jewry, he sums up the whole of salvation history. He demonstrates how Christ is the fulfilment of the Law from Abraham to the event of the Resurrection.
Both emphasis is equally important. The arrival of the Messiah in the person of Jesus, and how Israel's long journey with God is part of this event. 'Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.'
For us as a church, this 'recapitulation' of history by Paul, is something vital and liberating to contemplate. Now when the dominant agenda is mission aiming at producing numerical 'growth' the 'vertical dimension' of mission should not be lost of sight. It is worth reading Paul's attempt to 'integrate' the old Jewish history with the new story of the Church as the expression of the 'Catholick' nature of the Church. Rediscovering the sense that we are called to be part of God's unified family, that the human family is 'universal' in Christ – is a liberating experience. Actually, this Catholic sense of belonging together is the most powerful motivation for 'mission'. Knowing that we are not floating, isolated (ecclesial) islands, is healing, as it were, 'therapeutic'. There is nothing more regenerating than the sense that we are held by a centre; when 'centres do hold'.
(Joshua chapter 3 models this 'Catholick' centre 'which holds'. 'When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it...And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves...and to the priests, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.')
This centre, indeed 'holds'. It gives life, it helps the people both in ordinary and critical situations. What is fascinating to see is how this Centre (God's Glory) renews its presence among the people by the ministry of Joshua. 'And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.' Actually, Joshua's priestly ministry expresses the progressive work of renewing God's presence. 'And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you.' The priest's ministry is not the only way of keeping this remembrance alive. However, it is an inevitable element in relating to the 'Catholick centre', from which, literally, Life stems forth to be shared.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..