In The Gates of Ivory, contemporary British novelist Dame Margaret Drabble tells of a circle of friends searching for one of their number who has mysteriously disappeared. With few clues about his plan or hints of his destination, the group gradually learns that their friend, award-winning author Stephen Cox, has left a comfortable life in England to get to the bottom of the story of life in Cambodia after the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. After stints in Thailand and Vietnam, Stephen passes through the “gates” into ravaged Cambodia, from which he never returns. In Drabble’s telling, life in England is “Good Time.” Life in the quagmire of Pol Pot’s Cambodia is “Bad Time.”

At first glance the believers described in Acts are living in Good Time. They gather together. They listen and learn from one another. They pray together. They share bread and hold in common what they have. They give to those in need. Their hearts are sincere. They are glad. There is awe. There is wonder. Their circle widens to include newcomers. It all seems too good to be true.

But the first Christians live in a world that is not friendly to them. At the outset, their number is relatively small—they are a marginal people. Even as they are looked upon kindly by their neighbors in Jerusalem, their fellowship is alien to the social structures and political forces of their day. As their numbers increase, hostility toward them intensifies. Some face the threat of persecution. Good Time? Minorities and marginalized people like the earliest fellowship of Christians do not always feel the benefits of what others consider Good Time. Far too often for the marginalized, what seems like Good Time is Bad Time.

We too live between the Times. In every time and place Good Time and Bad Time coexist.

God, we know you are gracious and loving in the darkness as well as in the light. Draw near us. Stay close in Good Time and in Bad Time. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 10:1-10

Log In to leave a comment
Lectionary Week
April 27—May 3, 2020
Scripture Overview

The reading from Acts picks up the themes of mutual love and fellowship from last week’s readings and records that the display of these qualities captured the attention of the people in Jerusalem. When the church displays these qualities today, they still attract people to the Lord. The psalm and First Peter are linked by the theme of suffering. In Psalm 23, David is confident that God will stay with him even through the darkest valley. Peter encourages his audience to walk through that same valley, strengthened by the knowledge that God will never abandon them and that they are following the example of Christ. In John, Jesus declares that he is the way to safety for God’s sheep, so we should listen to his voice alone.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Acts 2:42-47. How do you see Good Time and Bad Time coexisting in your life or in your community?
Read Psalm 23. How do this psalm’s joys and comforts change when you consider the suffering of the psalmist in Psalm 22?
Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When you have been caught in a struggle, how have your actions helped or worsened your situation?
Read John 10:1-10. How have you or someone you know attempted to enter God’s abundance by stealth? What does it mean for you to rectify this and enter through the gate?

Respond by posting a prayer.

This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”

Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.