Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2003
Sister walks with the apostles
Acts of the Apostles featured at Scripturefest
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
One could make a case that Sister Carol Perry once walked with the apostles.
This year's Scripturefest guest speaker provided the 100 patrons Oct. 18 at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Centre with a vivid portrayal of the ascension of Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity, under the theme The Acts of the Apostles.
It were as if Perry, a biblical scholar from Marble Collegiate Church in New York, strode step for step with the Apostles and chronicled the events, conveying them in her four talks.
Following the resurrection of Christ and the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Perry said it was important to ignore the artful Christian illustrations of Saul (Paul) heading to Damascus.
"We have to put hair on his head and we have to take away his grey beard because we are dealing with someone who is probably, at most, 16 years of age. He has the energy, the enthusiasm and the lack of direction of so many young people, to this day."
After reading the passage where Saul, on his way to Damascus, is struck to the ground by a flash of light, Perry said to the audience, "When I talk about Saul lying on the road I know 99 per cent of you saw a horse there. Christian art has done that to us. We are so influenced by what we have seen that we forget what we have heard through the centuries.
"Saul was a poor rabbinical student. I doubt, sincerely, he had money for a horse. And secondly, horses were not the transportation of the ancient world. It was the donkey. The sure-footed, relatively cheap animal that even the poorest of the poor could afford."
She said Saul was young and vigorous and he could well have walked to Damascus.
The three days he sat in a small room in Damascus, blinded, had to be the three longest days of his life. His career was shattered because a blind man could not be a rabbi in the ancient world. Blind people were sinners.
"Put yourself in his position. Think about this. It was an incredible moment," she said. The audience stared at Perry, motionless, as if they were temporarily blind themselves, yet seeing everything Saul could not.
Perry said when Cornelius, a Roman centurion, sent a guard and two slaves to summon Peter following a visit from an angel, it was one of the most crucial moments in early Christian history.
"Peter knows what this means. If he goes into the house of a gentile - the house of a non-Jew - he, as a believing Jew, is considered unclean. If he eats with that non-Jew, he is excommunicated.
"What is he to do? And God, with his marvellous divine sense of humour, has sent this non-Jew who knocks on Peter's door, who is a Roman soldier. This is not a free country. The Romans are the enemy. There were any number of more desirable non-Jews out there whom God could have chosen," she said.
"But the very first gentile who wants to be part of the Christian community is the most unacceptable human being imaginable."
Peter did go to see Cornelius, who knelt before him. Peter told him to stand, for he was only a mortal, then said he truly understood that God shows no partiality, but that in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
"This a moment of divine revelation in Peter's life," she said.
"I'll assume 99 per cent of us are not of Jewish background. This is our call to the Christian faith. If Peter had not gone to the home of Cornelius, how much longer would it have taken for the first-century Church to wrestle with this issue of whether non-Jews could become one of them?"