When you watch Tom and Jerry, you are not upset by the horrendous level of violence and abuse, because you also know The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, South Park, Sponge Bob SquarePants and many other cartoons.
In both these cases we have a basic frame of reference; we understand the game. But when people hear about the grotesque, self-serving, even malevolent miracles in the Acts of Apostles - for instance St. Peter killing people by a curse - many modern people are left disoriented, perplexed, and vulnerable to unscrupulous and abusive manipulations by fundamentalists. It is so because the Acts of the Apostles is the only book of its kind in the Bible and thus people don’t know the coordinates, don't know its literary genre. Yet there is a whole bookshelf of similar ancient literature - books of the acts ascribed to different apostles: Thomas, John, Paul and Thecla to name just a few of the oldest and best known. These books are not in the Bible, but they can help us understand and appreciate this early church’s most popular and entertaining genre of literature.
This Sunday we will continue our intermittent series about biblical (or in this case almost biblical) insects; allowing apostolic bedbugs to introduce us to this peculiar genre of the early Christian Acts of Apostles. An ancient burlesque miracle story about these most unpleasant insects will teach us how to resist similarly unpleasant, abusive and manipulative christian fundamentalism. And don't worry, as much icky/itchy as it sounds it is actually eye-opening fun. Grotesque, scary or funny miracles are a natural part of the genre of Acts, just like talking animals are part of fairytales, or the exorbitant violence of a cheeky mouse is a part of cartoons.
And here is the text from the Acts of John §§60+61:
On the first day we came to some godforsaken inn, and when we were trying to find just any bed for John, we experienced this amusing event. In one corner there was a bed without any mattress, so we covered it with our cloaks and asked John to take a rest on it while we prepared to sleep on the floor. As soon as John lain down, bedbugs came out and started to bother him. They pestered him more and more. It was almost midnight, we all heard him say to them, ‘I ask you all, you bedbugs, be considerate; leave us your home for this night and go to rest in a place which is far away from the servants of God!’ And while we chuckled and talked for a while, John fell asleep. We chatted a little longer, and thanks to him we were undisturbed all night.
In the morning, the next day, I got up first, and with me Verus and Andronicus. And right behind the door of that room in which we slept we saw this entire regiment of bedbugs lined up on the doorstep. We went all the way out to see this spectacle, we even woke up other brethren- John was still asleep. When he woke up we showed him what we had seen. And sitting up in bed and seeing all those bedbugs, he said to them, ‘Since you have been so reasonable, and heard my rebuke, you can now return to your place!’ And as soon as he said this and got up from the bed, the bedbugs ran straightaway from the door to the bed and up the legs and disappeared into the joints. And then John proclaimed, ‘This creature listened to the human voice and kept quiet and was obedient. We hear divine voice, and yet don’t take God’s command seriously. For how long would this go on?