“…But When We Went Inside… We Didn’t Find a Soul”
National Social Service Conference–
Lt. Col. Raymond L. Peacock –
–Acts 5:23 The Message
Speaking before a congregation he had led as the former National Social Service Consultant, Lt. Colonel Raymond L. Peacock, currently program secretary, USA West, explored the very soul of The Salvation Army and its relationship with the world during the Sunday morning service of consecration at the National Social Service Conference.
Quoting from Acts 5, of Peterson’s The Message, Peacock reminded the 400 assembled officers, soldiers and social workers of the story of Peter’s arrest, incarceration and freeing for preaching the Gospel. The story concludes with:
Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel’s senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn’t find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, “We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside, we didn’t find a soul.”
It was the potential double meaning of the last line of the verse which intrigued Peacock and on which he based his text.
“The first possible meaning of the verse is that they didn’t find a soul because there was none to be found,” Peacock said. “There are those who would say we have lost our very soul because we have forgotten our mission and vision.” He wondered aloud about what he called today’s “fuzzy focus,” which emphasizes separation of our social and evangelical mission and pits secularized social services that lack a spiritual heart against evangelism and church building that excludes a social conscience.
Speaking with great passion he said: Some might say…”We have retreated from the world.” He noted Dietrich Bonhoffer’s comment: “The only place to follow Christ is in the world.” Peacock stated that “we tend to view the world as two distinct entities, one spiritual, one secular …” while Jesus calls us to be in it but not of it.
“Some might say we have become responders not initiators.” This has not been our pattern, he said, as he recognized the great effort over the years by those committed to the articulation of the combined evangelistic and social commitments of the Army and the weariness and exhaustion which comes from keeping up the fight. “We are called to be pacesetters and initiators.”
“A second scenario for that verse would be that they didn’t find a soul because the soul had been set free.” He quoted Bramwell Booth, who said: “Social work is an expression of the essential life, of the very soul of the Army. It is not an appendage–not an afterthought.” Our purpose and our passionate commitment is to serving God and serving humankind.
Then, drawing on Paul’s charge to Timothy in II Timothy 4:5, he urged the following five points: (1) concentrate on your uniqueness; (2) be aware of your environment–of everything around you; (3) expect to suffer; (4) focus on the core of the problem; and (5) pursue faithfulness and obedience. “God has created you to serve. Keep the faith,” he urged.
Music was provided by the Sierra Del Mar ensemble under the leadership of Charles Harness. The service was led by Mr. Gordon Bingham, territorial social service secretary.