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16th September: Dragons (6) -- Magic

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me also this power...' Acts 8:18-19

Magic can be described as the misuse of power (and, indeed, not only of super-natural power). It is the sort of dragon that Christians think they can spot easily if he appears along the Way. We tend to think of Simon, the former magician and now believer, who tried to buy the Holy Spirit's power with money. He was rebuked by Peter (Acts 8:18-24) and found a permanent dishonourable place in the word 'simonry' in our English dictionary. Or we think of Elymas, the practising magician in Cyprus, who tried to divert the Roman proconsul from the Christian faith, and who was soundly ticked off by Paul as well as being blinded (Acts 13:6-12). We explain the desire of the disciples to call down fire from heaven on those who would not receive Jesus in Samaria (Lk 9:54) as a naive attitude that we should not even think of. We quickly dismiss the trivial pointless miracles attributed to the Boy Jesus in the apocryphal gospels as fanciful tales, which no doubt they are. Yes, we can spot the silly old dragon, magic. Or so we think.

But perhaps it is not so simple. This is the sphere of the prince of darkness, who can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). Are we up to his tricks? While we may shy away from the superstitions and the weird things that so many people get themselves sadly tangled up in, do we hanker after spiritual thrills for their own sake? Do we ever feel that we should like to see a spectacular miracle, a real piece of magic? Divine magic, of course. Oh, yes. But it would be nice to be personally involved in it -- and so to have something special to talk about, our own personal spiritual thrill. The dragon Magic beckons. His shiny scales have lovely colours. He has a crocodile's grin ('welcoming little fishes in', to quote Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland), but his eyes are hypnotic. Magic is fascinating, and this is no time to be self-confident about such matters.

God still does miracles today. We need not doubt that. But it is as he wills, but as we will. Even in the ministry of our Lord Jesus, the important thing about the miraculous events was that they were his 'signs' (Jn 2:11). He was no magician, even when he could have helped himself in a desperate situation (Matt 26:53-54). We must not underestimate the dragon magic.

Grant us, Almighty Lord, a quiet confidence
in your over-ruling power in our lives
and grace to trust your wisdom and love in all things.
For yours is the kingdom, yours is the power and yours is the glory.

Further reading: Acts 8:9-24.


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