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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 1:12–26           

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘Let another take his position of overseer.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (NRSV)

Reflection

In the book of Acts, the apostles are living in a post-resurrection world that had not delivered the glorious victory that had been expected. Some of them had failed miserably during key moments of testing. Yet those who remain strive on, hoping as they devote themselves to prayer, expressing faith and trust in the promises of God. They live out love in community, recognizing the shared nature of their witness to Jesus’ life and resurrection. They even seem to forgive, proclaiming that Judas’s failure may have simply been his role to play in the story.

In our public lives today we want our contributions to “make a difference;” we want to “solve the problem.” But the story of the Acts community, moving on from the resurrection and dealing with the loss of Judas, asks us to consider our own limits. Peter’s honest openness, even compassion, about the struggles of the community helps us see that failure is a part of our journey. We can be forgiving and compassionate when it happens. And all this is critical because, as Reinhold Niebuhr assured us, “whenever judgment defines the limits of human striving, it creates the possibility of a humble acceptance of those limits. Within that humility mercy and peace can find a lodging place.”

Prayer
God of the Risen Christ, where my thoughts, words, and actions have failed to bear witness to your power and new life, grant me mercy. Where others in my community have failed to live up to my expectations for them, grant me compassion. Where your Spirit creates opportunity for me to have a role in your story, grant me courage to play my part—even though I know the humble limits of my striving. Grant me all this and the knowledge that your forgiveness is for all your people, even me. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism           


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