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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 10:44–48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. (NRSV)

I was the youngest child in my family, and so everyone knew more than I did. It didn’t matter whether it was how to do something or the way the world worked or what words and their nuances meant; if I thought I knew something and dared to say it out loud, I was usually wrong. Good parents (and mine were, in spades) know how to take that “teachable moment” and use it for growth. Siblings: not so much. Perhaps that’s why, even as a middle-aged woman, I really hate to be wrong. On my best days I can meet my humanity with humility and grace. On my worst I resist it with defensiveness and denial.

So I really appreciate Peter in this remarkable story about the early church. He and his community thought they knew God (unchanging and unyielding), who they were in relationship to God (chosen and special), and how the Gentiles fit into this schema (they didn’t). But then the Holy Spirit upends everything, coming down and filling even the not-chosen, not-special outsiders. No wonder, as verse 45 tells us, all were “astounded.” (There we could substitute “stunned,” “thunderstruck,” or “gob smacked.” Whatever works.) Because they were wrong. They thought they had understood how things were, but true to form, the Spirit showed them otherwise. Peter’s clear and matter-of-fact response is worth emulating. “I was wrong. So what? This is how it is now.” It’s representative of this second half of the Easter season, the mystagogy of living into our resurrection faith.

Spirit of God—whose breath messes up what we think we know—inspire us. Fill us with your delight in what is life-giving and vital, and give us a share of Peter’s courage when we need to let go of what is not. In the name of Jesus, the Risen One. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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