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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Today’s Reading | Acts 11:1–18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” (NRSV)

Reflection
I have always been a fan of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Just as the Gospels express the detailed narrative of Jesus’ life, ministry, and passion, so Acts tells the story of the early Christian movement through the experiences of specific characters in particular circumstances. The first confirmation and commissioning class that I taught forty years ago utilized a curriculum with Acts as the foundation. I still recall how well it worked (at least from the teacher’s perspective!).

In today’s verses we hear of Peter’s visit to Old First Church in Jerusalem. His missionary activities had stirred up some significant criticism, for he, like Jesus, had been keeping disreputable company. Peter had visited in the homes of Gentiles, non-Jews, and had even eaten with them! So we hear a second version of his vision and his response. A second Pentecost had taken place, the surging Spirit of the living God out in front once again.

One of my favorite phrases comes as Peter seeks to defend himself: “Who was I, that I could hinder God?” These haunting words have guided and sustained me in my efforts to follow the Lord of life. When I have held too tightly to treasured patterns from years past, have I hindered the in breaking of God’s Spirit? On other occasions, when a splendid-seeming new idea distracts me from the valued rhythms of life and ministry, am I hindering the time-honored continuity of the Holy One yet in our midst?

May each of us attend to Peter’s example, remaining open to the Spirit’s guidance, whether upholding tradition or discerning when to make a new beginning at the Spirit’s leading.

Prayer

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
  Melt me; mold me; fill me; use me.
  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.” Amen.

(From “Spirit of the Living God” by Daniel Iverson)

Reflection written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults


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