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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 28, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 15:12–21

The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’ Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.” (NRSV)

I will admit, I can be a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my worship experience. I grew up with high church, I love the hymns I grew up singing, and when things differ from my worship format I can be quick to label them as “wrong.”

The remarkable thing about the statement James is making in this passage is that he is the first to state that people who are not Jewish can become Christians. Before this point, early Christians believed you had to be Jewish to become a Christian, specifically excluding the Gentiles.

Who do we exclude from faith today? What ideas are we holding onto so strongly that we are failing to be hospitable to the “outsider.” What if instead of focusing on what divides us, we focused on all we share? Instead of fighting about who is right and who is wrong, working together to further advance God’s purpose? Because the diverse ways that people celebrate God—even those that don’t make my heart sing—are a beautiful thing.

God, open my heart to new things. Allow me to work beyond what I know to be a bridge to new communities, celebrating all that unites us instead of focusing on our differences. Help me to remember we are all your beloved children. Amen.

Written by Katie Patterson, Youth Mission Coordinator

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