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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 20, 2019              

Today’s Scripture 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)

I was at a meeting the other day where a colleague described an institution’s capacity to evolve as its “nimbleness.” That articulation struck me as just right: it suggests the grace and lightness that growth requires.

Here we see Peter manifest just that kind of nimbleness in his spiritual life. It’s a quality he displays throughout the Gospels. He goes from being a fisherman to a follower of Jesus (Luke 5:10–11). He moves from being “just one of the guys” to a leader (Matthew 16:13–20). He can let go of thinking of himself as a betrayer to accepting that he is a forgiven friend (John 21:15–19). And in this passage Peter recounts how he went from being a good Jew, a faithful keeper of the Law to being . . . something else.

I want to be like Peter, but it is not easy.

Someone important in my spiritual formation used to talk about the two central tasks of life. In the first half of life we need to build our sense of self, discover who we are and embrace that identity. The task in the second half is to learn to hold that identity ever so lightly and eventually to let it go.

Peter is such an excellent model of someone who lets go of who he is so that he can become who God is calling him to be. That’s a process (one which occurs over and over again) that requires courage, trust, detachment, and humility. And nimbleness.

God of growth and change, keep me nimble. Please don’t allow my need to cling to who I am hinder your work in the world. May Jesus, who accepted the invitation to leave the tomb and step into Resurrection life, guide and sustain me. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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