Lectionary reading for 5/9/2021: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
Selected passage for reflection: Acts 10:44-48 (MSG)
No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth then the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on quotation marks “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was – they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.
Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.
This story makes more sense if you read the whole of Acts 10. Let me tell you the story. Peter was one of the first disciples of Jesus. He was known for being impetuous, but he also was a man of great faith, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah before anyone else. He was a good Jewish man. The Jews had been God’s chosen people to be a light to the nations, but Jesus came and was the fulfilling light coming into the world. The Jewish believers had not yet understood this concept. One day while waiting for lunch, Peter had a dream. A blanket was let down from heaven with every type of animal a voice told him to eat from all of them. Peter objected because there were non-kosher animals included. But the voice told him that that did not matter anymore. Elsewhere, somewhat before this time, Cornelius, a devout God worshiper and Roman, had a visit from an angel who told him how to find Peter, and to send his men to invite him to his house. After Peter had awakened from his dream, people from Cornelius’ household came to his door inviting him to Cornelius’ house. Because of his dream, Peter went right away.
Once Peter got to Cornelius’s house he preached the gospel to them. All the household believed and immediately the Holy Spirit came on them just as it had on the original Jewish disciples on the day of Pentecost. All were amazed at what had happened. Peter exclaimed that surely God was no respecter of persons. God had given the Holy Spirit to these non-Jews just as he did to Jewish believers. He was anxious to therefore baptize them and welcome them into the church.
What an important message this has for us in the church today. God is a respecter of all persons. God does not determine our worth by the color of our skin, our ethnicity, our language, our physical or mental ability, our sex or gender, or anything else that we use to distinguish people. All can receive God’s grace. Just as when God pulled up the corners of that blanket with all the animals with the kosher and non-kosher animals mixed together with no distinction, so God has looked at what we see as center and margins, and pulled up the corners of our world, leaving no distinction. We think of center and margins. God thinks of one whole of humanity. In the pulled-up bundle there is no longer a center nor are there margins. Everyone is intermixed. The church could learn much from this.
Take a cloth napkin and lay it out straight on a table. Place little trinkets of varying value on the napkin with your most precious in the center and your least precious on the margins. Look at that for a little while. Then carefully pick up the corners and the midpoints of each side and bring them together up into a bundle like a hobo’s pouch. What’s in the center now? What’s in the margins? Some of the edges may bother other items and eventually they might wear them down smoother. But there is no center nor are there margins. There is the enfolded beloved community of God’s beloved children. Contemplate what this would mean in your life if there were no center but just one United whole.
Our gracious and loving God, we thank you that you are a respecter of all persons, and accept all without distinction. We thank you that you pour out your Spirit and you let each of us now be the light to all people. Help us to bring together the corners of the bundles in our lives so that we no longer put people on the margins to be ignored but so that we hold everyone together in your kingdom of grace. We thank you that you allow this through the love of Jesus Christ. Amen
About the Author
It has been said that Cindy has never met a degree she doesn’t like. She therefore has an alphabet soup of letters after her name. They can best be summarized as pediatrician, public health specialist, and missionary, but she prefers just calling herself a beloved daughter of God who has been allowed to have an adventurous career. A rare autoimmune syndrome sidelined her from Oaxaca sooner than expected, so now she is adding a few more letters by pursuing a DMin in practical theology of disability. She has shared her house with schnauzers most of her life and currently is waiting for the right shelter dog to rescue her.