An Advent reflection for Monday, December 11th by Rev. Corenna Boucher Hoyt
Lectionary reading for 12/11/2023: Psalm 27; Isaiah 26:7-15; Acts 2:37-42
Selected passage for reflection: Acts 2:37-42
Acts 2:37-42 NRSVUE
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Peter has just told this crowd that after generations of waiting and preparing, even as they gather in celebration of the Torah’s promise of Messiah, they killed this same Messiah they are waiting for. Essentially, “After generations of effort and attention, you blew it.” Can you imagine? Can you feel in your body the shock, horror, and disbelief of that moment?
In response to this news, the crowd was “cut to the quick” so they “asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?’” [Acts 2:37 The Message]
They messed up so badly that they didn’t have the energy or vision to imagine what to do next. Maybe you’ve been there, in a moment where you cannot imagine a future beyond the devastation, trauma or mistake you are living with. Peter answers their cry with, “Repent…”
Really? This seems like an unsatisfying, rather pat answer until we examine this word repent (metanoia). It means "to change one's mind and heart, to expand it in such a way as to have a new perspective on the world or one's self."
When we are confronted with information about how our actions have negatively impacted each other or God’s kingdom, when (despite our good intentions) our beliefs and efforts have worked against the realization of God’s grace and kinship, when we question our value or ability to move into what is next, we need to expand our thinking in such a way as to have new perspectives!
This passage promises us that if we change our thinking, we will be forgiven, aphesis. It literally means to “release from bondage or imprisonment, to let go.”
Let’s be real, friends, there are things to which we are bound! Some of them we know are harmful. Some are good things, but when we go to them to find life or identity, they bind us. We can hold so tightly to our ideas, values, habits, expectations, politics or even our ministries, that they keep us from experiencing what God has for us. Tragically, we can hold so tightly to what was, we miss what is and what can be.
“Forgiven” reflects what God does for us. He releases us from those things we are bound to, AND it implies that we have to let go. God releases us, but if we don’t expand our thinking enough to let go, we still miss out. We are like a child at the playground whose parent has released their hand to go play, but they cling so tightly to a pant leg that they never experience the joy and freedom playgrounds are meant to bring. They settle for a handful of cloth, in exchange for the dynamic life and security the parent is offering.
I’m sure the Jews in this crowd thought, “Peter, I have repented! I’m great at repenting. There are at least two major holidays a year that I spend examining myself and repenting.” Likewise, we might think, “I have repented. I’ve said yes to Jesus.” And still, Peter tells them and us (note it says this promise is for all generations to come) to expand our thinking, again, right now.
Take a deep breath and consider:
God created a way for those who were farthest off whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, the lowest in society to the highest, even those who were so mistaken in their devoutness that they had Jesus put to death, to participate in the new order.
How are you expanding your thinking and letting go so you can include those least likely to darken the door of the church? How are you creating not just welcoming spaces but spaces of belonging for those carrying hurts and suspicion or for those who are burned out?
Open your hands as you ask:
God is not asking us to carry more, but inviting us to be released of the ideas and expectations that are weighing us down, so we can walk with him in ways that are energizing. What might you need to loosen your grip on?
Close your eyes or pick up your pen to examine:
Where do you need to expand your mind in such a way as to have a new perspective on the world? Yourself?
Breathe in as you pray: Lord, expand my thinking.
Breathe out as you pray: That I may let go.
Repeat as many times as desired.
Forgiving and Gracious God, thank you for making room for those of us who tragically miss the mark and each other. May we expand our thinking to be more like yours, seeing the glimmers of belovedness you send us each day, and allowing us to let go of those things that hinder us from creating spaces of safety and belonging for those whom we love and for those who are hard for us to love, even ourselves. May we be gentle with ourselves and each other on this journey toward the realization of your Kingdom of kinship. Amen
About the Author
Rev. Corenna Boucher Hoyt has been a vocational minister for more than 25 years, currently serving as Senior Pastor at Riverside Covenant Church in Rhode Island. She loves speaking and preaching, building community and teams, coaching pastors and laypeople, as well as equipping ministries that empower and restore.
She will tell you that she is continually learning about how to listen well and walk vulnerably together. These fuel her lifetime passion for ministries of justice, reconciliation, restoration and healing.
Rev. Corenna lives in Smithfield, RI with her sons, Braden and Levi, who are involved together in church, mission, martial arts, music and outdoor activities.