Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Peter realizes if the answer is no, all heaven will break loose among those who, like himself, have believed what religion has taught: God chose Us; God did not choose Them. Us and Them. Won’t any religion worth its salt give true believers reason to view themselves as special?
The same Holy Spirit that brought to Peter’s mind on Pentecost the prophet Joel’s vision is doing it again: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17). All flesh. Even Them?
I grew up in a time of separate water fountains, restrooms, classrooms, and restaurants. White people were considered superior, African Americans inferior. Or so the culture, including some churches, taught.
I know a church whose leaders had strategized with its pastor about how the church would respond if an African American were to show up at a Sunday service. The decision was made to allow Them in and to seat Them. But the pastor would not issue an invitation to church membership. Today an African American pastor serves that church.
Some of Us encountered Them and experienced in Them the image of God that is in Us. That realization, like Peter’s, confronted Us with a crisis: How can we not include Them?
The same Holy Spirit breathes life into all humanity. It opens our eyes to see one another as the sisters and brothers we didn’t think we had. The mighty wind will blow until everything false disappears. When that happens, what a wonderful world it will be.
Recall times when the Holy Spirit used your experience of Them to make it impossible not to view Them as Us.
The Acts passage continues to tell the story of the advance of the gospel. The Holy Spirit falls on a group of Gentiles. They believe and are baptized, thus showing God’s inclusion of all peoples in the plan of salvation. Psalm 98 is a simple declaration of praise. All creation will sing to and rejoice in the Lord. The two passages from John are linked by their emphasis on the relationship between love and obedience. We do not follow God’s commandments in order to make God love us. On the contrary, because God has first loved us and we love God in return, we follow God’s teachings. Jesus provides the model for us, being obedient to his Father out of love.
• Read Acts 10:44-48. When has the Spirit of God brought you to a new understanding?
• Read Psalm 98. Does the guest of honor’s coming to judge the earth make you feel easy or uneasy? Why?
• Read 1 John 5:1-6. Is your life one of “oughts,” “musts,” and “shoulds”? Do you impose them on yourself, or do they come from others? How do you move toward loving obedience?
• Read John 15:9-17. How do you experience yourself as a manifestation of the Logos?
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