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.”


Peter had some s’plainin’ to do before the raucous crowd of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This scene is momentous in the life of the nascent church because Peter had been roving around Judea baptizing Gentiles when it was unlawful for Jews to associate with them (Acts 10:28). His defense rests on a roof-top vision he had in Joppa. The message was a reversal of the prohibition to consume anything profane or unclean but now it also extends to human beings! Peter told the Gentiles gathered in Caesarea that he realized “that God shows no partiality” (10:24) and that the grace showered upon them by the Holy Spirit does not discriminate.

The verse that captures my attention is 11:17; Peter blames the Holy Spirit for his baptismal licentiousness. The key to his defense is that this is God’s doing. Belief in Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit are God’s gifts and not controlled by him or any of the Apostles. “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?”

“Who was I that I could hinder God?” That is the question for the day. Who was I that I could hinder God? Ask yourself. I am asking myself too. How many times have you thought someone shouldn’t be included or was “unclean” or didn’t deserve the opportunities or the acceptance or love that have been yours all along or that you worked so hard to get and they didn’t? When the church was debating same-sex marriage, I kept coming back to this verse.

I once heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry say, “Those who do not love do not know God.” I like to change it up a bit and say that if you don’t know LOVE you don’t know GOD. They are one in the same, and to hinder God is to hinder love and to hinder love is to hinder God. So let’s stop all this hinderin’ and let the Holy Spirit blow and baptize where she will. We’ll all be better for it!

Faithfully,
Dana+


From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
from the laziness that is content with half-truths,
from the arrogance which thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us. Amen.

Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1975)