A Reflection for the week of 11 April 2021
Text: Acts 10:34-48
Title: The Easter Effect
Narrative: This week, Steve reflects on the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as it began to spread and the fledgling following of the Christ path began to spread to the surrounding regions. Exploring the whole 10th chapter of Acts and the beginning of the Jesus Movement is the focus of this week’s message. We begin a three-week cycle of storytelling regarding “The Easter Effect” which shows the shift in perspective of the disciples from a Jewish context into a worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Steve begins to unfold how this is relevant to our context today. Trista will lead us in the next couple of weeks, as “The Story Continues”.
Prayer for the People, by the People
Truly, Lord, your love is a gift for all people. Your very Heart, in the form of Jesus, the Christ, has come and dwelt among us, taking on the form of human flesh and experienced all of the joys and sorrows, the pain and suffering, the gifts and blessings of being human. You know what is in our hearts this day. You have experienced all that we now know.
You know what it is to be separated from family and friends. You have experienced grief and shed tears. You have watched loved ones die, and you, yourself, have walked the road of shadows, abandonment, betrayal, and death. With you, now, in this season of Eastertide, we rise in spirt and heart, trusting that there is hope beyond our fears, there is life beyond death, and there is light beyond the shadow.
Your Holy Spirit is in our midst, connecting us, even now, as we reflect on Your Word. You are renewing our hearts and minds, even in this very moment. We are so grateful for all that you are doing in our midst this day.
We pray for our loved ones, our worshipping family, and for our sisters and brothers in the faith throughout the world. We lift up our neighbors and those around us whose names we do not yet know. We invite you to move and breathe among us all, to inspire our creativity and to give us dreams and visions of a time when we will all be together again in person.
We pray for a resolution to the Covid virus, for the health and wellness of all of our first responders, for blessings of grace upon all of our spiritual leaders at this time who are working so diligently to bring messages of hope and healing and renewal. We pray for our loved ones in the hospital, for those in recovery centers, for those who are receiving care at home, and for all of those who are caregivers at this time. We invite your blessings upon the parents and teachers in our community, and for all of the children, teens and college students who are trying to learn in a different way than they’re used to.
We give thanks for the technology and the mail carriers that help us to feel connected, even while we remain physically separated. Remind us of our constant connection through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, who intercedes on our behalf with groans that are deeper than our words can ever be.
Thank you, precious Jesus, for your amazing, steadfast love. Thank you, Beloved Creator, for your continuous co-creation in, with and through us every day. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for your constant inspiration, breathing in us, breathing through us, and breathing throughout all of Creation, bringing hope and healing and connection.
Acts 10:34-48 (NRSV)
Gentiles Hear the Good News
34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
“I Love to Tell the Story”
A Reflection by Trista Wynne
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.”
In our service next week, we will sing the old hymn, “I Love to tell the Story” (UMH 156) by Katherine Hankey and William Fischer. This song beautifully captures the vibrational energy created by today’s text, (and the foreshadowing of next week included in the quote above).
“I love the tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and His love…
I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.”
When Peter is experiencing this “Revelation of Divine Love”, watching the Spirit of God being poured out upon all people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, he is shocked and awed. His pre-prepared sermon about the grace of God being given to the Jewish people is interrupted for a special message. The Love and Grace of God is not for the Jewish people only, but for all people. And it is not by circumcision, or by bloodlines that the Family of God will be recognized, but by the ways they live their lives.
In verses 34-35 of our text today, Peter has a revelation that is prompted by a vision we will explore next week. “…I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
In this reading, with the whole context of what we are exploring in the next three weeks, “The Easter Effect” is this:
God’s Love and Grace is poured out upon all flesh, upon all of Creation. Everyone - regardless of labels, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability, understanding or creed – everyone is included in the Love and Providence of God. No one is excluded!
All who desire to participate in the Kingdom of God are welcome. Everyone is invited to the Party. Everyone is able to receive grace. And even those who haven’t yet heard the Kingdom Message may yet be living it out in the ways they treat their neighbor, honor the Presence of Divine, and care for the whole of Creation. No matter how they identify, or what labels they are given, all people are a part of The Family of God.
No wonder the mystics throughout the ages have had visions of the Christ Light being present in our fellow human beings…
Can we see through that lens today? What implications does that have on who is “in” and “out” of the worldwide Church? Where then, is Christ’s presence not being made manifest? Is there such a place?
Read this week, Psalm 139, and let that be your prayer. Notice how you respond to the ending of the Psalm. Journal about this response. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in the Ways of Everlasting, in the Ways of the Easter Effect.
Consider the experience of Peter as recorded in our passage today. Read through the 10th chapter of Acts. Invite the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see what is being revealed in our midst today.
Blessings upon your Eastertide journey!