By Pamela A. Lewis

Reading from Acts, 2:37-47

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?” 38Peter 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. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


“Repent” is probably not the answer the multitude expect to receive when they ask Peter, “What shall we do?” But they want to do something, and Peter tells them directly what they need to do. This directive extends to us also. To follow Jesus entails actively doing something; it does not just “happen.”

To repent is not to feel sorry, but means to change one’s mind, one’s life direction. Like “sin,” the word hits the ears harshly, and it often evokes guilt and punishment. But Peter purposely instructs his listeners to repent, as it is the essential first step to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and along with repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter does not limit the promise only to those who are present, but declares that all, regardless of race, nationality, social class, or age — any who would repent and believe with active faith, even future generations — would receive it.

Those who received Peter’s word on that day of Pentecost did so gladly, making a dramatic baptismal statement of their great belief in and need of Jesus as savior.

From these who were first baptized flows all that we must know about the Christian life, which is meant to be lived in fellowship. In fellowship there is sharing in the same Lord, sharing life’s joys and sorrows, sharing the same guide for living, and sharing what God has given us in Jesus Christ. May we do these things gladly.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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