By David Baumann

A Reading from Acts 8:14-25

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! 21 You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” 24 Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

25 Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.

Meditation

A short time before the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was to become official in the Episcopal Church, I received a visit from a prominent member of my congregation who loved the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and also had a lot of money. He began our appointment by taking out a gold coin and said he wanted to donate it to the church. I received it and said, “Thank you.” Then he went on, “Now, about the 1928 Book of Common Prayer…” I told him that I had no authority over what the official BCP would be. A year later he came to a Rite I Eucharist on a weekday, and afterwards I asked, “How was it?” He growled, “Well… I can’t say I was suffering.” Only once in my long ministry have I had a family that was wealthy and merely contributed a large amount as they were able without any publicity or attempt to control things. Trying to get one’s way in the Church with wealth is a common temptation — along with the temptation for clergy to let it happen.

We read of Simon’s conversion yesterday, and I don’t doubt that it was genuine; yet today’s lesson shows that he still has a lot to learn. Peter’s rebuke is firm and direct, and the core of it is a loving, truthful observation: “Your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you.” Unfortunately, the ecclesiastical crime of simony is named after Simon, and perhaps he was well-intentioned, as his response to Peter’s rebuke shows. But well-intentioned or not, if we ever try to get our way through monetary gifts — or by anything else, like long experience, education, admirable reputation, or good looks — may Peter’s rebuke and Simon’s repentance call us out.

David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Parish of Calvary-St. George’s, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese of Colombia