By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Acts 10:34-48
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.”
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.
Perhaps one of the most momentous moments in the New Testament besides the stories of Christ, St. Peter’s conversion to the universality of the gospel is a story the Church today is still figuring out how to live into. Through his divinely inspired dream and the holy obedience of Cornelius’s household, St. Peter has seen firsthand that God accepts people from every nation, not just a few chosen people. In response to this miracle, St. Peter preaches the full gospel, sharing about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and testifying that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness, regardless of background.
When he is finished, he and the Jewish Christians accompanying him witness the Holy Spirit fill the hearts of everyone present. As the author of our text puts it, “the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles” (emphasis mine). The “even” is crucially important: Gentiles, the uncircumcised, were precisely the people Jews thought could not receive the Holy Spirit, and yet here before them were Gentiles filled with the Spirit. St. Peter wastes no time in drawing the appropriate conclusion: “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
Let us pray this weekend that our eyes and hearts might be opened to those people we unconsciously assume are less special to God. Let us pray that God will bring those people into our proximity and fill them with the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that whenever we meet people who have received the Spirit just as we have, our only response might be to welcome them into our lives as Christ has first welcomed us. There is no favoritism. God accepts people from all backgrounds and all walks of life who believe on the Christ who forgives sins.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Grace Church, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese of Maper (Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan)