Being open to all Acts
In our reading from Acts this morning something shocking happens:
the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the uncircumcised! Only once in
my life to my recollection have I been asked if I am circumcised - and
if you do not mind I will not trouble you with the answer.
In first century Palestine, however, this was a crucial demarcation
indeed it had been since the time of the ancient Hebrews where the fact
that the Philistines did not practice this was just one more thing to
make them so detested. Circumcision in Jesusí day was an act of
initiation into the covenant community and was originally performed on
the eighth day after birth. Now an act of initiation is also an act of
exclusion; those who are not initiated are by definition outside. Among
the books in my reading pile at the moment is a history of freemasonry
here an example of this kind of thinking. And so the the circumcised
believers, these early Christian Jews who believed in Jesus Christ , and
who were Godís chosen people are SHOCKED that the Holy Spirit fell on
the Gentiles who were quite definitely not members of their club.
It surprises me still that these sentiments of belonging or not
belonging so many thousands of years later are alive and active today.
Setting aside the different approaches of the Jews, the Moslems, Sikhs
and Hindus we need only look across our Christian traditions, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist for example to find denominational gulfs that
sometimes erupt into our lives.
Perhaps you have been at a Catholic wedding, baptism or funeral and have
realised that if you were to take communion you would cause offence. The
differences between Anglican churches themselves can lead to feelings of
exclusion for example on the grounds of gender.
Jesus came to save us all. We heard only a few weeks ago when Jesus
speaking to those outside of Judaism said ďI am the good shepherd; I
have other sheep that do not belong to this fold I must bring them also,
they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.Ē
Peter was taught this in a vision and he understood it so well that he
determined to baptise these Gentiles who had heard the word and who had
received the Holy Spirit.
So we have a responsibility not to be a club, not to exclude but to
include. If this is so and I believe it is then this must shape who we
are - I want to suggest three ways in which our church needs to be:
● We will welcome anyone whoever you are and from wherever you come
● We will share the message of Christian love, hope and way of living
with all, both within and without our church walls
● We will seek to learn, to worship and to pray in community together
Those early Jewish Christians would have found that profoundly shocking
- I pray we donít.
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