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“Playing catch up with the Holy Spirit.”

Easter 5 Common Lectionary Year C

Acts 11:1-18

©2013 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Audio file

We’ve all seen the movie moment, or lived it, when the accusatory voice asks “Who did that?!”  and the response is “They did/He did!” “It wasn’t me! It was her!”

Well, this is pretty much what Peter concludes when he is hauled up before his peers for scrutiny of his errant behaviour while visiting the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. “It wasn’t just me, it was her! It wasn’t my fault I enjoyed some pork tenderloin and clam chowder, it was all the doing of the Holy Spirit! She made me!”

Now to be fair to the blessed memory of our favourite, bumbling, but whole-hearted disciple, Peter isn’t trying to evade anything out of a sense of guilt. He’s just naming a spiritual reality. He, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, is caught up in something much bigger than he can fathom, something much more powerful and lively and wild than he’d ever imagined, and he’s no longer afraid to admit it.

Where once this timid fisherman couldn’t find the courage to claim kinship with the Son of God, now  he’s boldly going where no Jew has gone before….. – Well, none except that same Jesus – showing up at parties with the uninvitable, just the sort of forbidden and forbidding places where God just loves to be found.

Do you see us in this ancient story? I do. We too have tip-toed timidly around the edges of faith, and we too have suddenly found ourselves slap bang in the middle of a party that knocks our breath away with its radical welcome, not just of us, but of the oddest collection of strangers now become our friends, our soul-mates, our brothers and sisters in Christ. And for the life of us, we don’t know quite who got us there, except to say, shrug-shouldered like Peter, “It was her! The Holy Spirit did this!”

Once God’s lively, wild Spirit, once the stories of Jesus leap off the page into renewed action in the life of one person, or a community, once the Dream of God is glimpsed, once God’s persistent love,   or healing grace, gets a toe hold,  lives change. We are changed.

Look at the work of God in Christ in this place; look at the seeds of Spirit sown like salad greens among us in just the past  few weeks!  (Slides only – words speaking 1000s of words!)  KidZone  Transfiguration  Coffee House  Worship – singers and playdo  Café du livre

Like Peter’s inquisitors, I’m rendered speechless by the surprising explosions of Spirit-filled life in this place!

But let’s be real and hard-nosed for a moment and ask, is all this just a happy blip in our Cedar Park life cycle? is this the result of hundreds of hours of sweat equity by a dedicated, faithful core? Or is it also truly the work of God in our midst, taking our mustard seed faith and multiplying it a thousand fold? The Luke-Acts text gives us some clues or benchmarks:

a)Is it the result of prayer?  Is what we do or plan, the fruit of prayer and attentiveness to God in Christ?  -recall that Peter begins his testimony,  not with the acts he did,  but with a recollection of his prayer to God for guidance.

b) Does it build on tradition Does what we are doing build something new on the shoulders of tradition?  In this story we have the wise and wary resistance testing the newness  to discern if the novelty is just a flavour of the month, or in fact a Spirited liveliness that builds on the old mold to create something new?   (Think Café du livre!) (Think 5 Year Plan, built on the shoulders of our Identity and Values work of  2008-9).   c) Does it build community? Does it involve more than one person in the extraordinary activity?  Human history loves heroic individuals, but God LOVES community!  Peter names three men from Caesarea and the six who companioned him for the entire journey;  they are as much a part of this outbreak of Gospel . How do we partner, work together , share diverse talents? Think Voices for Hope, a FULL to the brim Coffee House, partnerships with Literacy, FMH, Nova, with other churches to create and support DMV, CAC,….

d) What are its fruits? Love? Joy? Justice? FRUITS: what is the outcome?  Is there genuine love that breaks down walls, brings more people into lively contact with God’s love in action? Does it look like something Jesus would be happy to be involved with? – remember, a real test for this is “Is it fun, worthwhile and life giving?”

e) Does it encourage growth? Does it push the envelope?  Call forth from us a stretching of love, compassion, action, faith?  Peter’s story is a stretching of known limits.  Think of your own growth in faith…. stretching childish notions of fairness towards a deeper sense of long-term work for systemic justice…. think of how we have been stretched to extend our welcome to the LGBTQ communities….

f) Does it move outward? Is it outward focussed?   (Is it about shoring up our own, or about sharing God’s love and radical welcome?)  Is it about moving beyond our wood and stone?  does it lead us onward ?  Think F4 and Coffee House and VBC, and DMV,  and think about how we will respond long term to the TRC?

Can we imagine where it leads us next? This is a trick question!  The answer should be yes, and no! As a community we’ve created a Five Year plan, built on prayer, to foster community, to work for justice, to stretch us and grow, in order to share God’s abundance of love, forgiveness and welcome far beyond ourselves.  * Click to reveal: If so then God is at the heart of this work

But we know fine well that the God who created Peter’s wild vision is capable of doing so with us too. We begin, we take the first steps, We find our place of belonging and growth. Who knows where this journey of faith it will lead us,  but of this we can be sure:  If we do this (the screen), with every thing we plan and do in this place,   * click to dove on black it is the Holy Spirit whose blazing trail we will follow!

Thanks be to God!

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