Spirit & Life

Who was I that I could hinder God

Acts 11: 1-18 (NRSVUE)
Now the apostles and the brothers and sisters who were in Judea heard that the gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers[a] criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance, I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners, and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Peter’s explanation of inclusion and acceptance reflects a journey of growing love for others. Jesus’ New Commandment is to “Love others as I have loved you”. Peter’s vision reminded him to ‘not to make a distinction between people who turned to God. The Way of Jesus is open to everyone to follow. The Spirit fills the hearts of whoever needs to hear God’s call. Anyone can receive God’s love. ‘The same gift’ that was given to the apostles and believers who traveled with Peter, was given to others too. This was a new revelation of the breadth and depth of God’s people. Humanity finds many different ways to express worship and holy life through different churches and Christian gatherings, many ministries, and missional expressions because God’s world is greater than our own individual understanding. Peter’s growing faith and realization are expressed in a question we may ask ourselves.
Acts 11:17
If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 

Prayer of Confession
Loving One,
We hear your new commandment that we ‘also should love one another’.
We accept your love every day.
Yet, we are often not so loving as we should or could be.
We are so sorry that we listen but do not always act in love.
Jesus, teach us how to love as you love.

With those close to us, we often take for granted their love and care.
At times, we struggle with patience and compassion.
We often expect more than we are willing to offer.
Jesus, teach us how to love as you love.

With those who are different, we struggle with understanding
as their life and values are so different from our experience.
Jesus, help us to learn to ‘walk in the shoes’ of others
Jesus, teach us how to love as you love.

Even within the whole body of Christ, there are still differences of opinion,
different ways of worship and different reading of your Word.
Jesus, your disciples came from different backgrounds
and there were diverse crowds who learnt from you.
Teach us how to be understanding, listening, learning and loving all people.
Jesus, teach us how to love as you love.

Words of Assurance
Friends, we are all known and loved by God.
From across the world, people of faith follow the Way of Jesus.
God sees all these people.
Jesus walks with Christian folk
And the Spirit dwells in our hearts to reveal the love of God.
Let us allow the Word of God to be heard in our hearts in new ways.

Prayer of Intercession for Christians Around the World
Renewing God,
You dwell amongst us, and we are your people.
We pray with our sister churches across the world,
in all our diversity of culture and expression.

For those who are unable to practice and share their faith openly…
For those churches that struggle in the midst of societal breakdown and war…
For Church Leaders who are not following your Way, Jesus,
and seek to dominate and misconstrue your teachings and truth…
For those believers who are abused or mistreated within a church…

Silent prayers

God of love,
we do not wish to hinder your call to others,
or block gifts you lay in their hearts.
Wipe away the tears of hurt and pain.
Heal the hearts of those frightened and alone.
For through your loving kindness,
we glimpse the new heaven and a new earth.

© Rev Anne Hewitt 11/05/2022
This reflection & prayer may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.

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Rev Anne Hewitt
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We pay respect to the Elders past, present and emerging across the many Nations of this Country.