Monthly Archives: March 2008

May 4 2008


Acts 1.1-14
Easter 7A, May 4

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

In this text we are invited to consider what it means to be a witness to Christ. Does it mean we stand around watching, looking, waiting to be taken up into heaven with Jesus? Or does it mean that we get moving, go out into our communities, our nation, our world, and share the good news in word and deed? How might we together, as a community, discern our calling and then get moving?

April 27 2008


Easter 6 (April 27)
acts 8:14-24
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

The center of this little story is Simon’s attempt to “buy the Holy Spirit franchise” from Peter and John. We learn in an earlier text that Simon was a local “magician” who had some power before the disciples showed up. People started converting—including Simon. But Simon lost his “status.” So it looks like here he’s trying to get it back. Peter’s reply suggests he does not look favorably on Simon’s request.

The larger issue here is the effort to “commodify” the Spirit (i.e., to turn it into something that can be bought and sold). The Spirit has many layers of meaning—it brings illumination/insight, healing, freedom, and so on. More basically, it is the Spirit of life itself. (Remember Genesis 2.) So the by trying to “commodify” the Spirit we are trying to “commodify” life itself. Life is a gift from God; to treat it otherwise is to be (according to Peter) “in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” In what ways do we try to “commodify” life?