Sunday, April 29, 2018

Acts 10.44-48: Even the Gentiles

The Acts reading for Easter 6B is a little out of order, liturgically. The 10th chapter of Acts is after  Pentecost, but the Revised Common Lectionary places the reading during Eastertide. The disciples have received the Holy Spirit...and so have other people. And that's the problem. The Holy Spirit has been poured out...even on the Gentiles. Some members of the community of faith aren't sure what to do with that.

On the other hand, some are exactly sure what to do. Nothing. Do not give any credence to the idea that the Holy Spirit would ever come to "them." But Peter disagrees. He argues that the Holy Spirit can, indeed, be poured out even on Gentiles. The wording of his characterization of the anti-Gentile faction in verse 46 is different in different translations: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, (KJV) Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. (NIV) Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? (MSG). The NRSV offers this: Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people... 

Any objections sounds benign enough. Stand in the way may be a little more disruptive. Forbid water and withhold water are definitely combative. In engineering terms, the community of faith might be seen as building a dam. That's the subject matter of William Gropper's mural for the Department of the Interior. Created for the Works Progress Administration, the mural shows the massive amount of work undertaken to build projects like the Grand Coulee Dam and the Davis Dam. Human workers are frozen in heroic poses as they exert physical effort. Industrial machines like cranes lift and place segments of the dam that have been constructed elsewhere. Time, energy, labor and money are being invested in the creation of this dam.
 William Gropper. Construction of a Dam. 1939. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
There are good reasons for building a dam. Holding water hostage - water for crops, people or baptism - is not one of them. 

For thoughts on John 15:9-17, click here.
For thoughts on the Ascension on the Art & Faith Matters blog, click here. For the Ascension on Facebook, click here or here.

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