Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, Job 9:1-15, 32-35, Acts 10:34-48, John 7:37-52
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:45)
This verse illustrates the difference between superficial acceptance and true inclusion, a distinction sometimes lost on the most well-meaning individuals and communities. Sitting at a table with Gentiles was a major step forward for the Jewish apostles, but until the Spirit poured gifts upon the new arrivals, the apostles were unready to accept them as worthy of the same baptism in Christ.
How long do we wait until we truly include new people in our faith community? We almost always let them in the door, and eagerly recruit them for bake sales or nursery duty, but when do we stop thinking of them as the “new” people? Do we wait until they somehow earn our approval, like the apostles did, or do we start treating them as equal members of the body of Christ ASAP? Each person brings their own astounding gifts, so by keeping them at arm’s length we do a disservice to ourselves. Each person also comes with their own baggage and flaws, and we can’t be present with them in their struggles until we accept those, too. It’s not like we don’t have our own… Beyond that, it is simply the Christian thing to do.
Conversely, sometimes we withhold our own gifts until we are confident a community has fully embraced us. While it’s natural to be cautious when entering a new group, too much hesitation may send a false signal that we want to maintain distance. Our own gifts are for sharing, because life in a Christian community is a two- (and twenty- and two hundred-) way street. Being part of a community means offering support to it as we are able, as much as expecting it to be there for us.
We may not even know we possess a gift until the community invites us to take a risk. A gift is something you give, not something you hoard. Let us give and receive them with equal enthusiasm.
Comfort: Christ teaches us we are truly accepted, and to be truly accepting.
Challenge: Look for opportunities to share your gifts. Don’t be shy.
Prayer: God of truth, thank you for bestowing, revealing, and using the gifts of your people. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been surprised to discover a gift in yourself or someone else?
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