Today's Lectionary Text
Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,
‘After this I will return,
I pitched in high school and then had the opportunity to get to know some really good pitching coaches while covering college baseball as a student journalist. Later in life I had a fairly successful stint as a pitching coach among youth players. Out of dozens of youngsters I worked with over a six-year span, only two sustained arm injuries — both when they refused to adhere to the mechanics we had spent hours trying to perfect.
My pitchers all won their share of games, but I’m proudest that they made it to their high school years with healthy arms. While they all were successful, they had relatively few things in common. Some threw ridiculously hard for their ages. Some learned to throw curve balls properly — they had to prove it time and again in practice before they could throw it in a game — and could fool batters. Some had pinpoint control and could move the ball all around the strike zone. Some kids, like my son, Josh, possessed most or all of those traits depending on the level of competition they were playing at the time. And, of course, they all had different pitching motions.
If I had tried to make all of them pitch the exact same way, they wouldn’t have met their goals. Not every kid can make the ball travel as fast as others. Not everyone can master a breaking pitch. They had to find what worked for them, and we honed their skills from there. As a result, my pitchers could get batters out in their own ways.
I think something similar is happening in this passage from Acts. Believers from the Pharisee tradition thought every man needed to be the same — to be circumcised — to be a follower of Christ. We read that Paul, Barnabas, Peter and James disagree. They recognized that requiring circumcision meant exclusion. It meant reducing God’s enormous gift of grace to a cursory act — though many men may not see circumcision as superficial.
People worship the risen Christ in many ways. Some will quietly reflect. Others will stand and shout “Hallelujah!” Their deliveries — like those of baseball pitchers — may be different while accomplishing the same goal: worshipping God. Let’s all remember that scripture tells us we only need to believe in Christ and then be open to, shall we say, coaching that will come from the Holy Spirit.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious and loving God, we know You reach people in many ways and that people worship You in numerous ways. Help us to recognize that though we may interact with You differently, we all love and are thankful for our risen Savior. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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