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Baptized in the Spirit

Reflections on the Acts of Apostles Chapters 18-23 and Pentecost
I have been using this weekly blog over the Seasons of Lent and Easter to coincide with the Forward Movement program encouraging the Church to read the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.While I have enjoyed this enterprise, it has, at times, made it more difficult to reflect on the lections for the week or current events and their intersection with our faith.It is fortuitous that this week there is a bit of an overlap with the Book of Acts and the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday.
Jesus told his disciples that while John baptized with water, he would baptize with fire (i.e. the Holy Spirit).The apostles did receive the Holy Spirit, some after his resurrection and all of Creation on the day of Pentecost. They were filled with passion and purpose to continue Jesus’s ministry and work in the world.Jesus even calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate,” a helper to offer guidance and support in their ministries a…

A Sloppy Track

Reflections on Acts of the Apostles Chapters 15-17
This past Saturday was the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby.As with all outdoor events, it is at the mercy of Mother Nature, and sometimes she doesn’t seem to care that the humans prefer sunny, dry weather.However, a certain horse named Justified was the odds-on favorite to win if it was a sloppy track.And indeed it was.Rain poured down for most of the day and it didn’t stop by the time the big race was scheduled to start.The track was a sloppy as I have ever seen a horse race track be.Justified loved it – and won.
It seems counter-intuitive to me that such adverse conditions could led to victory.What I would consider ideal conditions (sunny, warm but not hot, dry) was the complete opposite of what made Justified thrive.The reality is that “ideal” conditions are rare – there is always something that is a bit sloppy or not exactly to our liking.What is important is how we choose to act in those situations, and not just survive, bu…

Give God the Glory

Reflections on Chapters 12-14 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles
Years ago, I had a grandparent chargingly ask me if it was OK for her to be proud of her granddaughter, because she had been taught, “Pride goeth before the fall.”I assured her that being proud of her grandchild was not a sin when the feeling was offered in thanksgiving of the accomplishment and not boosting up one’s own ego. “Look at what I have done,” has been the down fall of many people because they neglect or forget those that helped them achieve their goals.
The Book of Acts shares story after story of the importance of acknowledging that all power and might comes from God, to whom we should offer our thanks and praise.When our egos take over and we congratulate only ourselves for what we have done, we become idolatrous.
Chapter 12 records an terrible story of King Herod’s response to the apostles.He outright kills James and then arrests Peter, who is guarded by over 30 men. Yet, despite Herod’s ridiculous …

Transformation

Reflections on Chapters 9-11 of the Acts of the Apostles
A little over a year ago, on the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion (January 25), I wrote a blog post entitled “People Don’t Change – Until They Do.”In our cynical world, too often we dismiss the idea that transformation can be a reality: that a criminal can be rehabilitated; an addict can remain in recovery, a “sinner” can become a “saint.” It is true that, being human, many of us fall short of complete change (I’ve lost and gained the same 40-50 lbs. many times in my life). However, such skepticism neglects the power of the Holy Spirit at work in peoples lives.As we continue to read through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, an essential art of what the author is sharing with us are amazing stories of such radical transformation that the only thing that can account for it is the Holy Spirit.
And it begins with Saul.He is the perfect villain in the story of the apostles.No one was more opposed to “The Way” than Saul.It took a …

Full of the Spirit

Reflections on Chapters 6-8 of the Acts of the Apostles
Part of the invaluable gift of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is witnessing how the early believers were able to continue the ministry that Jesus Christ started.The apostles and other believes were told over and over again to stop their testimonies and witnesses, threatening and intimidating them as much as they could.And yet they persisted, praying together each day and sharing Christ’s message of redemptive love.
In their actions, they testify that they are not doing any of the wonders and signs through their own power, but through the power give to them by Jesus Christ; that is, through the Holy Spirit.Being open to the power of the Spirit is awesome and wonderous, if not a bit scary as one never knows how the Spirit will work but trusting that the Spirit will always direct us to do God’s will.
We see that clearly in the narrative of the calling of the first deacons of the Church.As the number of believers grew, more ov…

What Do We Do Now?

Book of Acts Chapters 3-5
I distinctly remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car on the day I graduated from college, asking, “Who am I?”My mother, full of pride, responded, “You’re Valerie Balling, B.A!”Unfortunately, that didn’t mean anything to me.I knew who I was as a student, and I had been a good one for 22 years.Suddenly everything was different, and I had no idea who I was supposed to be.
I have a lot of compassion for the apostles following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.They seem to be unsure of what to do next, stuck in that in-between-ness of one purpose and another. We are told that turning that time they prayed.This is important for all of us recognize that prayer IS an important activity.It is not nothing.It offers the important opportunity to listen and hear what we are to do, rather than just act.Both are needed, and our actions usually bear more fruit when they are reasoned and purposeful.
We do note that Jesus’s disciples are called “apostles” in the Boo…

“But on the first day of the week . . .”

Luke Chapter 24 and Acts Chapters 1-2
As I sit down to write this blog, I am aware that it is the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., another innocent man killed for the crime for daring to speak true to power.Will we ever learn?
Alleluia! Christ is risen!We continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, following the reading plan of the Good Book Club (www.goodbookclub.org) sponsored by Forward Movement. I left off last week with Jesus’s death on the cross.This week is jam-packed with Jesus’s “mighty resurrection and glorious ascension” – as well as Pentecost! It is almost unfair of all that is in these 3 chapters as it is the crux of our faith, our Church and our life together. We could spend YEARS on this material, so a quick reflection will not due it justice. Please take time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them for yourself.
The grief and devastation that Jesus’s followers felt on th…