10th May 2021

One of the threads running through the lectionary readings after Easter, has been the story of the first believers, as recorded in the book of Acts. (We know it as the “Acts of the Apostles”, but the “Acts of God” or the “Acts of the Holy Spirit” are closer to the mark.)

This week we read of Cornelius and Peter in chapter 10. Cornelius, a Roman centurion, had a vision of an angel who instructed him to send for the apostle Peter. Peter had a vision of a cloth sheet filled with “unclean” animals being lowered down from heaven and a voice telling him to visit Cornelius. Peter accompanied the centurion’s messengers and met with Cornelius and all his relatives and friends. As Peter preached the gospel to them, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they began speaking in tongues in praise of God.

This event is not so well-known as its popular antecedent – the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. But today I want to claim that it is just as important – perhaps even more so for those of us of non-Jewish background. It was the day that the Holy Spirit broke out of the cultural bounds of Israel into the whole world. In Peter’s words, “truly… God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (2.34–35, NRSV).

That the Spirit of God should fall upon me is… indescribable. I cannot find suitable words. I may not speak in tongues, but I am going to praise God for the gift of his Spirit.

Ian Waddington