“It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” (Acts 15:28-29 from this week’s first reading)
This is the letter that resolved the dispute about whether the early Gentile Christians needed to adapt Jewish practices (particularly circumcision) in order to become disciples of Jesus. Without this decision, Christianity would probably have remained a small sect within Judaism rather than the world religion it is today.
But it was not an easy or a clear decision at the time. The argument was heated. There were multiple factions, all of which had strong arguments from their experience and from Scripture. It was not an easy question to answer and it struck at the heart of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. It was a question whose answer would affect the nature of the community down through the ages.
With all this surrounding turmoil, I am struck by the letter’s confident tone and assurance. “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” In the midst of this crisis these early disciples were confident that the Holy Spirit was with them, guiding them into a future they couldn’t see. At that moment of incredible tension the Holy Spirit was present, and the disciples trusted that guidance.
We each have crisis in our lives when we have to make decisions that are not clear or easy. Faith tells us the Holy Spirit is present. As a community we have to make decisions that are not clear or easy. Faith tells us the Holy Spirit is present. As we move forward in our lives and in our communal life, we continue to rely on the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent in Jesus’ name. May we continue to pray for the Spirit’s guidance.
Thank you for being the wonderful community that you are. Alleluia!