May 15, 2022
Scripture: Acts 11:1-18
The Holy Spirit cannot be contained. This is the fundamental story of Acts. We know this book as the Acts of the Apostles, but I think of it as the Gospel of the Spirit. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the Good News of Jesus Christ, then Acts should be thought of as the Good News of the Holy Spirit. Acts begins with pyrotechnics, rushing winds, ecstatic speech, and a truly wild experience that was a harbinger of what is to come in the rest of the story.
The rest of the story is the Spirit behaving in ways that no one could predict and in ways that not everyone likes. It’s not all lights and flash, but in these middle chapters of Acts the Holy Spirit is doing things no one expected. She sends Philip to Samaria, convicts a sorcerer named Simon. She picks up Philip and compels him to chase down an Ethiopian eunuch. She empowers Peter to speak to a Roman centurion named Cornelius and gives Peter a miraculous vision that changes the way he thinks about the world.
“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,” a divine voice tells Peter, and in the end of chapter 10, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message… They were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on Gentiles.”
Now Peter has some explaining to do. Like a scolded child, Peter is brought back to the leaders of the Church who thought they had the Holy Spirit under control. They criticize Peter for eating with uncircumcised men. He had broken the rules. He had gone against the discipline. So he tells them about his holy vision. He tells them what the Holy Spirit had shown him. He tells them about what the Holy Spirit was doing.
Finally, he concludes, “If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
Who indeed? Who should stand in the way of what the Holy Spirit is doing? The Gospel of the Holy Spirit tells us that she doesn’t behave in ways we always like. The Holy Spirit doesn’t follow the discipline. The Holy Spirit goes to Centurions and sorcerers. She blinds murderous Pharisees and brings salvation to sexually unclean foreigners.
To me, this might be the single most compelling argument for LGBTQ inclusion in the Church. It wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t a gay agenda. It wasn’t a liberal plot. It was the Holy Spirit’s idea. She started it.
I have seen the Holy Spirit at work through gay pastors. I have seen the Holy Spirit move through churches led by lesbian clergy. I have seen marriages guided by the Holy Spirit between two men. I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in “practicing homosexuals.” And if God gave them the same gift he gave to us who are cis-gendered, who are we to stand in God’s way?”
The Holy Spirit is alive. The Holy Spirit is burning in hearts and blowing open doors and changing hearts and lives. The Church should not be the ones to stand in God’s way.