The reading from Acts offers a foretaste of Pentecost, only two weeks away. After Peter receives a vision
telling him that nothing is unclean, the same revelation is given to
the community—this is the movement of the Holy Spirit.
There is not much applauding in the church I serve, and that’s all right with me. When applauding in church becomes routine, it loses any meaning. But sometimes applause happens simply because it needs to happen. The gratitude and praise have to be released in that way.
Where once we lived in a vital relationship with the earth, now we
obtain our daily bread by filling shopping carts and running a plastic
card through a scanner. This lack of connection hurts us—and the same is
true in our spiritual lives.
William Sloane Coffin once noted that just as there is ultimately only
one hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," there is also only one psalm,
the 23rd. You might select a different hymn, but the psalm that is on
the hearts and lips of most believers—and even those who reside at the
edges of our communities, emerging only on rare occasions—is the 23rd.
Every year we preachers eagerly look for help with the daunting challenge of preparing an Easter sermon. Never are we as acutely aware of our own limitations, intellectual and spiritual, as when we try to find words to express the reality that a dead man didn’t remain dead.
Following a speech by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the First Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman in tears spoke up to say that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told many times she was unforgivable. Bolz-Weber, widely known as a tattooed, salty tongued Lutheran pastor from Denver, responded: “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and loves you as you are. And as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” The congregation responded, “Amen” (Wisconsin State Journal, February 2).