If today’s reading does not challenge us to live our faith more truly, thoroughly, and concretely, then we have not really read it or we have consciously or unconsciously resisted it. Whichever it is, it is not God’s Spirit and purposes working in us. If God works in us when we read this passage, we cannot remain the same.
This reading follows Peter’s public speech on Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit surged through Jesus’ followers, with consequent empowering of them to live in bold faithfulness. In this context, Peter had proclaimed the good news of Jesus to a crowd, probably within the temple grounds in Jerusalem. Many were not followers of Jesus, but when they heard the good news they were “cut to the heart.”
What an incisive phrase! Are we “cut to the heart” by God’s good news in Jesus? If not, why? What in our lives hardens or even deadens us to God’s pierced and piercing love for us?
If we are “cut to the heart,” what does it mean? The text is quite specific. We – as individuals and as Christian communities – must repent. Baptized by water and Spirit, we must be dead to sin and alive to God. We must devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship of believers, to sacramental worship, and to prayer. (Cf. the baptismal covenant on p. 304 of the Book of Common Prayer.) We must manage all our goods for the common (not private) good, available to meet the needs of any and all. We must strive to increase the number of believers.
I am both discomfited and exhilarated by this reading. I am discomfited because my life does not look much at all like this description. I have to question whether I am truly “cut to the heart” and transformed by God’s Spirit.
If I am to be truly, thoroughly, and concretely faithful, I must repent and believe with wholehearted, whole-self commitment. I can do this, in the power of the Spirit, by devoting myself to the apostles’ teaching, to fellow believers, to sacramental worship, and to prayer. And I can do this, in the power of the Spirit, by sharing what I have for the common good, meeting the needs of any and all.
I am exhilarated because, despite my recalcitrant ways, I really do want to be part of God’s Spirit and purposes in the church and the world. I want my life to change – so much of me is calcified against God’s transforming Spirit. I want to be part of a changed community – so much of life is hard or dead to God’s love and purposes in the world. And so I pray, in the words of the hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire.” Will we, the Church, pray the same?