Acts 2:37-40

Readings for this week May 11 – 15
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Day 1 – Step 1: Repentance

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:37-38

Repentance isn’t just about being sorry for our sins and our wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness from God, although this is still important – of course we should repent of our sins! Repenting of our sins is an important part of our walk with God and maintaining an open, honest relationship with him. As we will see, a contrite, humbled heart is a crucial aspect of what it means to repent; without it, we are simply mouthing the words and putting on an external display that has no meaning, and ultimately preparing ourselves to sin again. We must always seek God’s forgiveness when we sin.

But as well as this vital aspect of repentance at a more forensic level, repentance also involves a complete reorientation of our lives, our being. To repent is to turn back, to realign, to reorient ourselves in line with God and his call to us. It is to continually seek God as our guide and our beacon, to look up and see where he is and where he is calling us and to adjust ourselves and our path accordingly. This is why repentance is also an ongoing activity as well as the initial turning back to God and seeking forgiveness. There is an element of repentance that involves sorrow for our sins and failings, and there is an element that involves continually checking where God is and where we are, and adjusting our path back towards him if needed. To turn back to God, as Peter implores the crowd to do here, is also to continually make sure we are turned towards God, tracking with God, and following where he calls and leads.

Question to Consider
How much is repentance part of your regular rhythms with God?

Prayer
Lord God, you are always there when I turn, no matter how far away I wander. Your faithfulness outshines my own, yet still shows just how much you love me and that you are willing to wait for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Step 2: Be Baptised

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:38-40

The Jewish festival of Pentecost was the time God chose to dramatically fill his followers with his Holy Spirit. Crowds were drawn to the spectacle, and when Peter said to them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, many were convinced by what they had seen and heard, and were keen that the day not end there. ‘What shall we do?’ they asked.

Peter’s instruction was simple: firstly, repent; secondly, be baptised. Baptism is an act with a big impact. It is a very public ceremony. It is the ceremony Jesus gave us to show that we have turned from sin to God and gratefully accepted his salvation, and joined the community of God’s people. Baptism publicly declares that we are now joined to Jesus and also to the family of his followers. Just as a wedding joins two individuals to each other and to the other’s family, we are joined—related—to others who have made the same choice to follow Jesus. Obviously we cannot baptise ourselves. Only others already in the community of faith can be our guides, only others already in the family can help bring us into the family, both through the initial invitation and through the ritual itself. Jesus himself said that baptism would be one of the signs of those who are obediently following him—a sign of commitment to him and to the community of faith through which he does his work in the world.

Questions to Consider
If someone was to ask you ‘why do Christians get baptised’ what would answer be? What is it about baptism that makes it not just an agreement between a person and God, but a sign of entrance into community with others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your community and the people you have made me a part of. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – By His Spirit – For All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 11:15-17

Today we jump a little further along in the book of Acts to when Peter was explaining to leaders in the early church what had happened when he had – shock! horror! – shared the good news with Gentiles. The church leaders were amazed that the Holy Spirit had been given to people of other cultures. This started the breaking down of the barriers that had stood between Jews and Gentiles, a sign that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit was for all who responded to the gospel, whether Jew or Gentile.

Jesus had promised his followers they would be baptised with water and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in us as the community of Jesus’ followers, yes, in all followers individually, but also in all of us collectively, through his Spirit united together as one body. Through the Spirit we learn to understand God’s plans for us and the world around us that he cares about so intensely. We are not a community of faith because we want to be or because we are good at it – I think we all secretly know we’re not! God has called this community into being to reflect who he is. We are able to be God’s community because the Holy Spirit makes it possible for any and all people to join this community. The Spirit gives us the means to carry out his call, leads us as we follow and binds us together in response to his love. The call to follow Jesus is all we have in common, but through the empowering presence of the Spirit in us, it is more than enough – for all of us, no matter who we are or how we got here.

Question to Consider
How has God’s Spirit been working in you to break down barriers between you and those you might not have otherwise chosen to journey with?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your Spirit, bringing us together, breaking down barriers, remaking us in your ever loving, always welcoming image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A True Penitent

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 51:1-15

The highly confessional nature of this psalm has made it liturgically very popular among Jews and Christians, hence why, for example, it is one of the seven penitential psalms regularly used in Christian rituals and services. The psalmist is in a deeply remorseful mood, beseeching God to wipe away his sins and transgressions and purify him and restore him to a state of grace. Hyssop is mentioned as it was regularly used in rituals of purification. Leviticus 14 describes how the priest is to dip the hyssop in the blood of a sacrificed animal and then sprinkle it on the impure person or object on order to purify it. Numbers 19 gives instructions for using hyssop to sprinkle water to remove impurities.

The blood imagery obviously provides a link to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the wiping away of all sin and transgression and the reconciliation with God that he brought about through his death. Reading the Psalms (or indeed the entire Hebrew bible) with an eye on Christ as we do so can make the text even more powerful and alive, and can give God the space to grow a deeper understanding within us and can give us a greater experience of the forgiveness Jesus offers. It can (and should) also make us more aware of our need for forgiveness and the necessity of confessing our sins and failings to the one who offers grace and forgiveness to us all. The psalmist wasn’t afraid to openly and honestly lay himself bare and seek God’s forgiveness. We shouldn’t be afraid either.

Question to Consider
How does God make you aware of your need for forgiveness?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, forgive my sins. Forgive my transgressions, my stumbles, my falling away. Convict me when I sin, nudge me when I have wandered away from you. I know you will always wait for my return and push me to come back to you. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – More Than Just Actions

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 51:16-21

Both Isaiah and Micah contain well known passages that stress God’s desire for honest, ethical behaviour and action from his people, rather than animal sacrifices rendered empty through the people’s sin and apathy. One thing in this psalm that seems to build on these requirements is the emphasis on a person’s inward condition of contrition and sense of remorse for the wrong done. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit, says verse 17; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. A person’s inward disposition – their acknowledgement of their wrongdoing and knowledge of the need for forgiveness – counts with God.

Contrition and genuine remorse are required, and often it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sin, to spark within us an awareness of how we have fallen short of God’s expectations for us, and to make us aware of our need for forgiveness. Sometimes when we give God the space to move, he moves in ways we would prefer he not. These times are not comfortable or pleasant, but they are absolutely necessary in the life of a follower of Jesus and in the life of his body of followers. Openness, conviction, contrition – followed by forgiveness and restoration. God does not keep us waiting; he does not leave us hanging on in limbo, unsure of his love and awaiting reconciliation. God has done everything required for us to be put right with him; we will always find him waiting if we seek him with an open, honest heart.

Questions to Consider
Why is genuine remorse important? What happens without it?

Prayer
Almighty God, teach me to be contrite. Grow remorse for my failings within me, so that those failings grow less and less frequent. Thank you for never turning away. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)