Tonight’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is strange and wonderful. It is fantastical. Inexplicable in so many ways. In a time like ours, it is near-on impossible to believe.

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So, he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

In a time like ours, where division is the rule of the day
In a time like ours, where blame is cast in every direction but our own
In a time like ours, where they – whoever they are – are the cause of all the world’s problems
In a time like ours, when fear dominates the airwaves,
In a time like ours, where self-giving love is deemed obsolete

In a time like ours, a story like this is near-on impossible to believe. It may be impossible to believe, and yet it is the story that calls to us this evening. It calls to us, this mysterious sequence of events, and it calls to us to pay attention. In this story, the impossible happens.

Holy Spirit Falls.
And she falls upon one and all.
She does not discriminate,
But pours herself out on all who
Hear the word.

Holy Spirit Falls,
If I can be a bit more clear,
In the places she is not welcome
In the places we will not invite her.
In the places we have banned her
Lest she call into question our fear or hate.

Holy Spirit Falls,
And she surprises each of us.
Those of us on one side.
Those of us on another,
Those of us on yet another

All of us thinking that we are right.
That God is on our side,
That God will come through for us,
Over and against them.

And yet, when Holy Spirit falls,
In this story at least,
She falls in several places.
She falls, pouring herself out

First in Caesarea,
To Cornelius, a centurion.
A soldier.
A leader of many other soldiers,
Soldiers who had it out for the Jews,
Who had seen to Jesus’ death,
And who, at the time of the writing of Luke & Acts
Had destroyed Jerusalem, had cast down the temple,
Had scattered the people,
A decade before.

The writer of the book of Acts
Tells his audience that God appeared first
To the oppressor, in the form of an angel
To open him to possibility
To community,
To reconciliation
With those he and his contemporaries
Had been sent to destroy.

When Holy Spirit falls,
In this story at least,
She falls in several places.
She falls, pouring herself out

Second, in Joppa,
To Peter, an apprentice of Jesus the Christ.
Peter, the one who betrayed his master
Peter, the one who jumped out of the boat
Peter, the impetuous one who carried
His guild
And his grief
At betraying his friend under pressure,
And who, when asked by Jesus,
Whether he loved him,
Could eke out little more than “I like spending time with you.”
Which is good enough for Jesus,
Who sends Peter out to tend the flock.
Who will reveal to Peter who many flocks there actually are.
Who will reveal to Peter the astounding way
In which God is at work in the world
And out of anyone’s control.

Peter, who sees the vision of the animals from heaven
Who recoils in horror
Because he’s on a special diet,
And while delicious, this expansive 1st Century Whole30
Will certainly mess with his
Sensitivities and challenge his cooking repertoire.

When Holy Spirit falls,
In this story at least,
She falls in several places.
She falls, pouring herself out

Third, In the Centurion’s home,
Friends and family, gardeners and slaves,
And quite a few soldiers.
A welcoming place, if you know
How to behave,
Perhaps less so if you’re a known
Friend of a revolutionary Jew.

There in the Centurion’s home,
Holy Spirit has fallen.
A hush has taken over,
As the Centurion is beheld.
As the Revolutionary is beheld.
As hospitality is offered, one to the other,
They look each other in the eye.

They acknowledge what lies between them
That which ought to keep them apart.
The law is very clear about who can associate with whom
The church is very clear about who is in and who is out.

And yet here we are.
Called by God
Into each others’ presence.
Different sheep from different folds.
Together once again.
Together at last.

Hearing the story of God’s work in another’s life.
And then sharing that same story.

And there in the midst of it.
The listening. The sharing.
Holy Spirit falls upon one and all.
She does not discriminate
And Peter’s insiders,
those who like him are circumcised,
who are the true believers,
the one who God alone has called,
Are astounded that Holy Spirit
Would dare to share her gift
with people such as these.

After all they’ve done.
After all they’ve taken.
After all that’s been.

Astonishment and surprise,
Perhaps a little anger in their voice
As they wonder out loud,
How such a thing is possible.

But why wonder what is possible
When it’s already happened?
When it’s happening all around you?

When everywhere, everyday, God is calling
His children home.
Is binding up the wounded,
Is seeking after the strayed
Is strengthening the weak.

And that Peter, the one Jesus invites to tend his sheep, the very same one who betrayed him, and who spent so long wallowing in guilt, is now the one who demands to know who – if anyone – can withhold the waters of Baptism. For God was present here along. Holy Spirit has bestowed her gift. And somehow, inexplicably somehow, Jesus has brought us all together.

With all that has happened
With all that we’ve seen
How can we refuse to join God,
in hearing stories of God’s unexpected faithfulness.
In sharing some of our own
And in joining together with God,
Each other, and all of creation
In singing, dancing, prophetically embodying,
the impossible reconciliation of all things?