For you and for all

Friday

Acts 2

File:An eager crowd watches on at the first public screening of the 2013 Namatan Short Film Festival was in Norsup on Malekula Island. (10666256764).jpg39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away,

English grammar drops the ‘and’ in a series and replaces it with a comma. But I prefer the more literal translation that says, “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off.” It’s a little thing. A silly thing. But somehow that latter construction suggests to me the wide sweeping arms of grace rather than a simple pointing out of you, you and you.

We tend to hear the scripture as if it were addressed to us as individuals, but the world of the Bible is a world where people thought of themselves first as part of a community. We celebrate the individual; they celebrated the people, the tribe, the family. The promise is to me. The voice of God addresses me, summons me, calls me to enter into the life of God’s kingdom, to walk the walk, to be a disciple/student of Jesus. But the promise is not to me alone. It is to me and to my children and to all who are far off. It is to us, to a community, to a world. The promise is to me but it doesn’t make me a believer on my own; it makes me part of a new world, a member of the body of Christ, a living stone in a living temple. Peter doesn’t say, “once you were nobody,” he says “once you were not a people.”

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

English no longer discriminates between ‘you’ singular and ‘you’ plural. ‘Thou’, ‘thee’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’ have dropped from use and ‘you’ has taken over their meaning. But our culture has also changed, so when we hear ‘you’ in the Biblical text we tend to think ‘me’ rather than ‘us’.

The promise is to me and to us. To me and to my children. To me and to my children and all the scattered children of God. To me and my neighbor. To me and my enemy. The promise is to all God will gather – not those I would gather. And God would gather all.

Where we love to draw lines about who is in and who is out, God wipes them away. God fishes with a net not a line. God pours out his Spirit on a crowd of 120 on Pentecost – not just on one (or twelve) – and people from every nation are called. We are members one of another. If one suffers all suffer. My neighbor’s hunger is my hunger. The Good Samaritan is a pattern, not a noble exception. The destiny of the earth is new creation, not a lifeboat with a few souls making it to the shores of heaven.

And so Paul will write, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” We stand now in the light of that dawn when earth is restored, the realm of death unbarred, and the sword that guarded paradise has been sheathed.

39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away,

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