“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” – Acts 10:44
I certainly didn’t expect that.
Look at them. Listen to them. Praising God
in languages I’m pretty sure
they do not understand
(I did that once).
I thought I’d seen and heard it all,
the thunderous voice resounding
on the mountain’s summit,
thousands taught and fed.
The accusation I would soon deny,
soon echoed by my very throat,
“I do not know the man,”
once, twice, thrice.
Familiar voice, familiar face, though
glazed with tears, muted by sobs,
a story I have never told.
It goes too deep.
Tongues a-flickering upon the heads
of friends whose tongues declared
in languages they did not know,
and I, I spoke so, too.
I heard my own untutored voice
declare the truth I had denied,
I knew this Jesus, and I
know his power.
Since then? What miracles! What sorrows.
People healed with no more than
to hear the name of Jesus Christ
roughly spoken in my voice.
The joy of hearing Stephen, face aglow,
speaking with courageous grace;
the anguish then to see him
done to death with stones.
The People of the Way dispersed by Saul,
then – miracle of miracles! – the Saul
who persecuted raised his voice
to praise the name of Christ.
And now I am confronted with a miracle
I hadn’t hoped for (hadn’t asked for)
as Gentiles (Romans for God’s sake)
rejoice in Jesus’ name.
Oh, what to do? I could explain it so:
It looks, I grant you, like the Holy
Spirit, but I’m sure it’s just
Or possibly a consequence of what
they’ve eaten or they’ve drunk.
Too much wine; spoiled food.
Good thing I didn’t eat.
I might not need explain a thing, of course.
The people with me would keep silent
if I did, lest they be left to testify
to what this moment means…
No. No silence. No denial. I have learned…
a bit. “Can anyone withhold the water,”
(with my eyes, I tell them, “No”)
“to baptize the Spirit-filled?”
No silence. No withholding.
God has chosen these to bless.
Bring the water. Cleanse my expectations,
so an expansive future can begin in Jesus’ name.
A poem/prayer based on Acts 10:44-48, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year B, Sixth Sunday of Easter.
The image is Saint Peter Baptizing the Centurion Cornelius by Jan Erasmus Quellinus (late 17th century) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59323889.