Scripture Reading: Acts 8:14-17
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
One of the amazingly understated phenomenon of this scripture is the uneventful reporting of the need for apostles to visit the folks in Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans had not seen eye-to-eye for many years. They were the unclean to each other. We know that Jesus was opened to the Samaritans as he used a Samaritan as a shining example of his way in one of his parables. (Luke 10: 25-37) He also asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. (John 4:4–26) Talking to an unrelated woman was bad enough, but a Samaritan. Teachers never really know what sticks until it plays out in real life.
The need for the trip itself may have been as much about reassuring the Samaritans of their welcome into the Body of Christ as it was about making sure they had received the right messages or actions. Or it could have meant that the apostles wanted to check out the new members themselves. My mother was one of the most devoted Christians I have ever known but she was ultimately baptized three times. Sprinkled at birth as an infant in the Methodist church, the Christian Church required that she be baptized again because at that time they only recognized immersion. Eventually, she and my dad joined another group that didn’t recognize any other baptism. My Mom probably consented to do this because she thought it would be of benefit to my Dad or the witnesses or both. I think she was confident in her relationship with God throughout her life.
We still struggle with the proper trappings of church. I do think sacraments are important. Humans seem to have a need to memorialize major life changes and situations. We must remember in these public acts of faith; it is our private relationship with God that really matters.
Prayer: Lord, as we celebrate you in our worship and in our sacraments, touch our hearts with the warmth of your love and renew us once again to our service for you. Amen.
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.