Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Jerusalem Council: Acts 15:1-35 with poem by Henry B. Robins, Of One Blood Hath God Created

Daily Readings
Psalm 17, Genesis 16, Isaiah 17, Acts 15:1-35

Daily Text: Acts 15:1-35

The Jerusalem Council
This most important council, addressed in Acts 15, was initiated because some free-lance theologians from Jerusalem made their way to Antioch where they found that the church was growing by leaps and bounds with Gentiles. Now Gentiles had been accepted previously, in Caesarea and other places, but it now becomes apparent that they will soon outnumber the Jewish believers. What to do? Include them, but treat the Gentiles as a sect of Judaism so that the mother religion will not be lost. To include them requires circumcision and observance of the Torah, and these matters these free-lancers insisted upon. Even Peter and Barnabas began to bow to their insistence (cf. Galatians 2:1-10). But the church was increasingly a Gentile church and these Christians understood that there had to be a better answer, and that answer needed to come from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas were sent there to clarify the issue and the Jerusalem Council issued from that visit.

Debate ensues and after hearing all parties Peter stands and speaks for the Gentiles. Though in Antioch Peter was called on Paul’s carpet for bowing down to those who insisted on the letter of the law, he evidently held no hard feelings. He recognized that what God had shown him in the vision at Joppa and in the coming of the Holy Spirit in Caesarea, must become the rule of the young church. There must be no unnecessary barriers placed before Gentile converts to the new faith. Grace, not works, is the word of the day, the theological watchword. James, after also hearing Paul and Barnabas, concludes similarly. With a courtesy resolution that the Jews not be offended by food choices and pagan sexual practice, he sides with Simon Peter. He will write a letter and send it by a couple of trusted lieutenants who will accompany Barnabas and Saul back to Antioch. He will not risk putting the missionaries into the bind of speaking for the Council, but will support them by sending his own emissaries. This was an important early decision, and upon it rested the whole future of the Christian movement. Out of human debate has come an act of God.

Of One Blood Hath God Created
Henry B. Robins, 1874

Of one blood hath God created
Every kindred, tribe and tongue;
His is every fane and altar,
Though man’s empire be far-flung;
Even though some flout the others,
Underneath are they blood-brothers;
And shall learn, some crucial day,
How to walk a common way.

God of all the warring peoples,
Still art Thou the God of Peace;
Love art Thou, but Love in Sorrow,
Wounded until wars shall cease;
Until Right shall win, our burden
Thou, too, bearest; ‘tis the guerdon
Of that dauntless Saviour-hood
Which shall rear the common good.

Keep before us, clear, the vision
Of Thy Holy common-wealth;
Guide us, Thou, in each decision;
Save us from the subtle stealth
Which would fill our souls this hour
With race-hatred, lust of power,
Alienate our life from Thee
And Thy Kingdom, yet to be.

May we, with the Man of Sorrows,
Tread the dangerous path of duty;
Seeking not our own, but serving,
May we grasp, O Lord, the beauty
Of Thy Holiness, wherever
Flames a Love that faileth never,
Burning out the waste and dross,
Saving men from shame and loss.

Grant to us a sense of presence:
Make us all aware of Thee;
May Thy Holy Love unite us
In the bond that sets men free—
Free to understand each other,
Free to claim each as his brother,
Free to build in unity,
Free, O God, yet bound to Thee.
407:1813

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