Acts 15; John 14: 23-29
As we move into the final weeks of the Easter Season, with Ascension next week and Pentecost following, the message begins to shift in the readings. For weeks we have heard the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus from Luke and John as well as the formation of the early Church in Acts of the Apostles. Now, though, in these final weeks it will be about the Spirit, the Advocate as John calls it, as well as the parting gift, the gift of peace.
And yet, as much as peace is the parting gift and promise, it often seems anything but peaceful in our lives, community, Church, world, that is constantly facing tensions and conflict. Peace seems all but a dream than a reality and at this point in Acts, it is far from reality. At this point, it is one of the most contentious times in the life of the early Church which we now identify as the Council of Jerusalem. The conflict and tension resulted over the tradition of circumcision, which obviously has been a part of Jewish tradition for centuries, and whether it was necessary for salvation. It appears that the conflict stands between what it means to be Jewish and what is necessary for salvation; a debate we so often still have in the life of the Church. So the leaders of the early Church gather to discern the matter and to seek resolution on what is dividing the people. They find reconciliation in that yes, this is very much an intricate part of Jewish faith, but not a necessity for salvation. For some, it was an unacceptable resolution and can be seen as what eventually divides what we know as Jews and Christians today.
But note that the leaders don’t rely simply on themselves; they make a point to note that it is not only their decision, but also the decision of the Holy Spirit. In bringing together the parties and hashing it out, even between Peter and Paul; Peter often being the heart of the Church and Paul being the head, they managed to resolve that both can be a part of the faith, even if it did lead to this split. Peace, as much as it is the promised gift, often only comes through reconciliation. It is reconciliation between our own head and heart; reconciliation between families, in the Church, and seeking reconciliation in the world where we can finally begin to experience that promised gift of peace.
As we head through these final weeks of the Easter season, where do we need reconciliation in the conflicts that are a part of our lives? What, inside us, needs to change and give up control, in order that reconciliation is possible? Where can we better trust that Spirit working within our own conflicted states so that we can seek reconciliation? If we allow ourselves, like the early Church, to stay with the tensions and conflicts long enough, rather than run from them, eventually we can move towards that reconciliation and allow us to grow as individuals and as a community, and ultimately, experience the promised gift of these final weeks, the gift of peace.