Not for Sale

Scripture Focus: Acts 8:18-19
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Reflection: Not for Sale
By Jon Polk

Simon was a big deal in Samaria. They called him “The Great Power,” a title befitting a god, attributing to him divine power. Simon was a sorcerer, a magician. No, not like Gandalf or Harry Potter or David Blaine – magic in the ancient world was generally used in a negative context to describe counterfeit demonstrations of supernatural power, either performed by trickery or by tapping into some evil spiritual source.

Simon was convincingly good and insanely popular. Whether just a persuasive huckster or actually connected with some demonic force, he had captivated the whole city and people were amazed at what he could do.

In yet another example of the Gospel of Jesus reaching the most unlikely of recipients, Simon the Magician, like many of the citizens of Samaria, was captivated by Philip’s preaching. He believed the message of Jesus, was baptized and began to follow Philip around.

However, Simon couldn’t completely shake his past. Magic in the ancient world was utilitarian, viewing the spiritual dimension as a commodity that could be bought or sold and used for one’s own personal gain. A magician sought to control or manipulate spiritual forces.

Sadly, for Simon, the lure of his old life was too strong a temptation. When Simon witnessed Peter and John laying hands on the other believers and delivering the Holy Spirit to them, he offered money hoping to purchase this ability to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s response calls out the sin in Simon’s heart, the attitude that divine power can be acquired for a price and used to manipulate people and situations. Simon wanted to purchase what was supposed to be a free gift. You don’t pay for a gift. However, the underlying attitude is that when I pay for something, I can control it.

You can’t control the gift of God. You can’t manipulate the Holy Spirit into doing your bidding.

Simon believed in the good news and was baptized but he didn’t completely let go of his old ways of thinking and living. Instead of giving himself completely to serve God, he thought that God’s power existed to serve him. Like Simon, we often want God’s power to benefit us, but God’s power in us is always intended to bless and benefit others.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the people, saying: “I tell you most solemnly everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now a slave has no permanent standing in the household, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” — John 8.34-36

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ezra 8 (Listen -5:40) 
Acts 8 (Listen -5:10)

Read more about Realizing the Power of Love
Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. A movement mandating people to live that love. —  Bishop Michael Curry

Read more about Revelation of Love
The story of Revelation is a promise that none of God’s children will be left behind. All God’s children will come home.

The Necessity of The Spirit

Acts 7.55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Reflection: The Necessity of The Spirit 
By John Tillman

We look ahead today reflecting on our readings for tomorrow and two extraordinarily different outcomes for two men led by the same Spirit…

Many times in Judges, the Israelites rebelled over the course of one generation and from the next generation a Judge would rise up to save them. But not the first Judge, Othniel. He had been there the whole time.

Othniel was already a great hero of Israel. He had every advantage and privilege available to him at that time. He was wealthy from his military conquests. He was part of an influential family. He was a seasoned military leader. He had a strong spiritual heritage, being from the family of Caleb, a mighty hero of faith. But despite this, Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Othniel was a great leader and a great warrior. But it was the Spirit of God, not Othniel or his skills that saved Israel. In Othniel’s day, the Spirit of The Lord coming on a leader was a rare, miraculous event. But in our case the miracle has already occurred. The main thing keeping us from accessing the Holy Spirit is…us.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and told the disciples that it is to our benefit that he leave and the Spirit come. But the benefit may not be something that looks like victory to the world. In Acts, we read of Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and spoke with power. We like that part. Then he was stoned to death.

Othniel and Stephen are two men touched and led by the Spirit of God to very different outcomes. From the world’s point of view, one was a victor and one a victim. In many ways, the Kingdom perspective of their situations is the reverse.

Othniel seems to have won a great victory and Stephen seem to have lost everything, until you keep reading. 40 years later, Israel is back in the same predicament, tragically repeating the same mistakes over and over. But 40 years after Stephen’s death, the church he died for was spread across the known world by one of the very men who helped put him to death.

We need the Spirit in our lives not because our skills, our wealth, and our influence cannot accomplish things of significance, but because what is truly significant is often hidden, like a treasure buried in a field, and we must follow the Spirit, forsaking all else to find it.

Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 2 (Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6 (Listen – 2:35)

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30), Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)
Judges 4 (Listen – 3:57), Acts 8 (Listen – 5:10)

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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?
The leading of the Spirit—O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it?

Read more about Spiritual Practice as EDC
The daily practices of prayer, reading the scriptures, meditation are tools that can connect us powerfully to the Holy Spirit, help us define who and whose we are, and allow us to walk with the confidence of our secure identity in Christ.

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