Friends and Strangers
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. – Acts 10:44-46a (NRSV)
My dog is adorable, with fluffy hair and a ridiculous swoop of a tail that bounces when she’s happy, which is most of the time.
She looks very touchable, but she came of age in a pandemic when my family did not have visitors to the house or go out much. So when someone comes near who is not a member of her pack, she lunges and barks ferociously.
We are working with her to be friendlier, which involves carefully choosing our walking routes, a lot of saying “easy” with varying degrees of patience and copious amounts of treats. Yesterday, she surprised me (and herself, I believe) by going happily up to a stranger as she would to a friend, tail wagging and tongue out. This happy little surprise gives me hope that one day she will most always act as approachable as she looks.
In the book of Acts, the first believers are a close-knit group who tend to lunge and bark ferociously at anyone who is not a member of their pack. So it must have been a delightful surprise when they began to see the faces of friends in those they had considered strangers.
We are still pack animals, we humans. And we still have the capacity to be surprised by the strange friends that the Holy Spirit puts in our path.
Holy Spirit, help us to see that your pack is deep, wide, and numerous. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.