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Interrupting Spirit

Posted on 05 May 2024

May 5, 2024

Acts 10:34-38, 44-48

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


Knock, Knock, (Who’s there), Interrupting Cow, (Interrupting Cow Who) Mooo!


That silly joke was told by one of the Pack 6 cub scouts a week ago at the Scout Camp Out for the Community, and even though I knew it, the interrupting moo still caught me off guard.

Peter, too, was caught off guard in the middle of speaking.  It wasn’t a cow though.  It was the Holy Spirit.

Leading up to this passage, Peter had had a truly amazing encounter with God.  In the middle of praying, God interrupted Peter’s time of prayer with a vision, a vision of non kosher foods coming down from the heavens on a large sheet.

As these “forbidden” foods lay before him, Peter heard a voice saying, “eat”, which stunned Peter because as he replied, “I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” (Acts 10:14)  In refusing to eat these foods, Peter thought he was showing his devotion to God, and yet, the voice responded, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 10:15)

The vision happened three times – just in case Peter did not understand it the first time.  And yet, Peter still did not understand.


At about same time, in a different city, a different man was having a vision from God.  This one was a little more straightforward.  God said to Cornelius, a leader in the Roman Empire’s army, that Cornelius should send for Peter.  When Peter arrived and Cornelius shared his vision, Peter came to understand his own.

And this is what became clear to Peter – God shows no partiality, that there are no outsiders to God’s community.  It totally shook up Peter’s idea of what God’s community should look like; however he recovered quickly and “fairly exploded with his good news” (Acts 10:34) as he should have because it’s great news.  It makes no difference who you are; it makes no difference where you’re from; God loves you.  God includes you in Christ’s community.

Beyond excited to share this news, Peter was like a train, building up steam and getting ready to settle in to share more about Jesus, more about the breadth of God’s inclusive love, when he was interrupted by the Holy Spirit.

Interrupted by the Holy Spirit blessing the “outsiders” in Cornelius’ household.  Interrupted by the Holy Spirit showing that God loves and includes all.  As F. Scott Spencer writes, “In the mighty gust of the Spirit, God [sweeps] away “we/they, us/them” distinctions” (F. Scott Spencer, Working Preacher, May 5, 2024)

And the “insiders”, the circumcised believers, were astounded.  They just could not believe it – that God might bless those people just as God had blessed them.  That God might even upset the order of how things were done because weren’t you supposed to be baptized and believe before you received the Holy Spirit?


The proof was there though.  These “ ‘outsider’ non-Jews” were praising God and speaking in tongues, an ability that only came with the Spirit.

And that is what Holy Spirit does.  Every time, we settle down into a “this is how the church should be”; “this is how the church should work”; “this is what Christians should look like”; every single time, the Spirit comes along and interrupts us, disrupts us, reminds us that God makes no distinctions.  To God, there is no us/them; insider/outsider; male, female, non-binary, Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millenial, Gen Z.  God plays no favorites, and if we ever begin to think that we know where the lines of God’s community, Christ’s church, should be drawn, the Holy Spirit will come along and interrupt us, just like the Holy Spirit interrupted Peter and the first century church.

Every time we might build up some steam and settle into a track, assuming we know the “right” direction to go, the Spirit comes along and says, “Let’s be free; Let’s create; Let’s imagine what could be.  Let’s see what exciting adventure is this way or that.”


In the winter of 2023, I invited two groups of people to read the book, Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism.  The name pretty much tells you what the book is about – reaching out to new people with the good news of God’s love.

Before I led these two groups, I had prayed for four months about whether this was a good idea, about whether we were ready, as a church, to talk about reaching out to new people, about who might be open to reading and discussing this book.  And after four months of listening and prayer, I felt pretty confident I understood God’s leading.

The daytime group went pretty much without a bump.  For the evening group though, there seemed to be iffy winter weather more often than not so I would begin a group text – what do people think? Were they willing to drive in whatever conditions we were expecting, etc.

It was a simple weather related text thread that the Spirit turned into a prayer chain, and then the Spirit turned that evangelism book group into a prayer ministry and then the Spirit started to include others in that prayer ministry – even some people who were not a part of FCC.


Being open to the Spirit, the messy, interrupting, plan-changing Spirit is hard.  Predictability and structure, knowing the way ahead, feels comforting and safe.  Boundaries, knowing who is in and who is out, putting things into categories helps our brains comprehend life.  Sameness gives our minds and bodies a moment of rest and peace, and God wants that for us.  God is our rock and our foundation, our safe place in the storms of life.

However Jesus didn’t call us to a way of safety.  Jesus calls us to a way of faithfulness.  Jesus calls us to always be embracing the new life God is offering to each and every one of us, to always be widening God’s community and inviting others in to also experience that new life and God’s love.

And before the fear in your mind says, ‘I don’t know anyone to welcome in’, stop and take a breath and be open to the Spirit.  Be open to the Spirit’s interruption, the Spirit’s disruption because there are thousands of people in the world who are slowly dying because they don’t know the truth that God loves them.  There are thousands of people in our communities who are in need of hope and the new life Jesus offers.

Just this past week, I read about a woman who as a teen was told by her church community that if she did not fit into the box of heterosexuality, that there was something wrong with her.  And while she walked away from that church and all churches a long time ago, she still carries that hurt with her every day.  Every day, that lie – There is something wrong with you – is slowly killing her.  That woman needs the new life of knowing she is unconditionally loved by God.

Just this past week, I spoke with a young mother who is exhausted under the weight of working full time and caring for her three children because she doesn’t have family close by and doesn’t know who she can trust to be her family’s community.  Every day, the weight of walking through this life alone slowly crushes millions of people.  They need the new life of knowing they belong to a wide community of inclusive love.

Just this past week, I told a student that he had lots of gifts to share with the world – and he said back to me, “Do I?  Do I really?”  His words and the image of his face as he spoke them break my heart.  How many other people are out there, asking the same question – do I matter? Do I belong?  Am I important?


Peter could have ignored that vision from God and gone right back to his “faithful” praying.  Peter could have ignored the summons to go meet Cornelius and continued with his “important” ministry.  The followers of the Way could have ignored the interruption of Spirit and kept on keeping on.

And because they didn’t, their hearts and minds and lives were opened to a beautiful new set of possibilities: that God’s community could be wider than their expectations, that God’s ways could be different from their plans, that all people might experience new life, hope, and peace.

It’s amazing what a little interruption can lead to.