Alright, devoted. This morning’s reading comes from The Mockingbird Devotional, following the “Daily Office Lectionary Guide,” a resource you’ll find in the index of the book that matches each of our devotions to the church calendar. Following this puts us here for this Monday, at Acts 8, with Maestro Simeon Zahl.
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“Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:22-24, RSV)
In this passage, Simon the magician has seen the power the apostles have been given and has come to belief. At the same time, he wants their power for himself. When Peter calls him out on this, he attributes Simon’s desire to one cause in particular: his bitterness. Despite Simon’s conversion, and the sincerity of his belief, he is still bitter at some level towards the apostles, perhaps for stealing his thunder. Coming to faith has not solved all of his problems. You could say that he is conflicted: both grateful and bitter at the same time.
What burdens, what “bonds,” have you brought with you into the life of faith? Perhaps you still have a violent temper that sneaks out when you least expect it. Or you are a hopeless snob, just like before. Or are you still in the “gall of bitterness” toward someone—a parent, an ex-boyfriend, a sibling, an old friend who ditched you, a minister who let you down?
Even as Peter has pretty harsh words for Simon here, he also views the ex-magician with mercy: he calls Simon’s iniquity a “bond” or (in other translations) a “chain.” In other words, Peter sees that Simon is bitter, but also that he cannot help feeling this way. Acknowledging this, about ourselves and about others, is the beginning of mercy and a firm foundation for prayer.