Shortly after Amber and I were married we had the unfortunate experience of having our car stolen. One night, as we slept in our first-ever apartment together, someone made off with our dream car, our beloved black Jeep Grand Cherokee with this very distinctive crack in the front windshield.

The police warned us that in all likelihood, it was gone forever and if we were lucky enough to ever see the vehicle again, it wouldn’t be in working order.

So imagine my surprise, when one day, about a week later, as I was driving to work, I happened to glance over at the right lane and saw some random guy driving a black Jeep Grand Cherokee with a very distinctive crack in the front windshield.

I literally did a double-take.

And so did the driver, who must have recognized me. Because he immediately punched the gas and swerved hard to exit the interstate.

Now to this day, I’m not entirely sure what came over me in that moment, because I’m not the sort do to this kind of thing. I obey traffic laws. I don’t speed. I take care of rental cars carefully, especially when they are provided by my insurance company.

But in that moment, all I knew was that I had to chase that Jeep, my Jeep. So I cut hard across two lanes of traffic, barely missing a concrete barrier, and jammed the accelerator in that tiny rental car and followed in hot pursuit.

Granted, hot pursuit is a relative term. I don’t know if you ever drove a Toyota Echo in the early 2000s. But I’m pretty sure they’re powered by a rubber bands rather than internal combustion.

We barreled down the access roads, disregarding speeding laws. And because I was a reporter, I had the dispatch number in my cell phone for the local police department. So this whole time, I’m on the phone with a bewildered dispatcher breathlessly explaining to her that I was chasing my stolen Jeep down Orange Boulevard.

The police never showed up, and eventually, I lost the thieves when they made a hard U-turn, like something straight out of a movie scene, slamming on the brakes, smoke screeching from the tires, and speeding off in the other direction, while I made a comically wide and puttering U-turn in my tiny rental car with its rubber band engine.

I arrived late to work that day.

When I explained why to my city editor, she looked at me, completely horrified and said, “David, what were you thinking? What would you have done if you caught them?”

And you know, the thought never actually crossed my mind. All I knew was that I was chasing something important, that I had gotten caught up in the exhilaration of the chase.

I know this is an odd story to tell on a Sunday, and I want to be clear that I don’t condone high-speed car chases. I was a dumb young 20-something, disregarding traffic rules, disregarding my safety, and disregarding common sense.

But, at the same time, it’s actually a really helpful frame of reference for the entire book of Acts.

Because if nothing else, the book of Acts is the story of one of the greatest chases in all of history and it’s a chase that’s still going on today.

It’s the story of how leaders of the early Jesus movement were always in hot pursuit of the work God was doing in the world, were always trying to chase down and keep pace with God, sometimes disregarding every rule in the process, disregarding their own personal safety, and all common sense.

Now, typically, that’s not how we think of Acts. We think of the book as the story of the apostles going out and bringing salvation and good news to the far-flung reaches of the ancient world and especially to people who had previously been considered outsiders and excluded for one reason or another. That they are the ones crossing the boundaries set by society and culture.

But if you read closely, that’s not exactly what happens. It’s God that crosses those boundaries first.

In Acts, God doesn’t wait on us to show up in the margins; instead, much of the story is about convincing the faithful leaders of the early Jesus movement to get onboard with this new movement, and by the time the leaders and the apostles finally show up, it’s clear God has already been at work, and the leaders are simply playing catch up.

In fact, maybe we should even stop calling this book the Acts of the Apostles and start calling it the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

After all, when Jesus commissions the disciples at the beginning of the book during the Ascension, he tells them that they are to be witnesses to what the Spirit will be doing in the world, not the initiators of it, not the generators of it, not the impetus for it. Witnesses.

Witnesses to a God who has crossed their self-imposed boundaries, who is ever expanding our tiny limits of who belongs and who doesn’t. The movement of God in Acts is always about welcoming those who had been excluded, including those who were outsiders, declaring beloved those who had been despised, rejected, or dismissed.

Just prior to today’s text, we see God working among and welcoming the Ethiopian eunuch and the Roman Centurion Cornelious, two people who would’ve been considered outsiders, one outside the norms of race and gender at the time, the other an outsider to the faith.

But, of course, welcoming the stranger like this inevitably becomes the source of conflict. That’s why Peter’s in Jerusalem in today’s story.

He’s got some explaining to do after he met with Cornelius and his family. Peter’s broken some rules. He’s put himself and others in danger. He’s ignoring common sense and the received wisdom of the early Jesus movement. He’s not just sitting down to dinner with a Gentile. He’s eating with a Roman centurion, a high-ranking soldier of the enemy, the occupying Roman army, the people who crucified Jesus. What in the world was he thinking? the leaders in Jerusalem want to know.

His explanation is essentially to blame God. He’s not doing the accepting, he says, as much as God already did the accepting. He really has no choice but to welcome those whom God has already embraced. God has already made clean what he considered unclean, and God tells Peter to stop excluding and discriminating and to make no distinction between us and them.

So that means that in the Jesus movement, even today, there are no people who are unclean, who are unwelcome, who are dirty, who are enemies, who are excluded, who are rejected. Not on the basis of race, on gender, on sexuality, on race, on religion, on economic status, on political persuasion or nationality. It means we are always being called to at least a little discomfort and learning to welcome those we would rather exclude, avoid, or not think about.

Because God has already welcomed them, is already among them, on the other side of the boundaries and borders we’ve created, beckoning us, waiting on us, to follow, to chase God into the boundless places of love and holy discomfort, to bear witness to what God is already doing.

In a world built on division and difference, this journey will never be complete. As followers of Jesus, we are always to be on the move, always chasing after God’s wild, extravagant, transforming love, always showing up at the scene of the Holy Spirit to be changed not by what we bring but by the wonder of what we witness.