Amanda led worship on 19 May with Tim and Jonny.
Tim brought the word from Acts 11 . It’s an incredible story of a tricky church meeting where they had to change the way they were thinking. Think how relevant this is when the news today is all about barriers and borders.
We all carry our own lists of those who are different to us. Yet we all know of borders that need to be thrown on the scrap heap of history. Peter got into trouble for exactly this . This is a huge challenge for Jewish culture. Sitting and eating with someone as a huge issue. Peter has already had his whole world view changed.
Luke is retelling the story as Peter is retelling the church. Cornelius had already discovered this. Even before Peter finished preaching the Holy Spirit had come down on people in the same way that had happened in the upper room. It seemed obvious to Peter that he should baptise the whole household but the folks in Jerusalem were not there and they were critical.
The sharing of the meal is critical. We’ve seen this with Filling Station, we sit with equal status and show our acceptance and partnership with people who are often very different to us. Peter smashes right through the barriers.
We’ve seen here in this church the positives of doing this, but the Jewish culture really frowned on eating with gentiles. Those in Jerusalem did not agree with Peter , they thought the gentiles should adapt to the Jewish way. They might have accepted them almost as a second tier a lesser tier of believers.
Remember last week and Simon the Tanner. God loves irony he loves challenging our preconceptions. Luke describes this in an orderly way and he reflects Peter’s own orderly approach to explaining the truth. God is in charge, God is pushing things forward. Salvation is sought here in Cornelius’ own words that Peter reflects on and learns from. Peter is reminded of Jesus words in Acts 1. Even gentiles like Cornelius are God’s beneficiaries, saved by Jesus sacrifice. How wide and how big is God’s love?
The Christian church had had to learn and change. Think about the issue of slavery. Racial equality is a relatively new factor and people like Martin Luther King jr paid a high price for where we are now. Women’s ministry is also recent. Think about the attitudes we are now being challenged. Look through the history of the church. Look in our rear view mirror! There’s still a lot of work to be done. Still slavery in our world. The Spirit’s goal is to push the church into a wider appreciation of God’s all encompassing love. God has no patience for barriers and walls. Do not reject what God has made clean. God made all things. It’s us that put labels on things , not God. In Acts 15 there’s a bigger meeting to accept the gentiles in the church. It’s taking us a while. The church should be working to develop a clear understanding of what God wants and he wants us to listen to unexpected sources! Who does God want us to listen to?