Based on Acts 10:34-48
Who is in and who is out of the circle of God’s love?
For most of us, that’s a bit of a pointless question, I suspect, as God loves everyone, doesn’t he.
But how do people come to hear about God’s love for them. And how do we deal with our ‘issues’ for want of a better phrase, in taking that message into this community?
It’s challenging, but exciting.
And it’s been going on for 2000 year, or more, but lets begin with Peter.
Peter’s had his own ideas of who’s in and who’s out blown out of the water big style.
When he beings to speak, he’s travelled to Cornelius’ house. Cornelius is a Roman, a gentile, who has sent for Peter, as he wants to hear what Peter has to say to him.
For Peter, just a few days earlier, going to stay in the house of a gentile would have been completely alien to him.
Being a good Jewish boy, he’d been taught who he could and couldn’t associate with, who he could and could eat with, whose houses he could and couldn’t stay in.
Yes, even though he’d been at Jesus’ side for 3 years and had heard Jesus teach and heal and talk to those who were on the ‘banded’ list, so to speak, now Jesus had left the disciples to it, he had needed reminding that the circle of who was in and who out for God was much, much wider than he’d been brought up to believe.
So, God had sent a dream, where various foods had come on a sheet, to Peter, many of which were banned. And Peter was to eat them. Eventually, between the dream, those Cornelius has sent for Peter arriving where Peter had the dream and Peter getting to Cornelius’ house, Peter was really getting it.
As he says, God does not show favouritism, but accepts every nation.
Every nation. Back then, nationhood and religion were much, much more intertwined than they are now.
But that meant Peter was saying he saw that though God had a chosen people, with whom he’d made his covenant with Abraham, in the new covenant, which was made through Jesus death and resurrection, no one was chosen.
Besides, the chosen people were to be a beacon of light to the rest of the world, not separated off from the world.
And here is Peter, wonderful impetuous Peter, coming to Cornelius’ house. Wondering why he’d been sent for, and when he discovers Cornelius and his household were to listen to everything Peter was going to tell them.
Yet Peter didn’t hesitate, he realised he was there because he was now doing what Jesus had commissioned the disciples to do.
Go into the world, make disciples and baptise them.
So he tells the story of Jesus. He tells is simply, to the point, from Jesus’ baptism to his death and resurrection.
Just to make sure people know the resurrection was a bodily resurrection, and that Peter and the others who saw Jesus hadn’t seen a ghost, he tells them that he ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection.
What happens when Peter tells Jesus story?
The holy spirit comes on those he’s talking too.
They receive the gift Jesus told of, the gift he and his fellow Jews, up until this point had thought was only for them, the circumcised.
But though telling of Jesus, those who heard the story were filled with the holy spirit, where filled with God.
Peter gets this, now he’s got the idea, he’s on a roll.
And he orders them to be baptised by water, as a sign of their inclusion.
Isn’t it actually quite amazing to think that in Peter telling the story of Jesus, the story of what God had done for them, the story of how much God loves the world, because God loved the world so much Jesus went to the cross, that was enough to move people to know of that love?
Just by talking to them, and being willing to go to where they were to tell them that message. To tell them the good news.
God’s spirit came on the people as Peter spoke.
His way of telling them about Jesus was different to how the other disciples would have spoken of Jesus
it’s different from how we would tell of Jesus.
The stories may be shorter or longer than others, maybe depending on who’s being spoken to, maybe depending on what we are able to say.
But the story is broadly the same, Jesus came into the world to show the world how much the world is loved by God.
It’s quite a simple message, but the church has been getting bogged down in who is in and who is out, just as Peter had been, since the beginning of the church.
Yet God is shows no favouritism. God loves the whole world and everyone in it.
We just need to do what Peter did and, when the opportunities come our way, tell people.
That all. Tell them, where they are, just as Peter did.