Hope and Peace Romans 5:1-11

Romans 5:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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The first five verses of Romans got me through some hard times.
One of the things the Bible does for us is sustain us. We have all faced tragedy, illness, loss, betrayal.
When we are overwhelmed by life’s challenges, we turn either inward or outward for help.
Help is available in a number of forms. We seek the company of people who help us to forget the pain of real life. We can turn to alcohol or drugs. We can focus all our attention on our work. Sometimes we can run away from the situation.
We can seek professional help. Mental health counselors are trained to help us learn how to cope with our problems. Doctors are trained to help us with physical problems. Financial consultants are trained to help us with money problems. Plumbers and electricians can help with faulty wiring and plumbing. Mechanics can fix our cars.
But sometimes, the problem can’t be fixed by another person. Or we can’t find that person. Or we can’t afford the services of that person.
Sometimes, we don’t even know what is wrong. And we turn inward and try to fix ourselves.
Libraries and book stores are full of self-help books. Dr. Phil always has some good ideas. There are magazines and blogs of every description that offer advice for whatever ails you.
In fact, I found my diagnosis in a newspaper. There was a little ad in th Quad-City times looking for people with a few specific symptoms. I had them all. And I didn’t even know I was sick. I just knew something wasn’t right.
I had tried curing myself by being the best person I could be. I tried to be the best teacher, the best mother, the best wife in the world. I was the best church member ever, too. I never missed Bible Study. And there I found, not a cure or a diagnosis, but a vitamin. Romans 5: 1-5.
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
I focused on the just a few words: suffering, endurance, character, hope.
If suffering could produce endurance, if endurance could produced character, and if character could produce hope, I would be ok. I just needed hope.
In fact, there is a lot more to those five verses than a stopgap cure.
Verse 1, we are justified by faith—-that is, faith makes us right with God and we are right with God, we have peace with God. When we have peace with God, we have peace with ourselves and with others. We have this peace because Jesus walked among us. God, through Jesus Christ, has given us the hope, the knowledge that we will one day share in the Glory of God.
Paul was writing about his own suffering and the suffering of Christians. But his goal was not the end of suffering. Suffering leads to endurance, which leads to character, which leads to hope and hope does not disappoint BECAUSE God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
It is not just our human endurance that gets us through the hard times. It is the hope, the belief, the knowledge that God is walking with us to the very end.
How many people in this world have not found that hope? How many people live in a perpetual state of mental misery, in a perpetual state of negativity? How many people give up?
Because our family is intimately familiar with the symptoms and reality of mental illness, I read quite a bit in the field. I look for new treatments and medicines, which can rewire the brain without damaging the body. There are always some, so there is a bit of hope. I read articles on brain science, which explain how the brain acts and reacts to its own self. And, inevitably, I run across articles on suicide, because that is the last symptom, the last treatment, the last solution for many people.
On this weekend, we think of our veterans and that demographic is in the top ten of persons committing suicide. But right up there with soldiers are teenagers and farmers.
We all know plenty of veterans, teenagers, and farmers. The question I want to address is this: does God forgive that last final act of self-destruction?
Why not? Lots of superstition and prejudice has accompanied suicide over the centuries. At one time, a person who committed suicided could not be buried in the church cemetery.
My cousin killed herself. My pastor cousin and I sat together at her funeral. He said what was in the back of my mind. Crystal had one last hope, and the hope was based in her confidence that God loved her and would welcome her with open arms. Her faith was the ultimate faith and she put herself totally into the care of God.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Christ died for the ungodly, for the sinner, for the weak, for the broken, even for the hopeless.
This is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. We have been chosen, redeemed, called to live in the security of God’s love. We are not alone.
Paul makes another point:
He speaks in the plural.
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
That may just seem like logical writing—Paul is talking about himself and the members of the church in Rome.
But I think that the plural is significant. In my own sufferings, the church sustained me. It did not cure me. It did not make me a better person. But the people who worshipped with me, who welcomed me to Bible study, were a big part of my survival.
Plenty of people will tell you they believe in God but they don’t need to go to church. I think they are missing something. You can’t find the kind of support in a card club or on a Sunday morning motorcycle ride or at a Hawkeye game that you find at worship. Granted, we say we are here to worship God. But we are also here to be with each other, to share our joys and our troubles. WE don’t have to think about what cards our partner is holding; we don’t have to worry about the weather; we don’t have to be disappointed by a missed goal or a missed basket. We are here for each other.
We are here because we share a faith in a God who will never desert us, never abandon us. We support each other, we give each other hope, we give each other a reason to get out of bed. We give each other a reason to hold fast to our faith.
Those first five verses are about more than suffering, endurance, character, and hope. They are about the hope that we have in our Savior, the hope that is poured into us by the Holy Spirit. We have peace with God. This is not a peace that takes away car troubles or illness or a crappy job. We have peace that helps us to live a life that sees beyond the bad, that helps us to live with the car troubles and the illness and the crappy job. Paul says it best in Philippians 4:7—
7 Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Amen.

Lacking Enthusiasm

Romans 1:1-17 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
1 From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.
God chose me to be an apostle, and he appointed me to preach the good news 2 that he promised long ago by what his prophets said in the holy Scriptures. 3-4 This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
5 Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith. 6 You are some of those people chosen by Jesus Christ.
7 This letter is to all of you in Rome. God loves you and has chosen you to be his very own people.
I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
8 First, I thank God in the name of Jesus Christ for all of you. I do this because people everywhere in the world are talking about your faith. 9 God has seen how I never stop praying for you, while I serve him with all my heart and tell the good news about his Son.
10 In all my prayers, I ask God to make it possible for me to visit you. 11 I want to see you and share with you the same blessings that God’s Spirit has given me. Then you will grow stronger in your faith. 12 What I am saying is that we can encourage each other by the faith that is ours.
13 My friends, I want you to know that I have often planned to come for a visit. But something has always kept me from doing it. I want to win followers to Christ in Rome, as I have done in many other places. 14-15 It doesn’t matter if people are civilized and educated, or if they are uncivilized and uneducated. I must tell the good news to everyone. That’s why I am eager to visit all of you in Rome.
16 I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 17 The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.”

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Many of you know that I have a good friend who is a politician. That is, she has run for public office, and has both won and lost. She served as a Senator in the Iowa Senate for six years, she lost in a run for the position of lieutenant governor, and now she is moving up and running for the United States Congress.
I have known her since 1979, back in the days when we were both English teachers in small community high schools. I have always admired her integrity, and her no nonsense way of dealing with the world. I will help her campaign again this year because I want someone with her moral standards in public office.
That being said, there is a side of me that says, “So what?” I have known other politicians whose morals I admire, and yet, even though they have served our country faithfully, I am disappointed that they were not able to do more to serve all the people in our state.
I’m talking about legislation.
Then, I have to remind myself. Morality can not be legislated. Love for one’s neighbor cannot be legislated. Even justice cannot be legislated, because the laws are administered by people who interpret justice in light of their own experience.
How dare I talk politics in church? Doesn’t our constitution say something about the separation of church and state?
First of all, my preaching has to be relevant to you and your world. You are not immune to politics, even if your philosophy is “get rid of them all!” You’re still living in a world that is controlled by politics and politician. And remember that the broader definition of politics is “a set of activities associated with the governance of a country, or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.” Politics is how we keep safe on the highways, how we put dangerous people in a place where they won’t hurt anybody, how we make sure our children learn from teachers and not television, how we are protected from people who want to defraud us and steal from us.
Politics is people working together, like our church council. But when we use the term, often we’re thinking of people NOT working together, of groups of people trying to force other people to follow their lead. And what it gets down to, often, is personalities. There are elected officials who are in it for the fun of the game, not for the benefit of their constituents. I’m talking of first-hand knowledge from more than one of my friends about the Iowa House and Senate. Frustrating, right?
I haven’t mentioned Jesus yet, have I? I will. Jesus is the reason I’m standing here, the reason you’re sitting here.
Please be patient with me (like you always are).
I’ve just finished reading a biography of a woman who followed Jesus more closely that I ever will. I consider her a saint, up there with Mother Teresa. Her name is Dorothy Day. She is famous for her writings and for her activism. She was the founding editor of a successful newspaper during the Depression, The Catholic Worker, which sold for 1 cent per copy. But what she did every day was work at what we would call a “soup kitchen.” It was called a soup kitchen because soup is the most economical way to feed large groups of people. She served, alongside other volunteers, the homeless, the hopeless, the helpless. The homeless, the hopeless, the helpless were not always grateful, not always polite, sometimes even threatening. But for Dorothy Day, ministering to people who had little success in their lives was the way to serve Jesus.
She was a political activist, but the longer she lived, the more she realized something that I’ve come to realize. Politics and activism often give little result. The best way to help people is to follow Jesus.
Why Jesus’ example? And what is Jesus’ example?
Jesus did not go from Nazareth straight to Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. He did not get an appointment with Caesar Augustus and demand or suggest changes in the way Caesar ruled. He did not get elected to the Roman Senate and try to change laws.
Jesus went straight to the people. He taught, he healed, he partied with people. He didn’t JUST teach. He didn’t JUST heal. He didn’t JUST party. He thoroughly immersed himself in the lives of those people who showed up wherever he was. In fact, his only interaction with the local government resulted in his crucifixion.
Now, you may have noticed I haven’t mentioned today’s text from Romans. Now it’s time. Paul followed that same method. He taught with people, he worked with them (he often found a job wherever he was living, so that he wouldn’t be a financial burden to those who were hearing the Gospel from him.) Like Jesus, he found no need to try to influence the local authorities. And similar to Jesus, his interaction with local authorities often resulted in being thrown in jail—more than once. Nowadays we call that civil disobedience. Dorothy Day was jailed three times in her life, the last at age 75.
An aside here: if we look to Jesus to keep us out of trouble, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes following Jesus results in some pretty uncomfortable situations. One more example from history: the Confessing Church of Germany in the thirties and forties. Quite a few pastors ended up in prison for following Jesus. Scary, right?
Back to our story. Paul, like Jesus, spent his time with individuals. Those individuals, in turn, shared the story and the Jesus way of life with other individuals. Other than being persecuted by the local authorities, the Church had nothing to do with local politics, except to follow those laws that did not go against Jesus’ teachings.
Up until the eighth century CE, the church fell in and out of favor with various rulers. Around 785, Charlemagne (Charles I) declared that Christianity was the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire. Thus began our own legacy of declaring our country a Christian country; how many Christians truly believe that only Christianity should be allowed in this country? Wanting a nation to be religion harkens back not only to Charlemagne’s time but also Jesus’ and Paul’s time, when the only legal religion was worship of the Caesar, the king.
That, of course, contradicts our First Amendment:
The First Amendment which ratified in 1791 states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” However, the phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the United States Constitution. (Wikipedia)
Why am I talking so much about stuff that isn’t in the Bible? Because we don’t live in a world that is compatible with the Bible. Yet, we affirm, by our attendance here, that we want to be people of the Bible. Paul tells us that we should be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. (Romans 12)
How do we do that? How do we define ourselves as Christians outside the context of the national news? Look at Paul’s example from today’s lesson
1 From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.
God chose me to be an apostle, and he appointed me to preach the good news 2 that he promised long ago by what his prophets said in the holy Scriptures. 3-4 This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
5 Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith. 6 You are some of those people chosen by Jesus Christ.
Now let me switch out a few pronouns:
1 From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.
God chose YOU to be an apostle, and he appointed YOU to preach the good news 2 that he promised long ago by what his prophets said in the holy Scriptures. 3-4 This good news is about his Son, YOUR Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
5 Jesus was kind to YOU and chose YOU to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith. 6 You [are some of those people] chosen by Jesus Christ.
No less than Paul, YOU are chosen by Jesus Christ. YOU know the good news. YOU are an apostle, a sharer, a speaker, a witness of the Good News.
So, YOU dear Chosen Person, you have been chosen. You did not choose Jesus. Jesus chose you. It was not you who issued the invitation to follow Jesus. God issued that invitation to you and you accepted. You are not the leader, the host. You are the follower, the guest. How many people are proud of the fact that they are Christians? How many people use their Christian affiliation as a badge of honor, a badge that makes them feel better about themselves?
Yes, we can feel better about ourselves, but that is because we know the love of Jesus, not because of anything we do or have done. To be proud of ourselves because we go to church is contradictory to how we have become members of this congregation.
We have been called, just like Paul, to witness to the Good News.
Let me challenge you: when is the last time you used the name of Jesus in your conversation with the lost, the bitter, the lonely, the silly, the successful, the proud?
If you’re like me, you think that your witness can be seen in your good behavior, in your kindness, in your generosity, in your acceptance of those who are different.
Somehow, I think we’re all slacking. I take pride (a sin) in holding my office hours in taverns. But do I EVER talk about Jesus when I’m at Heinie Jo’s or the Legion? NOPE. I love telling people that I hold office hours in a tavern. Silliness and vanity. I am the weakest, most timid witness in the flock. What is my excuse? I don’t want to offend anybody. The world’s biggest, laziest excuse. There are many times when offending someone is a sin, is hurtful and unnecessary. But not talking about Jesus because you might offend someone, make someone uncomfortable, is a copout.
However, I won’t be preaching at Heinie Jo’s or the Legion, because there is that separation between citizen rights and citizen privilege. And that brings us back to politics. What is politically correct—-to force our beliefs down other’s throats or to pretend like we don’t know anything about what Jesus did and why? Where is the middle ground?
We who are present here, having been chosen by Jesus, have accepted that invitation. But can we echo Paul’s words?
I want to win followers to Christ in Rome, as I have done in many other places. 14-15 It doesn’t matter if people are civilized and educated, or if they are uncivilized and uneducated. I must tell the good news to everyone.
I will tell you right now, that I don’t have half the enthusiasm that Paul does. I must tell everyone the good news. Paul can’t contain himself.
16 I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 17 The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.”
Am I proud of the Good News or am I just proud that I am a Christian, proud that I’m a preacher, proud that I get to share the Good News.
With whom do I share the Good News? With you, every Sunday, who already know the Good News. What is the point of that? I don’t think I do much to help you share the good news. Every Sunday, I give you a pep talk, and then, I trust the Holy Spirit to help you to share the Good News.
We just sang “I Love to Tell the Story.” I think it would be more accurate to sing “I Love to HEAR the Story.” How often do we tell it?
One of my standards for evaluating employees—-and that includes people who volunteer their time and talent— is “Do they take instruction well?” As a teacher, as a cook, as a theater manager, I was always sensitive to those people who listened to my instructions and followed through.
Now I worry about how I follow through. And you should to. We’re in this together. We are not in this congregation to protect a building, although we have to do that. We are not in this congregation for sentimental reasons, although sentiment is a part of who we are. We are called, as was Paul, as was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as was Dorothy Day, to share the Good News, not by passively letting it exist, but by actively proclaiming it. How do we do that in our small communities without getting in trouble? I don’t have a clue. And yet, what is more important than sharing the Good News? So, I pray. First, I thank God that we are in this together. I thank God that Jesus has set us an example of radical love. Then I pray for understanding and courage for all of us. Amen.

The New Kosher … Acts 10

10 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, who was the captain of a group of soldiers called “The Italian Unit.” 2 Cornelius was a very religious man. He worshiped God, and so did everyone else who lived in his house. He had given a lot of money to the poor and was always praying to God.
3 One afternoon at about three o’clock, Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel from God coming to him and calling him by name. 4 Cornelius was surprised and stared at the angel. Then he asked, “What is this all about?”
The angel answered, “God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor. 5 Now send some men to Joppa for a man named Simon Peter. 6 He is visiting with Simon the leather maker, who lives in a house near the sea.” 7 After saying this, the angel left.
Cornelius called in two of his servants and one of his soldiers who worshiped God. 8 He explained everything to them and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day about noon these men were coming near Joppa. Peter went up on the roof of the house to pray 10 and became very hungry. While the food was being prepared, he fell sound asleep and had a vision. 11 He saw heaven open, and something came down like a huge sheet held up by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, snakes, and birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”
14 But Peter said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never eaten anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.”
16 This happened three times before the sheet was suddenly taken back to heaven.
17 Peter was still wondering what all of this meant, when the men sent by Cornelius came and stood at the gate. They had found their way to Simon’s house
34 Peter then said:
Now I am certain that God treats all people alike. 35 God is pleased with everyone who worships him and does right, no matter what nation they come from. 36 This is the same message that God gave to the people of Israel, when he sent Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, to offer peace to them.
37 You surely know what happened everywhere in Judea. It all began in Galilee after John had told everyone to be baptized. 38 God gave the Holy Spirit and power to Jesus from Nazareth. He was with Jesus, as he went around doing good and healing everyone who was under the power of the devil. 39 We all saw what Jesus did both in Israel and in the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus was put to death on a cross. 40 But three days later, God raised him to life and let him be seen. 41 Not everyone saw him. He was seen only by us, who ate and drank with him after he was raised from death. We were the ones God chose to tell others about him.
42 God told us to announce clearly to the people that Jesus is the one he has chosen to judge the living and the dead. 43 Every one of the prophets has said that all who have faith in Jesus will have their sins forgiven in his name.
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit took control of everyone who was listening. 45 Some Jewish followers of the Lord had come with Peter, and they were surprised that the Holy Spirit had been given to Gentiles. 46 Now they were hearing Gentiles speaking unknown languages and praising God.
Peter said, 47 “These Gentiles have been given the Holy Spirit, just as we have! I am certain that no one would dare stop us from baptizing them.” 48 Peter ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and they asked him to stay on for a few days.
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When I was a little kid in Sunday School, I was taught, or I assumed, anyway, that this story explained why we Christians could eat pork chops.
You see, I had learned from previous lessons that the people of Israel could not eat pork chops or hot dogs, so I thought that this blanket full of animals was a sign that God’s Chosen People could now eat pork.
Luke tells us that “12 In it [the blanket] were all kinds of animals, snakes, and birds.” I ignore the snakes part, because in my culture we don’t eat snakes. But I’m happy to eat animals, including pork. I’ve also learned over the years that the list had been more comprehensive. Camels and rabbits were also on the bad list. And only seafood with fins and scales could be eaten; no lobster or shrimp. There were also some birds forbidden, mostly those who were meat eaters, like vultures and falcons.
Likewise, meat had to be killed and prepared a certain way—-also on the forbidden list were blood and fat. So, the killing and butchering had to be done kosher style.
The rules of kosher butchering require that the animal must be killed with one clean cut across the throat and allowed to bleed to death. The blade used for slaughter must not be made with materials connected to the ground and must fulfill specific length and quality requirements. Butchers should sever the animal’s carotid arteries, jugular veins, and windpipes in the cut.
Once the animal expires and is drained of blood, the butcher must then examine its internal organs for signs of damage or disease. Any signs that the animal was not of perfect health render it treif, or not kosher. If the animal is confirmed to be kosher, the butcher must offer its cheeks, forelegs, and fourth stomach to the animal’s owner. Kosher butchering then involves stripping the animal’s carcass of all blood vessels and soaking the remaining meat in water or curing it in salt to remove any remaining blood.
One of the most difficult procedures of kosher butchering, porging, involves the removal of the blood vessels, certain types of fat and organs, and sinew. Many butchers choose to discard the animal’s hind portions, as the forbidden fats in these areas, as well as the prohibited sciatic nerve, are difficult to remove. Once all these requirements are, the remaining meat can be cut and sold as kosher groceries. https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-kosher-butchering.htm#didyouknowout

All of these rules would make sense for people who were often on the move and who didn’t have refrigeration or ways of keeping food for a long time. When you don’t live in permanent buildings, you don’t have storage space.
By the time of Jesus and the disciple, the Hebrew people were settled in towns and villages, but not much else in their the lifestyles had changed, so why did God choose this time to change the food rules? There must be a deeper meaning to this blanket full of creatures. Refrigeration had still not been invented, so why the change?
First, remember that these new rules appeared in a vision. The Book of Acts has several instances of visions. As Stephen was being stoned, he had a vision of heaven opening before him. Saul has a vision of Jesus appearing to him o the way to Damascus. Saul/Paul has visions directing him when and where to travel. Generally, visions in Acts mean that God is revealing something about specific people and places and God’s plans for them. (New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol X, p. 163)
Second, remember that Cornelius all so had a vision—God is totally comfortable communicating with Gentiles as well as Jews. Peter’s later declaration that God is “Lord of all” is a lesson not only for Peter, but a reminder to us.
At the time of this story, the disciples had been traveling beyond Jerusalem, spreading the news not only among Jewish communities, but also with Gentile people who were curious or open or who already believed in God.
Cornelius was one of those people. 10 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, who was the captain of a group of soldiers called “The Italian Unit.” 2 Cornelius was a very religious man. He worshiped God, and so did everyone else who lived in his house. He had given a lot of money to the poor and was always praying to God.

When Peter entered Cornelius’ home, he finally understood what his vision meant:
“Now I am certain that God treats all people alike.” By sharing the Easter story with Cornelius, Peter showed that God’s gift of salvation is for all people.
For Peter to enter Cornelius’ home is a minor miracle. A year before that, he would not have entered a Gentile home. One of the ways that the Hebrew people maintained their heritage was by not socializing in any way with Gentile people. That included not shopping in Gentile shops, not participating in any events with Gentile people, not making friends with Gentile people. Yet, Gentiles like Cornelius had somehow learned about God and worshipped God, and in their own ways, witnessed on behalf of God to their own households.
I used to think that God pretty much ignored a great number of his created people by focusing on the Hebrew nation. But in fact, God has always walked among all his people. The Bible tells us a part of the story of God’s presence in the world, but it does not tell the whole story.
As with the Great Commission that we studied last Sunday, we have to be careful about how we see our role in spreading the Gospel. Notice that Peter was invited by Cornelius through God’s intervention. Peter did not go barging into his home; he was invited.
Previously, he would have never have entered Cornelius’ home, never have spent time talking with him. Now, face to face, one on one, he shares the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
When I think of the various ways God’s people have shared the word of God, I think of ways that were successful and would surely have earned Jesus’ stamp of approval, and I think of ways that must have made Jesus weep.
When Spain and Portugal colonized South America, they sent missionaries. But they also sent soldiers. In some instances, the indigenous people were threatened, forced, coerced, to take on a new faith. In other cases, the priests immersed themselves in the lives of the people, and from their own example and confession, around the super table, in the morning labors, they shared the story and through their compassion and passion, they made the story of Jesus so compelling that it became a part of the culture. Much culture has been destroyed in the name of colonization, and much of that colonization claimed the name of Jesus, when it was actually using European empire building as its motivating force.
The same happened in North America. One example I’m familiar with is the many indigenous Native American cultures that were obliterated in the name of Christianity. My college roommate’s dad was a pastor. He never got the greatest calls, if you count a nice parsonage and a fancy church building as perks of being a pastor. He was sent to places that needed more than a Sunday sermon. One of these places was Oaks, Oklahoma. The call he received was to an Indian School. Some Indian schools were designed to ‘re-educate’ Indian children to become white in as many ways as possible. There were schools like this all over the western part of the country. Children were removed from their parents, their homes, from all that was a part of them, to be educated in schools that would teach them American culture. The Oaks Indian Mission was the descendant of missionary work started by the Moravians in 1801 among the Cherokee Nations. When the Cherokee tribes were forced, on the infamous Trail of Tears, to relocate in Oklahoma, the Moravians accompanied them and reestablished their mission in Oaks. In 1902, the Danish Lutheran Church took over leadership and the school remains a Lutheran mission today. My roommate was married in the chapel there and we stayed in the dorms. It was not a very glamorous place, but God doesn’t need glamor. (FYI, A wonderful place to learn about the Indian schools is at the Hurd Museum in Phoenix, AZ. Next time you travel to AZ, check it out.)
So, what’s my point? Bloom where you are planted. You have within you the seed of the Good News. And you know what you don’t know: You don’t know who is fertile ground, you don’t know who is longing for something that is missing in their lives. You don’t know who does or doesn’t love Jesus. You don’t know who does or does not wish for a relationship with Jesus. You don’t know who is or isn’t trying to figure out how to make the God a part of their lives.
It’s no secret that hating people is a popular pastime in this country. An acquaintance of mine had some interesting posts on Facebook yesterday. Apparently, a friend had been kicked off Facebook for hate speech. I did not see the original post, but it must have included something about killing Muslims. Why is it wrong to promote killing Muslims? Why did Facebook nail this guy? Since Facebook is in the public domain, let me post parts of the conversation:
X: My friend is in Facebook “jail”… My list of ‘convicted’ friends (without a trial) is getting longer!
Y: You don’t have to tell me but… what [did] he do

X: LOL. He said something bad about a certain group of people murdering their own……… Apparently pondering the ceasing of breathability of a group of facing east worshippers, because they want to cease the breathability of anyone who faces west is not ok with the jury(?) at fb
Y: Let’s be sure to throw a Welcome Back party
Z:Been there, done that, 5 times. Just start an alternate page, but, behave in that one.
In other words, continue to encourage others to hate Muslims (or gays or Hispanics or blacks or Jews—pick your target) was the message to the group.
That conversation breaks my heart. But I know and you know that those kinds of conversations are not uncommon. You’ve probably heard some. By the way, I know those most of the people in that conversation were confirmed in the Christian church.
Did you ever notice that all through the Old Testament, God didn’t destroy every non-Jewish person? The Hebrew people destroyed quite a few in the name of God—-I think I looked up the number one time—-around two million. But why didn’t God destroy everybody who prayed “facing east?” Why did’t God destroy everybody who worshipped Baal or Osiris or Artemis? Who knows? But maybe God was waiting for the right time and the right people to come together so that the Good News could be shared in the same manner that Jesus and all his disciples shared the good news, just as Cornelius and Peter came together at the right time and the right place
I mentioned last Sunday that I had listened to a discussion led by a pastor of an Asian-Christian church in Minnesota. He was ready to baptize a Muslim woman who probably had a clearer understanding of who Jesus is than many Christians.
So, what do we do? You decide. Do you hate or do you love? (You can’t do both.) Are you patient or is God too slow? You decide. But you can’t sit on your hands. Someone is waiting to hear about Jesus from you. Amen.