Sunday, May 23, 2010

This Is Happening Now

Acts 2: 1-21, page 771

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd; “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
My daughter Lily is a year old now, so she is starting to say a few words. Her favorite word is “dog,” and she really likes to use it a lot. We have three dogs at home, and every time she sees one comes into the house she points and says, “dog” to make sure we know.
She really seems to enjoy pointing out dogs to us, but it seems as though she doesn’t completely understand how to use the word “dog,” as she will point and say “dog” whether she’s at the zoo and pointing at an elephant, whether she’s on a walk down our street and sees a squirrel, and this past Monday morning when we woke up to find a flock of 40 pink plastic flamingoes in our front yard, she seemed to think that they were all dogs too.
This morning inserted in your bulletin is the story of these flamingoes. As a fund raising technique, Katie Gomola Arnold, our Coordinator for Christian Education and Student Ministries, and several of the High School students and adult volunteers she works with have been placing these 40 pink flamingoes in the front yards of several members of this congregation. It’s a fund raising event because once they are in your yard you have to pay to get rid of them. It’s nice though because you can then pick whose yard they will go to next.
But even once you are rid of the flamingoes, you still have to explain a few things to your neighbors, as no matter where you live, 40 pink flamingoes are not often seen in someone’s front yard.
I have been explaining to people in my neighborhood their appearance for the last week:
“No, I didn’t put them there on purpose.”
“Yes, I promise, they won’t be back.”
“Yes, they really were put there by people from my church.”
“Yes, really, I am a minister.”
To which I have often asked: “Why do you look so surprised?”
It been nice living somewhere where no one knows that I’m a minister – I get treated just like a regular person – but now, all that is over. The time of keeping my faith quiet is gone – and the more I think about it, the more I thank God for that – because when you keep your faith to yourself, it can’t spread to anyone else.
“When the day of Pentecost came,” our scripture lesson reads, “they were all together in one place.”
We may assume that they were all together in the same room that Jesus had left them in. They just stayed right in that room, and the gospel stayed right there in that room with them.
I imagine that they had started to get comfortable there – and maybe they even got a little bored so one day Peter says as it goes in chapter 1, “Why don’t we elect a new disciple to replace Judas? We don’t really have anything else to do – we can get to making disciples of all nations later.”
And so it is with the church – rather than get right to the work that Christ called us to, we too often just keep ourselves busy.
It’s not that we waste our time – after all, it says in Psalms that there should be twelve disciples, so another had to be selected.
The same is true with our church - It is important to decide what to do with the house on the new property, it’s important to call a new pastor to this church, we need to spend some of our time in meetings and things – but we can never forget that we were not called by Christ for meetings, we were not called by Christ to dedicate ourselves to property management, administration, or book-keeping – we are called by Christ to make disciples of all nations!
So while they were busy taking care of the day to day proceedings of life in their little room, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole area where they were sitting – the disciples saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
They then went out from that room declaring the wonders of God to all those visiting Jerusalem – yes – some thought they were just drunk – but those who heard the gospel went back to their homes across the seas changed.
That same blowing wind is what we celebrate today.
As those same tongues of fire have descended upon us.
We have been given the gift of speech – that we might declare the wonders of God to our neighbors.
It is to this work that we are called, for we have been given the truth – that in Christ Jesus we have become a new creation – and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
We cannot keep this good news to ourselves.
We cannot keep this church a secret.
We must be like the disciples – proclaiming the mighty works of God to our friends, our families, and our neighbors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Am Coming Soon

Revelation 22: 12-21, page 879
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what they have done.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let those who hear say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds anything to them, God will add the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from their share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
For the last 5 years, and now into the 6th, Sara and I have not missed an episode of the TV series “Lost.” This series is now into its 6th and final season, and in all the show’s many twists and turns, what has most captivated me has been the characters.
Having begun the show as a group of survivors from an airplane crash on an island, the characters have grown and changed to become, in some cases, better, more mature and well rounded people. Some folks have died and gone on, some folks have died and stuck around, and one character, for what viewers assume has been the past few hundred years, has not died or shown any sign of aging.
This character is named Richard, and I guess he’s been given eternal life on this very strange island.
While every other character on this island is continually trying to get something accomplished – half the characters are trying their hardest to escape the Island at this point in the series while the other half is trying to stop this group from leaving – it’s hard to figure out which side Richard is on. In fact, for most of the show’s six seasons he hasn’t been too concerned with much of anything. Richard has been spared the relentless drive to escape the Island that the survivors of the airplane crash have been consumed with, and I suppose that makes sense – Richard doesn’t have to worry about the passing of one day into another, he doesn’t have to worry about what he’s missing being stuck on that island away from family and friends – he doesn’t age, and we viewers assume that he cannot die.
Immortal then, his life has lost the same kind of urgency that the other characters have.
This kind of problem, some would say, is a common occurrence among teenagers. The feeling that all of their life lies ahead of them leaves some teenagers without any urgency and anything pressing can be put off until later.
This is a concern you parents have for your children, especially those of you starting college.
Your parents worry that you’ll ask yourself: Why should I worry?
Why not go to this party – I’ll have time to study later.
Why do laundry now? There will be time to do laundry tomorrow – and this is where there can be no finger pointing at teenagers as at some time or another we have all said, “There will be time to do laundry tomorrow.”
We must therefore take heed of our scripture lesson for today: Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
I don’t mean to make light of today’s scripture lesson – but that is what the lesson says. And while most of what this strange book of scripture offers modern readers is interpreted symbolically, I do want to take some of what the author offers us as literally as possible.
We can certainly read this line about “those who wash their robes” as an illusion to those who have been washed in the waters of baptism, those who have washed their robes in the blood of martyrdom, those who have washed their souls with a spirit of purity and repentance; however we read it I can’t think of any better image to think of the process of salvation than a never ending mountain of laundry – one that as soon as you think you are finished, as soon as you have sat down to rest in the satisfaction of completion, magically builds itself back up again.
Once we think we have become good enough, once we assume we have defeated the temptation to envy our neighbors a new boat pulls into the driveway and we are consumed with jealousy. Once we assume we have learned to forgive something hurts so bad we find that we’re not man or woman enough to let it go. Once we get that pile of laundry down to size, it builds itself back up again.
Our scripture lesson for today is a challenging piece of scripture. It wakes us in the middle of our relaxed slumber with immediacy, kicks us awake from any assurance that tomorrow will come – and as we rub our eyes it pulls away our blanket of certain salvation as it causes the uncertain voices in the back of our heads to wonder – “will I be welcomed into the city, will I be given entrance to the tree of life?”
Have I done enough to have distinguished myself from the dogs?
When Christ comes, when this life is over, will I be welcomed into the Kingdom?
If you are looking for the assurance that you will, don’t look for it here.
And if you are looking for the comfort of God’s grace and constant love, don’t look for it here in Revelation as in the place of those warm blankets of promised salvation and undying love the author of Revelation gives us vengeance and wrath to wake us up from the comfort that plagues us.
As though we were immortal, too often we assume that there will always be a tomorrow to take care of what needs to be done.
As though we were immortal, we squander our time with our TVs as though time grew on trees.
But here is Revelation with the truth like a bucket of cold water – in the place of tomorrow may come the end.
We have no guarantee that death will not come like a thief in the night, but blessed are those who wash their robes. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
Blessed are those who have not waited to do what can be done today.
Blessed are those who have not put off reconciliation with the assumption that they’ll have plenty of time to make amends tomorrow.
Blessed are those who have not postponed friendship with the belief that there will be plenty of time for friends later.
Blessed are those who have not put off repentance with the assumption that tomorrow will be anew day to do right so I might as well do wrong again today.
Blessed are those parents who have not let time with their children slip away, as they are growing up and if you don’t say what you need to say now when are you going to say it?
Blessed are those who have not put off forgiveness or kind words – blessed are those who have not waited to say what they need to say – as just yesterday came again the cruel reminder that the end will come for us all – and if you haven’t said what you needed to say today, you may not be able to say it tomorrow.
Blessed are those who wash their robes – for salvation – like laundry is not a destination, not something you can do and be done with – but like laundry is a never ending journey, doing what is right is a process that greets us each day. Don’t put it off, but seize this day, as Christ is coming for us all.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Come and Stay at My House

Acts 16: 9-15, page 784
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God.
The Lord opened up her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
I wasn’t sure that this was the right passage for mother’s day until I got to the last four words and I realized it was the perfect passage for mother’s day.
“And she persuaded us,” ends our passage, leading us to believe that Paul and the others needed to be persuaded.
As though he was 17 years old and his mother asked, “Have you applied to college yet?”
“No Mom, but I will soon.”
The next day comes the same question, “have you applied to college yet, because it’s about time for you to.”
“I know Mom, I will soon.”
“I know you’re 17 son but I brought you in this world and if you don’t apply for college today with this wooden spoon I will take you out.” And she persuaded us.
It works for grandmothers too – “Honey, are you hungry.”
“No ma’am, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes ma’am, I just ate 20 minutes ago.”
“We’ll I’m just going to put out a little pimento cheese, doesn’t that sound good…. And she persuaded us.”
In our passage for today Paul is reluctant to stay at Lydia’s house – but she didn’t have to persuade him because he was trying to avoid applying for college or because he had already eaten and already had a place to stay. If we really think about it, the reason for his reluctance is obvious – he was concerned about what people would say.
It was only a few decades ago that it became acceptable for single women to go out by themselves, and certainly no single woman would ride in a car with another man because the whole town would be talking. Still today, who you are with from the opposite sex, who you sit with at lunch, who you ride home with from school, all have significant social ramifications – because people love to talk.
Surely in the ancient world the stakes were higher and the Apostle Paul was not about to take lightly this offer from Lydia, as his response would have dramatic ramifications for how he and his message would be received.
He couldn’t just go spending the night in anyone’s house – especially at the invitation of a woman – people would talk. But more than that, he couldn’t just go spending the night at this woman’s house –as about her we can safely assume that people were already talking.
Lydia’s husband isn’t mentioned in this passage; we may assume that she is divorced or widowed but has refused to re-marry, not something socially acceptable at the time; or that she never married which would have been even less socially acceptable as only “that” kind of girl never married. As though things couldn’t get any more scandalous, she also wasn’t poor, living on the street, but by her household showed the whole town that no woman need depend on a husband for survival. More than that, we may even assume that she was rich running this purple cloth business – purple being the color of royalty, the color of Cleopatra, the color of the rich and famous.
She was not the kind of person accepted at the time, and she was surely not the kind of person who Paul ever associated with.
We may even go so far to assume that she is worshiping God by the river at this place of prayer because the Synagogue in this city refused to let her join.
“What would they say,” Paul must have been asking himself.
“Will this be the end of the Gospel? Will this be the end of my reputation?”
And she persuaded us.
Accepting this kind of gift changes you – and when Paul accepted this gift it most certainly changed him and shaped the gospel forever. Lydia was the first convert of Europe – and we all know today that Europe became Christianity’s center after the fall of the Roman Empire – that Lydia was the beginning of a movement of mass conversions, timeless theologies, and breath-taking cathedrals.
So often it is that the greatest of gifts, the gifts that really matter, that really count, that really make a difference, are accepted with such reluctance.
Our friend Steve Ramey told us a story last Thursday as we were wrapping up our Men’s Bible Study on this passage. He said that he grew up in the kind of place where nobody had much but some had less than others. He lived there with his maternal grandmother, and across the street in a home smaller than his own lived his maternal great-grandmother.
On the day Steve left home for Vietnam he left the house with his grandmother and his great-grandmother came out to say good-bye.
She held out a closed hand and said, “Take this, because I’m afraid I’m never going to see you again.”
“Now don’t you worry about me great-grandma. I’ll outrun those bullets and you’ll see me when I come home safe and sound,” Steve said.
“No honey. You take this because I’m never going to see you again.”
Steve held out his hand to accept a five dollar bill. Money that he knew his great-grandmother needed as she lived on $67 a month.
“Now don’t you worry about me great-grandma. They’re going to feed me and give me clothes. You don’t need to worry about me,” Steve said.
“No honey. You take this because I’m never going to see you again.”
She died three months before Steve returned home from Vietnam, and while it’s been a few years since then, Steve is still not the kind of man that I would cross, but as he told this story his eyes welled up with tears, because sometimes the greatest gifts, the kind that last and make a difference, are those given in love that for whatever reason, we accept reluctantly.
Paul was worried about what accepting Lydia’s gift would mean, but she would not be taking no for an answer, “And she persuaded us.”
Years later when Paul wrote to the thriving church that rose up from the foundation of baptisms that day at the river he wrote: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident with this, that the one who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
In no other place does Paul write with such love, as though his eyes were welling up with tears from the memory of Lydia’s gift.
A gift given, and accepted reluctantly, like so many gifts that we remember on this Mother’s Day.
Gifts of forgiveness so profound that they can only be described as modeling the grace of Christ.
Gifts of love so pure and true that they warm our souls on cold nights of loneliness, despair, and disappointment.
Gifts of acceptance that convince us of our worth, and are the fuel that takes us out into the world to face each day’s challenge.
Gifts given, and accepted reluctantly – like Christ’s forgiveness offered though we could never deserve it, his love poured out as his own blood was poured out for you, his acceptance given to you in your baptism with water and the words, “You are mine, whom I love, and with you I am well pleased.”
Accept these gifts. Be persuaded to accept these gifts.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Peter Explains His Actions

Acts 11: 1-18, page 779
The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“The voice spoke from heaven a second time. ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
“Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit cam on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as God gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
In a sermon series by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. titled “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” Dr. King assumed that “the mere fact we are at church might affirm that we believe in God, but we must remember that it’s possible affirm God’s existence with your lips, but deny God’s existence with your life. Churches are full of people who are willing to serve lip-service to God but aren’t willing to pay any life-service.”
Our first scripture lesson from the Gospel of John is one of those passages that all of us here present today would agree with: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” But I am convinced, that while we would all agree with this passage with our lips, from my own personal experience I am convinced also that we all have disagreed with this passage at some point or another in our actions.
Rather than just leave Jesus’ words at “love one another,” we have re-translated his words to something like, “love all the nice folks, but keep the dangerous ones as far away as possible,” or “love the ones who are in my family, the ones who have become my friends, but keep everyone else at a distance,” or “be open to the idea of loving the ones who look like me and talk like me, but as for everyone who looks different…maybe I’ll just be polite to them.”
What we lose by our re-translation of Jesus’ words is the essence of the gospel; what we miss out on is the chance to see incredible things happen in our lives.
The year after I graduated college and before I started seminary, I worked for a high-end lawn maintenance company. Sara and I had just gotten married. Somehow we convinced her parents that marriage was a good idea – I was after all making $7.50 cents per hour.
One morning I remember distinctly. I was approaching the shop a few minutes before 7 and I noticed that the car in front of me hit a rabbit and killed it. I didn’t think much about it, pulled into my normal parking spot and started loading up the lawn mowers, weed-eaters, and edgers on the truck I was assigned to drive like I did every day, when one of the guys on my crew rode up on his bicycle with one hand on the handle bar and the other holding that dead rabbit by the back legs.
Before he would help me finish loading up the truck he wanted to clean that rabbit, and somehow or another he convinced me that it would be a good use of our time to stop by his apartment on our way to our first job so he could put the rabbit in his refrigerator.
I had never seen anyone clean a rabbit, but I’ve grown up removed from agrarian culture. I’d never shot a gun before last week when Charlie Black taught me how, and I didn’t know folks still ate rabbit before that guy on my crew from a rural town on the gulf side of Mexico convinced me to stop by his apartment.
I guess all that happened on a Tuesday, and at the end of the day on Friday my friend with the rabbit invited me back to his apartment for a beer and something to eat. I was too polite to refuse, but was pleasantly surprised to see that steak tacos were on the menu and not rabbit enchiladas.
I was also surprised to see that not only my coworker but five other guys from the company all lived in that little one bedroom apartment, the same size as the one Sara and I shared. I was invited to sit on one of the coveted couch seats, and by the end of the afternoon my name was no longer Joe Evans, it was Bolio, don’t be impressed. Bolio is just slang for “white bread.”
Peter also knew what it meant to be given a new name. If you look into the preceding chapter of Acts you’ll see that as Peter debated with himself to go or not to go, to eat food that he wasn’t used to eating or not, to listen to the Holy Spirit or ignore it, he is referred to interchangeably as Simon, the name he was given at birth, and Peter, the name given to him by Christ.
As he is faced with an uncomfortable situation he vacillates between the two names as though he were deciding who he would become – Simon, one who paid lip-service to the gospel, or Peter, one who paid life-service.
It doesn’t seem like that big a stretch now, but at the time, what Peter was willing to do was radical. It wasn’t just as though he was sacrificing his popularity by changing tables in a high school cafeteria, he was breaking away from what he had always been taught, throwing away generations upon generations of tradition. We may assume from the day he was born he was taught the Mosaic Laws of diet, cleanliness, and social discipline, not as a matter of convenience, but as his life – follow these laws and you will live long and prosper in the land that I am giving you, says the Lord your God.
We may also assume that among these apostles and brothers throughout Judea who wanted Peter to explain his radical actions there was one or two who whispered to each other, “It sure is a blessing that his mother isn’t here to see this. Gone into the house of uncircumcised men, sitting down to supper. What’s next Simon Peter, eating out of a dog bowl?”
Up until this point there were Gentile converts but they had to first become Jews before they could become Christians – the men would be circumcised before they could be baptized; so what Peter was proposing is that there need not only be Jewish Christians – that these Romans don’t need to become Jews, they can stay Roman and be Roman Christians.
That crowd had reason for concern – Peter was breaking with tradition, but it wasn’t just tradition, he was breaking the Law – the Law that made the Jews a unique people who could preserve their culture despite generations of living in a foreign land. Peter was compromising his values, and I would think that there would have been more than one in that crowd who questioned his actions who were saying: “Peter you are playing with fire.”
To which I know he would have replied, “I know it, but don’t you see, it’s Pentecostal Fire! And the boundaries that once separated us have been burned down by its flames.”
This is a radical word for us today, not because we aren’t Christian, but because in addition to being Christian we are also members of a particular culture.
So we have a little bit of trouble with the idea of Homeless Christians, not because we believe that Christ came for us and not them, but because it would make us more comfortable if before homeless folks join our church they’d clean up a little and dress the way we dress.
So are we doing cotillion here, or are we doing church?
For the same reason we have trouble with the idea of Illegal Christians, not because we believe that the Gospel is too good for them, but because their residency here stretches our resources, slows our schools, and changes our towns, so before illegal immigrants join our church we’d at least like them to get their papers in order and learn our language.
But are we about making citizens or are we about making Christians?
And we have trouble with the idea of Homosexual Christians, not because we believe that they’re not Children of God, but before Gays and Lesbians join our church we’d like for them to adopt our life-style and turn their back on their homosexuality.
Peter stood alone before the Apostles that day, not because those apostles were disappointed that the Gospel was spreading, but because his actions brought up an uncomfortable question: Did Christ send us out to make Jews of all the nations or Christians?
And Peter brings that same question to us today: are we willing to give up some of the standards of our culture for the good of the Gospel?
Last Sunday the Sunday School class who meets at 11:00 took this question seriously at the encouragement of Gwen McDonald. She offered everyone in the class fudge, cream cheese squares, and chocolate chip cookies, but not to eat themselves. She charged them to go out and to give those delicious treats to someone else saying, “How often do you eat with someone who is not like you.” So off they went to fire departments, police departments, and check-out lines throughout our area, giving different kinds of folks something good to eat and inviting them to our church.
The world would prefer that we didn’t do this kind of thing as some laws work better when people whom the world has called different stay away from each other, never sitting down together at table.
The Law would not allow it, but the Gospel demands it – it must spread like the fire of the Pentecost – out into the whole world, out to all God’s people.