Scripture: Jeremiah 33:1-3; Psalm 62:5-8; Acts 10:1-8
We need to know the stories of our faith, the stories of those who have gone before us.
We need to know the
- wonderful acts of courage,
- the acts of faith that they accomplished.
We need to
- find out who our ancestors were personally, and
- how they, like us, experienced personal struggles,
- knowing how to become a disciple, how to be and act in a way that would follow Jesus.
Even though Jesus had referred to Peter as a “rock,” sometimes that rock was not as strong as we might think it was. Most often we read about
- Peter, the great preacher,
- Peter, the one who performed miracles,
- Peter, the one who has great courage.
But Peter would continue to struggle with who he was and with whom he was to become.
When Dorcus died, it was Peter who was summoned and who came immediately. Dorcus was a part of the church. She was the equivalent of the social welfare agency for the Church and the community. She made clothes for those in need. She cared for other needs of the people. Peter rushed to her aid. He came to her home without hesitation. What followed was one of those miraculous happenings attributed with Peter. He restored her to life.
Peter decided to remain in seaport town of Joppa for a time with a friend named Simon. It is in Joppa that we find Peter in our story this morning.
Thirty-nine miles away in Caesarea there lives a Centurion named Cornelius. He is a member of the elite Italian cohort. It was the archery unit of the Roman army.
Cornelius is a man of means and a man of standing in the Roman army. He is also a devoted worshiper of Yahweh. On a day, while Cornelius was praying, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. His devotion had been acknowledged by Yahweh.
He was instructed by the angel to send for Peter in Joppa. He was told that Peter would tell him how to be a follower of Jesus. Cornelius immediately selected two of his servants and one of his trusted soldiers, who was also a devout man, and sent them to find Peter and bring him back with them.
A day passes. Peter continues his life of devotion to God. He goes up to the seating area on the roof top of Simon’s house about noon and begins to pray. He is hungry. Probably the aroma of baking food is coming up from the kitchen. Peter wants something to eat but the food is not yet ready.
Peter falls into what the writer describes as a trance. Maybe we would say that he fell into a dream-like state. In his mind he saw what looked like a hugh sheet descending from the heavens by ropes. When it settled on the rooftop, Peter saw that it contained every kind of animal and reptile and bird that one could think of.
Then Peter heard a voice saying, in today’s English, “Go to it Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter replied, “Oh no, Lord. I have never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.” The voice of God comes to him a second time, saying, “If God says it is good, it is good.” Three times Peter goes back and forth with God and then the sheet is pulled back up into the heavens. Peter was now fully awake and trying to decide what this had meant.
It was at that moment that the messengers from Cornelius arrived at the door of the house. They called out, “Is there a man named Peter staying here?” As the messengers tell Peter their story, the meaning of the vision that Peter had experienced became clear.
On the next morning, along with some of his friends, Peter sets out with the messengers for the home of Cornelius. What follows is one of the most exciting, most instructive, stories of the New Testament. It is a breakthrough of the Gospel to the Gentiles, to us.
Cornelius tells Peter what happened to him and why he has sent for Peter. He then says, “You have been good enough to come. And now, we are all here in God’s presence, ready to listen to whatever God has put in your heart to tell us.”
All of the relatives and all of the close friends of Cornelius have been called together to hear what this messenger of God will say. Peter’s message, in modern English, reads this way. Listen to what Peter says to those gathered: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from – if you want God and are ready to do as God says, the door is open. The message that God sent to the children of Israel – that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again – well, God is doing it everywhere, among everyone.”
Peter continued speaking for awhile, and when he had finished, to the amazement of the Jews who had accompanied Peter from Joppa, those Gentiles began praising the Lord and were fill with the Holy Spirit and Peter baptized them.
Those who were once considered to be on the “outside” were included in God’s grace.
Paul would later expand upon this by saying, “In God’s family there can be no division among us. All are equal. We are all in common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
Sometimes God’s vision surprises us. God sees things that we could never imagine. We often see one another through the eyes of our culture or a multitude of other descriptions. God was having none of that foolishness!
“Peter, don’t call anything that I have created unclean; Peter don’t call anyone that I have created unworthy of my forgiveness, my love, my presence within their life. Peter, don’t you dare become the judge!
In the sermon that Jesus preached there on the hillside by the Sea of Galilee, He said to the people gathered around Him, “Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrites! (Excerpts from Matthew 7:1-5)
No doubt Peter had read the words of Jeremiah that were read this morning. They are timeless words of promise.
“Ask Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things that you do not know.”
People of the 21st century, “Ask Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
Union University Church, “Ask Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
May we always be open and attentive to hear the words of God. What we hear, if we truly listen, will surely surprise us. God is up to something more wonderful than we can imagine.