Our Story is a Widening Circle

The story of Peter and Cornelius powerful. As important as the story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection is to our personal spiritual, Christian lives, this story from Acts 10-11 is four our lives together as the church, offering powerful insights into the significance of inclusivity and divine revelation.

The early church faced a crucial question as Christianity began to spread: Must one adopt Jewish practices to follow Christ? This struggle unfolded against the backdrop of this story. Cornelius, a Roman centurion, a gentile, an agent of the empire, sought to follow God. In a vision, Cornelius is instructed to seek out Peter, while simultaneously, Peter experiences a transformative revelation that challenges his deeply ingrained beliefs and customs.

In this vivid encounter, Peter witnesses a vision of a sheet descending from heaven, bearing a variety of animals considered unclean according to Jewish law. A voice commands Peter to eat, but he resists, holding fast to his religious obligations, the way he understood God wanted things to be. However, the voice persists, repeating the message three times, paralleling Peter's earlier denials of Jesus (Luke 22), and the risen Christ's triple questioning of Peter's love for him (John 21).  God prepares us for what God is preparing for us. In this ritual of repeated words and food, Peter is, once again, converted. He gets it. Peter comprehends that God is ushering in a new era, transcending the previous restrictions and embracing all people, regardless of their cultural or religious background. "I don't call anyone unclean or profane!" (Acts 10:28)

The story of Peter and Cornelius compels us to reflect on our collective journey as a faith community. Throughout history, we have often struggled with issues of inclusion and acceptance, particularly when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. At times, we have distanced ourselves, demanding conformity or setting conditions, based on prjudice and fear, for acceptance. Such practices contradict the very essence of the Gospel and the ever-widening circle of the early church.

It is vital for us to grasp the profound message embedded within this narrative. To those in the LGBTQIA+ community, we affirm unequivocally that you are cherished and accepted as you are. Who god has created you to be.

We continue to commit ourselves to working together for a transformed world. We must relinquish our inclination to categorize, judge, and exclude. Instead, we are called to extend love and acceptance to all, without reservation or precondition.

There's a wisdom story that's told of a master who was with his disciples and his question to them was, "How do we know when the night is over and day has arrived?"

One of the disciples said, here's how we know -  if I can look at a house and I know that whether that house is my own or the house of my neighbor.  

Someone else raised their hand and said, well, here's how you know it's gone from night to day if, when you see an animal, you can tell whether that's your animal or the animal of your neighbor.

Another disciple raised his hand and said, you can tell it is day when you can see a plant or a flower and be able to identify and understand what that plant or flower is.

The master threw up his hands and thundered, "Why must you see only in separations, only in distinctions, only in disjunctions. No. Night is over and day arrives when you look into the face of the person beside you and you can see that she is your sister, he is your brother, That you belong to each other. That you are one. Then, and only then, will you know that night has ended and day has arrived.” (https://philipchircop.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/when-night-ends-and-dawn-arrives/)

We live into that. We practice. We practice as communities of faith. We practice at this table where all are invited. We practice and we live in to that ever widening circle.

(This post is from the transcipt of the sermon Pastor Jason delivered on June 4, 2023 and subsequently edited by him with the help of ChatGPT to format for writtenf orm.)

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