Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/05/16 Sermon - Nothing About God is Routine or Predictable

“Nothing About God is Routine or Predictable”

Acts 10: 23b-48

 

I would like to show a piece of United States history today. I have a clip of President Lyndon B. Johnson, speaking to Congress, in 1965, upon signing the Voting Rights Act into law, permanently barring barriers to political participation by racial and ethnic minorities, prohibiting any election practice that denies the right to vote on account of race.

(show video) https://www.aclu.org/files/VRATimeline.html?redirect=timeline-history-voting-rights-act

Who would have thought that only 43 years later, that Americans would see this:

(show video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfHbw3n0EIM

Not only would blacks be able to vote, they would be able to cast their vote for a black president, and he would win!

The barrier between black and white in this country experienced a major tearing apart. Granted, even today, prejudices continue to exist, but what a day of excitement it  must have been for the blacks who watched Barack Obama as he was sworn in as our forty-fourth president.

Today’s Scripture tells of a similar breaking down of human constructed barriers, it tells of how the Holy Spirit broke down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles. The comparison is uncanny.

Acts 10 and 11 are Luke’s storytelling which involves the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8,  

8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Spirit empowered the apostles to lead a mission that began in Jerusalem, moved out to Judea and Samaria, and on to the ends of the earth. In today’s Scripture we see the first step, out of routine and predictable, to a less judgmental and less prejudice relationship, with everyone who existed, to the ends of the earth.  

Today’s text deals with the moving out of the Jewish culture in to the lands and hearts of the Gentiles.

Combined with last week’s passages we will break down this story into seven scenes and explore how God’s message truly is inclusive, of everyone.

Scene one starts in Acts 10:1-8, where we were introduced to a Roman citizen and soldier, Cornelius. He was described as a devout man. The significant point to remember is that God was at work in Cornelius long before Peter showed up. God is the one who is doing the breaking down of barriers, not humans.

Scene two continues in Acts 10 with verses 9-16. This is where God has the more difficult task of convincing Peter to break through his prejudice. If you recall, it took three visions in order to get through to Peter. Peter, like many Americans before 1965, could not conceive those who were not of his faith and race, being at the same level as himself. God had to perform real miracles.

Scene three takes us through verses 17-23a, when the messengers of Cornelius arrived at the house where Peter was staying. What timing! Only the Holy Spirit works out the details so precisely. The Spirit was working overtime on Peter!

Scene four from the remainder of verse 23 to verse 33, we are privy to the unprecedented meeting of Peter, the rock of the Jewish Christian church and a house full of Gentiles. Just imagine what it must have been like for Peter to step through the door of a Gentile home, for the first time in his life! Much like the feeling of the first black man, in America, as he checked the box on his ballot of the person he wanted to be for his elected official.

Barriers were falling, being torn apart.

In scene five from verses 34-43, we are given Peter’s message of salvation that even he must have been surprised he was preaching. For the first time Peter equated the experience he had as a disciple of Christ, not as solely Jewish history, but historically significant for all humans, even the Gentiles.

It was almost as though, as he spoke, you could imagine, that he was understanding what Jesus had told them, for the first time.

Consider what was going through Peter’s mind as he stated verse 42 and 43,

42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him (Jesus) that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The definition of “everyone” had expanded for Peter and should be expanding for us.

Scene 6 is where today’s text is applied.

Notice the order of events:

The Word of Jesus is shared.

The Spirit works.

There were Gentiles, speaking in tongues, and praising God, Gentiles were baptized, the Kingdom of God was at hand!

This is the heart of the matter.

We will explore Scene 7 next week in chapter 11.

I hope you are able to begin to understand the amazing step that the Jewish Christians were taking as they opened the door of salvation to those outside their cultural boundaries.

Something God had planned all along.

Yet, God knows our human limitations and allows the things we need to help us overcome those limitations, and truly see and live like we are a part of his Kingdom, not limited by our worldly existence.

As we take time today to remember what it took to open the door to God’s Kingdom being present on earth, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us remember the lessons Peter showed us through this story.

1.    God is at work in us long before others show up. God is the one who is doing the breaking down of barriers, not humans.

2.    At times God has to perform real miracles, but that is what He is best at. We should expect nothing less.

3.    Only the Holy Spirit works out the details so precisely. And the Spirit is not adverse to working overtime if necessary.

4.    Barriers need to fall, and need to be torn apart and we need to be open to allow God to do so.

5.    Just like the definition of “everyone” had to be expanded for Peter we should be prepared for God to  expand our definition of who should be included. Jesus is the one God put in charge to judge his creation.

6.    Hearts are changed, not by us, but by us doing what God asks, and the order of how that is done, goes like this:

The Word of Jesus is shared.

The Spirit works.

Those we are witnessing to will begin to praise God,

Then they will be baptized,

The Kingdom of God will be experienced!

Let’s pray.