Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter – Acts 10:34-48

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

When I was graduated from the seminary, I thought I knew a great deal. I had studied and studied for years. I had become very good at passing tests, writing papers, and telling professors what they wanted to hear. But in truth I knew very little. Probably one of my biggest areas of ignorance was in just how it was that people became a Christian. My first call was to a parish in the Salt Lake City metro area of Utah. It was intensely LDS.

I tried all the programs you could imagine. We had friendship Sundays, I called on neighbors, we hosted the Ambassadors for Christ for a weekend. We advertised, expanded programing, and preached a great deal about evangelism. I don’t think I saw one person come into the congregation through those efforts. Yet, we grew. People kept coming and more arrived all the time. But they never came because of the things that I did. They never arrived because of the outreach programs or because of our activities which I strove so hard to do. They just came.

Today we see Peter at the house of Cornelius. He is clearly uncomfortable. Peter thought he had this figured out. God loved people who kept the Torah and welcomed them, even if they were gentiles. But that Torah keeping was important. Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, and his family were not Torah keeping proselytes. Cornelius is about as thoroughgoing of a Roman name as you can have. Publius Cornelius Scipio was the general who defeated Hannibal two hundred years before Jesus. About 80 years before Jesus was born, the Romans fought a small civil war. The leaders of the two sides were Lucius Cornelius Cinna and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Cinna lost that war, but his daughter, Cornelia, married a fine, up-and-coming young man named Julius Caesar. Cornelius was about as Roman as you could get. Peter understood that such people could not be saved.

The Holy Spirit had a few things to teach Peter. When Peter began to tell the Jesus story the Spirit of God was poured out on these gentiles just like the first Pentecost. Peter had the openness of heart to listen to what the Spirit did that day, even though it shocked him. Look around yourself today. What is the Spirit of God up to in your life? Do what He blesses rather than asking Him to bless what you do.

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