Summary: This sermon compares Peter’s ministry with Cornelius in Acts 10 to the open door God is giving our congregation to be partners in ministry with a Hispanic speaking congregation.
One in the Spirit: God Shows No Partiality
On Sunday evening, January 27, 2002, Olympic gymnasts Mary Lou Retton-Kelley, Kerri Strug, and Bart Conner appeared on the Celebrity version of the TV Reality-Game Show “The Weakest Link,” along with five other famous Olympic athletes. [http://p208.ezboard.com/fccmchatfrm1.showMessage?
topicID=1657.topic]. Mary Lou won the Women’s All Round Gold Medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and Kerri Strug aced the Team All Round Gold Medal for the US at the 1996 Atlanta Games when she scored a 9.712 on her second vault after falling on her first one and badly spraining her ankle.
Kerri was “voted” off by her brother and sister athletes as “The Weakest Link” in one of the middle rounds that evening, and Mary Lou, Kerri’s inspiration to become a gymnast, also affirmed Kerri was “The Weakest Link.” That caused hostess Anne Robinson, known as “The Queen of Mean,” to comment, “Mary Lou, what about loyalty to someone very much like me?”
Even in the Church we tend to bond more quickly and easily with people that seem to be “just like us.” Notice how at our Lenten Services during the fellowship time members of each congregation in our Cluster will eat with friends from their own group rather than “mix and mingle” with people from our sister Churches.
Such tendencies are natural; we feel more comfortable with people we already know rather than being thrust into an uneasy position of making conversation with total strangers. However, oftentimes we miss out on blessings God wants to share with us because of our fear of marching into new and unfamiliar territory and making new sisters and brothers in Christ.
One regret that I have from my childhood is that I never became a Boy Scout. When our class at Marion’s McKinley Grade School reached the age the boys could become Cub Scouts and the girls Brownies, the girls had no trouble getting mothers to sponsor a Troupe, but we boys could not get anyone to serve as Den Mothers or any Dad to be our Troupe Leader.
My home Church Marion Aldersgate at the time did not sponsor a Cub Scout or Boy Scout Troupe, but First Methodist did. My Mother offered to take me to the meetings at First Methodist Church so I could have the Scouting experience, but I was too timid and shy to do so. I was scared to be in a group of boys I did not know. In Junior and Senior High School these fellows would become my classmates and friends, but I missed out on my opportunity to become a Scout, because I was afraid of venturing out to make new friends.
Soon after the Holy Spirit birthed the Church on the Day of Pentecost in Acts, Chapter Two, disciples of Jesus Christ began struggling with the problem of preferring to be in worship and ministry with people who are “a lot like us,” but they began to that our Lord Jesus shows no partiality; He plays no favorites; “He is no respecter of persons.”
This morning our Lord Jesus sets before us an open door of opportunity to enter into partnership ministry with our Illinois Great Rivers Conference Hispanic ministries as they begin a new mission outreach to our growing Hispanic community in Kankakee. Our open door of opportunity is not unlike the one He gave Peter in Acts 10 in calling him to minister in the home of the Roman Centurion Cornelius.
Cornelius, a Gentile, was not anything like Peter, a Jew. Jewish people, since the time of the Babylonian Captivity, have been the physical descendants of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, or Jacob and Rachel through either the tribe of Judah or the tribe of Benjamin. Gentiles are all the other people of the world who are not Jewish. To the Jews Gentiles are foreigners. All of us are Gentiles.
It was never God’s plan for His chosen people to exclude the Gentiles or foreigners or ever treat them with contempt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 makes it clear, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Strangers is another term for Gentiles, all non Jewish people. The Jews were to love them as God loves them, because they too had been strangers or foreigners in Egypt.
There was one area in which the Jews were to be different than the Gentiles, especially those who had dwelt in the land of Canaan before God gave it to Israel as their homeland. They were not to practice the vile, erotic, sensual, idolatrous worship of the Gentile gods. Because both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah did so; God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel in 721 B. C. and Babylon to defeat Judah in 586 B. C.