Summary: Erasing the excuses for being exclusive.

Today is National Ice Cream Day.

Did you know that when ice cream was invented the Quakers thought it was sinful. According to them it had to be sinful. Nothing could taste that good and not be sinful!

That kind of sums up the perspective of a lot of Christ followers. If anything is fun - it must be sinful.

I think the Apostle Peter was in this kind of a rut. God was trying to teach him a very important spiritual lesson through the dream we just read in Acts 10.

But Peter was so set in his ways he didn’t want the Word of God to interfere with his opinion. Ever had that problem? We all have.

Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot, was flying an F-86 Sabre over a lake in the Sierras when he decided to buzz a friend’s house near the edge of the lake. During a slow roll, he suddenly felt his aileron lock. Says Yeager, "It was a hairy moment, flying about 150 feet off the ground and upside down."

A lesser pilot might have panicked with fatal results, but Yeager let off on the G’s, pushed up the nose, and sure enough, the aileron unlocked. Climbing to 15,000 feet, where it was safer, Yeager tried the maneuver again. Every time he rolled, the problem recurred.

Yeager knew three or four pilots had died under similar circumstances, but to date, investigators were puzzled as to the source of the Sabre’s fatal flaw. Yeager went to his superior with a report, and the inspectors went to work. They found that a bolt on the aileron cylinder was installed upside down.

Eventually, the culprit was found in a North American plant. He was an older man on the assembly line who ignored instructions about how to insert that bolt, because, by golly, he knew that bolts were supposed to be placed head up, not head down. In a sad commentary, Yeager says that "nobody ever told the man how many pilots he had killed." (From "Yeager" by Chuck Yeager, Bantam, 1985)

I wonder how much of the work of God I have killed by not listening to God; thinking I already had all the answers. Like Peter, I’m stubborn, obstinate, and down right hardheaded sometimes when it comes to change.

But then again, some of you are too.

So here’s some handy help from the Word of God for our problem. I’m talking about THE PROBLEM OF BEING EXCLUSIVE WITH THE GOSPEL INSTEAD OF INCLUSIVE.

I call this sermon TABLE MANNERS, or "erasing the excuses for being exclusive".


My wife tells me in the Julia Roberts video "Notting Hill", one lady in the movie is a "fruitarian". You know, like a vegetarian, only she just eats fruit. Not only does she just eat fruit, but she only eats fruit that has fallen off the tree. According to the character in the movie, if you pluck the fruit off the tree you have murdered it. Obviously, the lady was comically absurd.

But I wonder how absurd we are sometimes when we make distinctions about the people God wants us to let into our lives.

The entire story we read from scripture is obviously about God GETTING THE GOOD NEWS TO THE GENTILES. Cornelius represents the Gentiles. But the Jews didn’t have anything to do with Gentiles in spiritual matters. Gentiles were outside the covenant promises of God.

What God is trying to get the Jewish Christians to see is that He wanted the Gentiles inside the covenant. FURTHERMORE, THE GENTILES NEED NOT ADHERE TO JEWISH CEREMONIAL LAW to have a relationship with God!

In Peter’s dream, God keeps putting all kinds of meats on his plate that were ceremonially unclean to an Orthodox Jew. PETER THOUGHT HE WAS BEING RIGHTEOUS WHEN HE SAID "NO" TO GOD! How ironic.

God had to repeat the message three times. It’s as if He is saying to Peter, "Hey Petey, it’s me, God. I’m the one who made up the rules, remember?"

Folks, if God puts it on your plate, eat it. I mean, if God puts someone in your life, like He was putting Cornelius in Peter’s life - then share the Good News with them!

Second Table Manner: DON’T BE RUDE TO YOUR GUESTS.

One of my favorite old classic movies is "To Kill A Mockingbird" with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. At one point in the movie his daughter Scout makes fun of the way Walter, a country boy eating at the Finch table, pours syrup over everything on his plate. She is severely reprimanded for this episode and taught a very important lesson. The housekeeper, Calpurnia, says to Scout: "That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him you hear? And if you can’t act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here in the kitchen." Scout is sent back to the table with a smack on her rear.

Sometimes people’s feelings are more important than our traditions!

We’ve been taught so well not to "conform" to the world that we often isolate ourselves from the people in it. The truth is, ISOLATION IS JUST AS SINFUL AS CONFORMITY!

When we ignore or treat badly people who have not yet received Christ we are failing to follow Christ’s model.

Jesus did it properly. He went to the homes of publicans and sinners and ate with them. The whole time the "super-righteous" were scorning Him for keeping company with sinners. He replied, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Luke 5:31,32 NKJV)

There was a court jester who served the Caliph at Baghdad and his court, keeping them amused whenever they called on him. One day he offended the caliph. For his impertinence, the caliph ordered that he be put to death.

"However", said the ruler, "in consideration of your many years of service, I’ll let you decide how to die."

"If it’s all the same to you," replied the jester, "I choose death by old age."

Folks, some things we don’t get to choose.

You can’t always choose the people God sends into your life with whom He wants you to share the Good News.

We can’t just choose folks who dress like us and talk like us and look like us and act like us. THE GOOD NEWS IS FOR EVERYBODY - WHETHER THEY’RE LIKE US OR NOT!

Third table manner: DON’T HOG THE FOOD!

Everybody is hungry for the Good News about Jesus! Some folks just don’t know that’s what they’re hungry for; all they know is, they’re hungry. They try to satisfy their hunger with a million different diets but only one soul food will do.

Christ follower, do you remember what it felt like to be lost? Before God found you. Do you remember wondering "where did I come from?", "why am I here?", and "where am I going?"

I remember. I remember the hunger. And every time I remember the hunger I think about those who are still hungry.

Don’t hog the food. Sometimes we neglect being around other people because we conclude we don’t really need them. Well they need us!

Peter may have thought he didn’t need Cornelius, but Cornelius needed Peter!

With so many disconnected people in our world today somebody’s got to take the initiative. And since God took the initiative with us, we now have the security to take it with others.

I suppose you were inundated with the barrage of privacy statements in the mail last month like we were at our house. According to recent governmental regulations, every business has to have a "privacy statement". Naturally, we all want to safeguard certain facts about our lives. Financial records, etc. We don’t want just everyone putting us on their mailing lists.

I understand the motivation behind this move, but I just couldn’t help feeling a little more "disconnected". I wish we lived in Mayberry where you didn’t have to lock the doors and the sherriff didn’t carry a gun. But that, of course, is not possible.

Which brings me to the fourth table manner: SCOOT OVER AND MAKE MORE ROOM AROUND THE TABLE!

It’s not possible to have an open society anymore. But it is possible to get behind the privacy walls people are building.

It takes letting them know they "belong". Cornelius and the Gentiles had a place at God’s table. What a remarkable day this was in the history of the church - very similar to the importance of the Day of Pentecost!

We need to repeat this scene over and over again!

Call this "pre-evangelism" if you want to. But when people who know God begin showing His love to others they will want to eat of the spiritual food that is Christ!

Who is the Cornelius in your life? Will you ask God to give you a fresh perspective about reaching your Cornelius with the Good News?

Perhaps you are a Cornelius yourself. If you are, there’s plenty of room around the table for you!

Jesus says, "Come and eat." (John 21:12)