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".
First of all, EAT WHAT GOD PUTS ON YOUR PLATE.
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.