Summary: A sermon with an emphasis on baptism.
“The Presence of the Holy Spirit”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Cornelius was a Roman officer, a Gentile, a part of the occupation, and therefore he was Peter’s enemy and his oppressor.
At the beginning of Acts 10 Cornelius was praying to God when an angel appeared to him and told him to send for Peter, which he did.
When Peter got to Cornelius’ house Peter said, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
Are there any people whom we today would call “impure or unclean”?
If so, we are to remember that God shows no favoritism—and neither should we.
It is God’s desire that all women, men and children come into relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ…
…no matter what their race…
…no matter what their past…
…no matter what they may have done to hurt us or oppress us.
I was having a conversation with someone last week when they said, “I am worried about our troops, but I don’t care a bit about the Iraqi’s.”
My reply was, “I care and am just as concerned for the Iraqi people as I am for the Americans.”
Is this not how God looks at things?
Is this not how we should look at things as well?
Cornelius was an interesting person.
He was a high officer in the Roman army sent to govern the troublesome people of Palestine.
But Cornelius had actually adopted the religion of the people he was sent to govern and he practiced that religion quite devoutly.
He had probably been raised in the Roman version of the Greek religion that had many gods, all of whom had some human failings, and all of whom could be managed by people who knew how to do it.
He was a participant in a power structure that he knew was oppressive to everyone—even to himself.
He must have found something attractive about a religion committed to the worship of one God Who made the heavens and the earth and Who was committed to justice for all.
But there was still something missing in Cornelius’ life.
He must have heard about Jesus and he must have felt a deeper sadness than most people because he had probably had to participate in the execution of many innocent people.
There must have been lots of painful feelings of guilt.
There must have been a deep yearning for some way to experience peace.
How many of us have this same yearning?
God was trying to get through to Cornelius and God is trying to get through to us as well.
God is trying to help us to answer a big question that everyone of us asks—and eventually answers—in the very center of our being.
The question is too big for words.
But if we had to put it into words, it might sound something like: “What is life really about?” or “Who am I and how do I fit into everything?”
Many of us may never in our lives have asked those exact questions in words.
But every one of us live our lives as a quest for an answer and every one of us come up with some kind of an answer…
…either for good or for bad…
…the answers we come up with shape how we live.
If you want to do something interesting—and very significant—look at the ways in which the people you know are living their lives and try to guess what kinds of answers they must have come up with to the question about the meaning of life.
Then, when you’ve gotten good at it, ask those same questions about yourself.
God wants to give us the answer to our big question…
…He wants to give us the answer so badly that He sent us His One and Only Son in order to answer the question for us.
Many people have been drawn to God through the message of Jesus Christ.
But, for one reason or another, some people cannot seem to receive it.
The rulers of Jesus’ day hated Jesus Who came to show us God’s love.
They hated Him so much that they killed Him.
And He loved them—and us—so much that, to show us how much God loves all people, He died the death we deserve.
But God wouldn’t let it stop there.
To demonstrate that Jesus does indeed show us God, God raised Jesus up out of death.
And through Jesus, we too can raise up out of death…the death of the here and now…and the death of eternity.
You remember the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep?