Summary: Peter's vision reveals that all people from every nation are acceptable in God's Kingdom
Acts 10:1-17, 34-35 “The Vision”
Recently a relative visited us for a few days this past year. She’d been to Surprise a few years ago and she was astonished at how Surprised had changed. Surprise had to change in order to accommodate increased population and a larger business/industrial presence. If Surprise hadn’t changed it would not be the vibrant community that it is. In fact, it would probably be a dying community.
In like manner the Church has changed and must continue to change. We are not the same as the first home based Christian groups that formed. Nor are we like the church of the Reformation, or even like the church of the 1960’s and 70’s. In our brief history as a congregation, Desert Streams has changed and we will continue to change. I dare say that each and every one of us has changed—even our walk of faith has changed. As a wise pastor once told me, “Change is a part of growth and if you are not busy growing you are busy dying.”
We may ask ourselves, Where is God in the process of change” This story of Peter and Cornelius show us that God is in, with and under the process of change.
THE CHURCH CHANGES
This passage of scripture has often been identified as the “Vision of St. Peter.” Peter’s vision is only a small part of what is happening in this story. Only verses 9-16, in the tenth chapter of Acts deals with the vision that Peter had. This chapter also has the story of Cornelius beginning at verse one, and the story of Peter and Cornelius’ meeting and their experience with the Holy Spirit from verse 23b to 48.
Notice who changes. Cornelius and his household don’t change in this story. They started out as God fearer’s--people who practiced the religious traditions of the Jews but were not circumcised--and they are still God fearers at the end of the story. It is Peter who changes. He learns that there is no longer a need to eat Kosher and that all things God has created have been created good. His view of the world also changes—he understands that God’s love and grace are for all people not for just the Jews. Peter’s change opened the doors for the gentiles to become a part of the church.
The church has continued its change.
• In the 1500’s it changed from an emphasis on working to be approved by God to living by faith in God’s overwhelming grace.
• In the 1800’s the church began to realize that its support of slavery was wrong. Just because slaves were a part of Old and New Testament times did not validate slavery in the modern day.
• In the 1960’s the church began to understand that segregation was not the manner in which God wanted races to relate to each other.
• In the early part of the 21st century the church is changing its attitude toward gays and lesbians. We have realized that we can’t use the Bible to prove that same sex relationships are either a choice or a sin.
• At the same time, the church is struggling to understand the changes in how we relate to people of other faiths.
Changes are not anti-Biblical. They do necessitate a different way of interpreting scripture. There are intense discussions on how to interpret scripture. Eventually the church looks back and can’t figure out how we believed the way we once did.
GOD USES PEOPLE TO CREATE CHANGE
It is interesting how the Holy Spirit moves in the lives of people to instigate and create change. In verse three, we have Cornelius having an angelic vision. In verse eleven we have Peter experiencing a vision of various unclean animals—three times. In verse forty-four the Holy Spirit interrupts Peter’s sermon to fill the Cornelius household with the Spirit’s presence.
I suspect that the Lord could have simply sent an angel to declare to the church leaders that they needed to change and include the gentiles in the life of the church. God did not do this, though. God used people. Throughout history, God has used people to institute and create change.
God hasn’t stopped using people. The Holy Spirit moves in us and through us. The Spirit changes us, and we change the world around us. We have great power to create change. Our words of encouragement can change a bad day into a good day for someone. Our prayers can support and strengthen others. Our efforts can feed the hungry, heal the sick and change unjust laws.
GOD GOES AHEAD AND PREPARES
I really love the way that the Holy Spirit moves preparing people for change. Between Cornelius’ vision and Peter’s vision the Spirit prepared the way for change. When Peter and Cornelius met they were prepared to experience the change. The Spirit was intimately involved in this change. Change didn’t just happen, it was planned.