Summary: The seventh of a series through the book of Acts in the Fall 2005
It used to be that to find out who or what was ‘in’ or ‘out’ you consulted the society section of the local newspaper, or Look magazine, or a well-known celebrity reporter for the latest on whatever was deemed the latest ‘in’ and ‘out.’ Now we have the Internet to help us determine what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out.’ What is ‘cool’ and what is ‘not cool.’ What is ‘healthy’ and what is not ‘healthy.’
This is proven in a recent e-mail that I received from someone who ‘forwarded’ it to me. (I have edited it for time and content.)
I want to thank all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me your chain letters over the past two years. Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed, and wealthy.
Because of your concern... I no longer can drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains. I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans
I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer. I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a stupid number for which I will get the phone bill from ‘you know where’ with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an email to 7 of my friends and make a wish within 5 minutes.
I no longer have any savings at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail forwarding program.
I will now return the favor. If you don’t send this e-mail to at least 1200 people in the next 60 seconds, the fleas of a thousand camels will infest your armpits. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of a friend dad’s uncle’s neighbor’s cousin, and he’s a lawyer.
One of the newest TV credit card commercials features a young woman who, from childhood, has a strong sense of fashion. The opening scene features her in grade school lamenting the wearing of white by a classmate after Labor Day.
The concluding scene features her as a mom of twins in a shoe store buying another pair of shoes. Another customer notices the twins and complements them. The mom thinks that she is complementing her new shoes and says something to the effect of ‘Thank you! I have two more pairs in two other colors!’
Now, some of you maybe thinking by this point, Pastor are you okay? Have you had your two cups of coffee this morning? Did you and Susan have a fight this morning? Did Notre Dame lose again?
My point is this: There is no lack of things to be opposed to. There is no lack of things to consider ‘in’ or ‘out.’ Be it fashion, politics, or even religion, there are always lists of things that we deem acceptable and unacceptable. And the entire 10th chapter of Acts is an important illustration of this point. But what happens when God says otherwise?
This chapter highlights a key, very key turning point in the spread of the Christian faith and a very important barrier to faith that we still deal with today because it deals with our very human and flawed tendency to say this is ‘in’ and this is ‘out.’
Up to this point, the Christian faith is spreading in largely Jewish circles. As we recall in chapter 2 Pentecost takes place in Jerusalem and not Athens or Alexandria or Rome. It also takes place during a key Jewish festival.
So in the chapters that follow, we read of conversations and debates that take place within a limited segment of the population. Then we come to chapters 6 and 7 and Stephen whose death causes Christian believers to scatter to the surrounding areas. Then we read of Philip who first presents the gospel to Samaritans (one of those groups considered by some to be ‘out’ and not ‘in’) and then is sent by the Holy Spirit to a man of another color, an Ethiopian, who is trying to make sense of it all.
What is happening is what God intended to happen, and will not permit to be inhibited in any way shape or form; the spread of the Good News of salvation to all people, not a select group of people.
Then a man named Cornelius enters our story. He is not Jewish he is Roman. We also note that Luke writes he was a captain in the Italian Regiment that means that he was likely from Italy. But, we also read that he was a ‘devout man who feared the God of Israel, as did his entire household.’ What does Luke mean when he says that Cornelius is a ‘devout man?’