Summary: A sermon about a seismic shift in the Christian Church.
"You Mean They Can Be Saved Too?"
Acts Chapter 10 and 11 tell a story that is one of the major turning points in Christianity; really it's like a seismic shift!!!!
It is something so radical that it causes the early followers of Christ to readjust their entire worldview.
If it weren't for this experience, Christianity very well might have remained just another Jewish sect.
Imagine if, all your life, you have been taught--beginning with your parents, grandparents, great-grand parents, your religious leaders, your community--everyone you know and love that some foods are clean and good, and some are unclean and bad.
And if you do eat the bad foods, this will make you bad...
...not only in the eyes of other people but also in the eyes of God.
Also, there are some people who are clean and good.
These are your people.
This is your group.
You are a part of this group.
This is the group that God has chosen.
This is God's group.
Every human being outside of this group is bad.
They are not part God's group.
There is no hope of salvation for them.
They are dirty.
They even eat the unclean or bad foods that, it has been ingrained into you, are not to be eaten.
They spit in the very face of God by disobeying His laws.
So, the very thought of intermingling with the people outside your group is a horrible sin--perhaps one of the worst sins imaginable.
You should have nothing to do with these people.
As a matter of fact, because of how you have been taught and programmed from an early age, you have a natural dislike, disgust, and maybe even hatred toward these people.
This is how the Jews were taught to think and live.
When you are taught something like that from the time you are just a babe; it is nearly impossible to shake that kind of thinking--it has become so ingrained.
And so, this is how Peter and the rest of the early Christians thought.
They were Jews.
When Jesus came to save people--the people He came to save were Jews.
So, imagine that this is the way you think.
Imagine that this is also the way you believe.
This is how you understand God to think.
This is your "worldview."
You have never questioned it, and have never felt a need to question it.
And then, everything you have always held near and dear--your very identity is thrown out the window in one huge event!!!
What had happened?
What was the huge event?
That is all recorded in Acts 10, the chapter before the one we just read.
A guy named Cornelius, a Roman army officer, no less, has a strange vision.
An angel comes to him and tells him to send some messengers to summon Peter and have Peter come to him.
In the meantime, Peter is having his own strange vision.
Peter is up on the roof of a house praying, and he's hungry.
And he sees "heaven open up and something like a large linen sheet" lowers toward the ground.
Inside this sheet are "all kinds of four-legged animals, reptiles, and wild birds."
Animals that were unclean to eat.
And then, Peter hears this voice: "Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!"
Peter responds, "Absolutely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
Then the voice speaks to him two more times and says: "Never consider unclean what God has made pure."
So we are told that Peter is absolutely bewildered by all this.
And just when he's trying to figure out what that strange vision meant, the messengers that Cornelius--the Roman Officer sent--show up at where Peter is staying.
And to a Jew, these guys would have been major outsiders.
For us, it might be like having the mafia come to call.
And we are told that the Holy Spirit instructs Peter to go with these guys.
But first, Peter invites them into the house as his guests.
He's already intermingling with unclean and dangerous people, welcoming them, feeding them, eating with them--giving them a warm place to sleep.
We are told that the next day he "got up and went with them, together with some other believers..."
This script, this drama is being written by God isn't it?
God is speaking to Cornelius, God is speaking to Peter.
Both are baffled, but still willing to be led.
It's been said that "disciples are those who at times say, 'Lord, I don't know where you are leading me, but here I am."
Sometimes, most times, that's the best thing we can say.
So, at Cornelius's place, the excitement is brewing.
He had called his relatives and close friends and gathered them together to greet Peter.
And when Peter gets there and finds a big gathering of people--"He said to them, 'You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders.