As I mentioned on Monday, I am working through the book of Acts this month, following the First Lesson for each Sunday. Last week I preached on Acts 8 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. This Sunday the text is from Acts 10 – Peter and Cornelius. Both texts deal with the grace of God coming in “usual” circumstances and coming to people that the new church did not expect.
In Acts 10, Cornelius is a Roman centurion who was considered a “God-fearer”. He did total subscribe to the Jewish faith but was still seeking for God. Cornelius was generous to the poor and was an example to his family. It seems that he was on the verge of something but just couldn’t put his finger on it. Cornelius needed a witness and Peter was it. So Peter and Cornelius have “visits” from the Spirit and the two eventually meet. While Peter was proclaiming the Gospel to Cornelius and his family, the Spirit came upon Cornelius’ group and they began speaking in tongues. Peter and all who were with him were amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured upon Gentiles…of all people. This was a significant turning point in Acts where the new church realized that Gentiles were also included in the mission of Christ.
After Peter witnesses this amazing event he asks a similar question the Ethiopian Eunuch asked in Acts 8, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” Or rephrased, “Can anyone keep these people from receiving the grace of God?” Obviously the answer is NO since the Spirit came upon those Gentiles and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop it. The grace of God is for ALL people.
Who around us do we consider “Gentiles”?
Who in our communities do we consider “outside” the church?
Is there anyone we know (or group of people) that we consider unworthy of attention?
Who’s not worth the effort?
In Acts 8 and Acts 10 we see that the mission of Christ does not stop at the “boundaries” of the church building or at the group of people who call themselves the church. The grace of God extends across boundaries and shatters our expectations. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says “…and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”
Who are the “Corneliuses” out there that need a witness?
Who is the Spirit leading you to?
Listen and pay attention. Someone out there needs a witness.