Monday, 25 April 2016

Can't make it to church - 24th April 2016

The Easter proclamation is, by the sound of it, wearing a little thin if the tone of some of the people in church as they proclaim, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” is anything to go by! 

Is this the place you find yourself occupying today?

Has your faith become habit rather than passion bad are you relatively passionless about it all?

When I became a Christian, some around me smiled at the exuberant joy I possessed and knowingly commented on how, “I’d soon grow out of it.” The problem is that I did! For just as the first flush of love turns into a steady, sometimes almost habitual, being together – the same is true in the world of Christian faith – and habit missed the marvellous truth and tajes something wonderful for granted.  

The Church, as seen in Acts, is full on and passionate and this translates itself into converts because people saw, and felt, the buzz and wanted it too. Jew and Gentile were drawn into this body as their passion- their excitement – turned into lifestyle. And it was this drawing in of Gentiles that we consider today as Peter, who had been in Caesarea preaching (and living) the Gospel, finds himself and his attitudes (and the attitudes of those who were Jewish believers especially) a bit of a challenge.

Peter is hauled before the believers in Jerusalem to give an account for his actions for they had heard that he wasn’t just teaching them about Jesus but was eating with them and this, in their Jewish thinking meant being defiled. They were happy with taking the message out to the Gentiles but there were limits you know – there were the old ways to consider, after all ‘The Way’ was a Jewish sect and so the old rituals and practices needed to be upheld. Kosher food, circumcision and the like were part of it, weren’t they? Well actually, they weren’t and this is to be the opening shot in a battle which later sees Paul talk about the ‘judaisers’ (those who demanded that Jewish custom and practice was an essential part of being what we now call ‘Christian’.

Peter is erasing the things that divided Jews and Gentiles – what was he doing? If everyone started doing what he did then soon there would soon be no difference between them (the superior race) and the gentiles (the ‘dogs’) then where would the Church be?

This is frightening stuff and so they summoned Peter and acted as frightened people so often do – badly!

But challenged, Peter responds by recounting a vision he had had – one in which he was called upon by God to get up, kill and eat animals which he had previously considered to be forbidden. Baulking at the call Peter responded by saying: “No way God - nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” So God called him again to eat with a bit of a hint about what he could eat: “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.”

Men arrive whilst Peter is wondering what God might really be talking about; after all, if the food the Gentiles eat is clean then this must mean that they are also clean – now where does that leave a good Jewish boy? 

The question is about to be answered for him once and for all - and when it is, well if the Gentiles were obviously filled with the Holy Spirit and if they were good enough for God then who was he to stand in the way? The question was settled once and for all.

And those who had called and challenged Peter, on hearing these words, suddenly realised the validity of his them and rejoiced giving thanks to God that Jesus was so effective in His ministry though Jesus that it even reached the people other faiths could not reach (what I like to think of as a ‘Heineken’ moment). Would that we might learn a lesson from this and understand that ‘nothing we are, nothing we’ve been, nothing we’ve seen, nothing we’ve done or are going to do can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8)!”

The resurrection of Jesus breaks the power of death and that in turn removed the power of sin in our lives – and if this is true, how can we not shout with joy:

He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

May the power of the risen Christ and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit fill you, free you and set you free this morning.

Acts 11.1-18
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,

‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision.

There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”

But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.
At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.

The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Get in! God has given the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life, not just to us (Jews) but to the Gentiles too.’

Our Gospel today adds a cherry to this marvellous cake by bringing us back to the day before Good Friday as we are reminded of the 'New Commandment' (the mandate ovum that gives us 'Maundy Thursday' that we love each other as Jesus, the Christ, has loved us.

A handy thing to be reminded ofI reckon for it is too easy to become legalistic and bound up in our own salvation and rightness and forget this basic instruction rearing those around us.

Simple innit - so why do we all too often fail to live it in our own lives?

God has indeed made all things new and the spring of the water of life is made ours through the sacrificial love of Jesus - Death is overcome and we, and eternity, are newly created through Him.


The Collect
Risen Christ, your wounds declare your love for the world and the wonder of your risen life: give us compassion and courage to risk ourselves for those we serve, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

John 13.31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Revelation 21.1-6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:  grant us to walk in his way, to rejoice in his truth, and to share his risen life; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.

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