The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Watch the sermon here.
Sermon 2021 5 9
Peter is one of my favorite characters in the bible.
I like Peter because he was chosen by Jesus
Despite being arrogant and a little obtuse.
I can relate.
What draws me to Peter is the love that Jesus has for him
And that he has for Jesus.
And this love endures and even grows
after Peter denied and abandoned Jesus in his hour of need.
Peter is a flawed man.
But what Peter had was belief in Jesus and love for God.
The Peter we see today is not the same Peter we saw
When Jesus said ‘get behind me Satan
You are a stumbling block to me.’
The Peter we see today has been formed by Jesus,
And he is plugged into God.
The passage today comes at the end of Acts 10.
Peter and a Roman soldier named Cornelius each have a mystical experience.
Peter is in Joppa and Cornelius is in Ceaserea,
And the Holy Spirit connects them with each other,
And Peter visits Cornelius at his house.
For a hard headed obtuse guy like Peter,
this would have been impossible without the transformative power of God.
Peter shares the Good News about Jesus with Cornelius and his household,
that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name.
Peter is able to share this from his own experience of being forgiven, and loved.
Peter’s vision, which involves a sheet being lowered to the ground
Having all kinds of animals on it shows him that all things are clean.
He doesn’t need to follow the strict Jewish dietary requirements,
And he doesn’t need to limit his love to the Jews.
All people are loved by God and God’s forgiveness and love is available to everyone,
Not just the circumcised believers.
God’s love is even available to a Roman centurion like Cornelius.
This little 4-verse passage is telling us a lot about God.
We worship a God who is loving and forgiving.
In Peter’s day there were a lot of gods,
And they tended to be harsh and random.
The emperor was a god,
And he murdered anyone who crossed him – like Jesus.
The other gods we worship today can be equally unforgiving.
The god of beauty and youth is definitely not forgiving.
The god of money – which all of us worship from time to time –
does not care about us.
The only reconciliation involves debits and credits,
Not forgiveness of sins.
The God we worship, the same God that Peter worshipped,
the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob
is infinitely loving, forgiving and patient.
We are reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s story is important because he shows us
That we can screw up over and over –
But if we keep coming back to God and keep believing in Jesus
God will form us into people who can do miraculous things.
Just like Peter.
It takes time for us to mature and develop, for God to form us as he formed Peter.
We have to abide in God’s love, so we can grow into spiritual and emotional maturity.
Peter is bearing fruit with Cornelius and his household
As he baptizes them all.
Peter did not choose to follow Jesus.
Jesus chose Peter.
You did not choose Jesus.
Jesus chose you. And me. And each of us.
We are here today because deep down in our hearts
We know that the other gods out there can’t give what Jesus can.
Each of us is here for a different reason today.
We all have different backgrounds.
But whether we are black or white,
Haitian or American or Haitian American,
Rich or poor, we all want the same thing.
We want to flourish as human beings.
The New York Times this week had a quiz
to evaluate yourself on whether you are flourishing or languishing.
The questions included:
Are you satisfied with your life?
Does your life have purpose?
Are you happy with your relationships?
If you take that survey and don’t get the result you want
Maybe it’s time to abide in Jesus’ love more.
Abide is a word we don’t use very often
Except in the movie The Big Lebowski.
Abide comes from the Greek verb meno
Which is a passive verb.
We stay with God, we wait with God.
The dictionary says abide is to accept.
We accept rather than resist.
There are a lot of things about the love of God
in Jesus Christ that don’t make logical sense.
I for one spent a lot of time trying to figure it out –
Comparing Christianity to other religions, like Buddhism.
It wasn’t until I quit the debating society and accepted
That God loves me and you, and that love is not proportional with what we deserve
It was when I abided…
That was when my joy in Jesus became more complete.
We don’t need to do anything to earn this love and forgiveness from God.
All we do is abide, accept, believe.
Easier said than done,
But the good news is that, like Peter, we have the rest of our lives to abide.
Here is the Good News in all of this.
Jesus chose each of us.
He chose us to love each other and to love God.
He chose us to bear fruit.
If we abide in him, and keep his commandment,
Which means loving each other and loving God,
We can ask for what we want and God will give it to us.
Not as Santa Claus, not as an ATM,
But as a parent who wants their children to flourish and be happy.
So I leave you with a question:
What do you want God to do for you?
Often we are afraid to ask God for what we want in our lives,
For many reasons.
We think it’s selfish, or we are afraid God won’t give us what we ask for.
God really does want us to flourish.
God chose you just like God chose Peter.
What do you want to ask God for?
What are you waiting for?
May God bless these words.
May God bless each of us.