Sunday 21st February - Peter's Vision
Our morning worship this morning is led by Pastor Julie Newitt and for those unable to join us it is published here.
Opening words Galatians 3:28
Hymn: Let there be loved shared among us
Come together to be God’s people. Come together and be yourselves. Bring to God your joys and your struggles. Bring to God your hopes and your fears. Come together to be God’s people, and let us worship the living God.
Loving God, thank you for drawing us together to be your people. Help us, as we meet together, to see ourselves as you see us. Give us faith to hear your words of love beyond some of the hard realities of our lives. May your Holy Spirit guide and inspire us to recognise your presence in all we do. Amen.
To you, O Lord, we lift up our hearts, offering worship and praise. Show us your path. Teach us to follow. Guide us in your truth. For our hope is in you all day long. Amen.
Hymn: Bind us together Lord
Acts 10:1-29 and 34 &35 and 44-48 Isaiah 56:1-8
Hymn: We are one in the spirit
I wonder if you've ever played a game where you get a picture of a piece of something which is an everyday item looking at it from a different angle, you're not entirely sure what it is. God sometimes makes us look at things from a different angle. Today that's what we're going to talk about as we see Peter look at something from a completely different angle and the result of that was quite extraordinary. I am going to look at this by answering a series of questions.
Why do you think Peter was unwilling to eat the different animals he saw in his vision?
Peter was a Jew he had been brought up as a Jew he followed the Jewish traditions and the Jewish religion and part of that religion was about the food that you ate. And so when Peter sees the vision with food on that he can't eat, that is his immediate thought, I can't eat food which is ritually unclean. This is surprising given that Peter had spent three years with Jesus and Jesus often did things which were against the Jewish law, feeding his disciples on a Sabbath from the cornfields was an example of this one element where Jesus disobeyed the rules and regulations of the Jewish law. But the Jewish religion was so ingrained in Peter that he lived his life according to those rules.
I wonder how much the Christian religion is in our veins, our lives, so that it is instinctive to the way that we live and the things that we do and the things that we say. Do we try and follow the rules set by Jesus, to love everyone, to make disciples of all nations, two accept everyone as equal?
Why do you think God sent this vision three times?
As a teacher I am taught that you have to explain things to people three times the first time it might wash over their heads, the second time it goes in a little bit deeper, by the third time they've got it. I guess Jesus as the greatest teacher of all times, used the same theory. So three times Peter has this vision, the first time he didn't really understand what was happening, he wasn't sure what what was going on, the second time it perhaps went more into his mind and then the third time he was now really thinking about this. Peter would have known that there was a reason why he'd had this vision he's been with Jesus long enough to know that, but what was the meaning, what was Jesus trying to say to hin?
I wonder if God ever speaks to us in the same way, do we sometimes see things or hear things and think well that's the third time I've heard that or that's made me think. Maybe God speaks to us through our normal everyday lives by giving us that pointer, right I'll tell you it once and then twice and then again and by the time you get to the third time of hearing or seeing the same thing there's the thought that God trying to tell me something . We need to be open to the voice of God speaking to us through our everyday lives.
Why did God need to prepare Peter so carefully before he met Cornelius?
Peter was so wrapped up in the Jewish religion and way of life that he was almost blinded to anything outside of it. Therefore, in order for Cornelius to be given the opportunity to be accepted into God’s Kingdom Peter needed to accept him first. Peter needed to be prepared and to be willing to enter the home of Cornelius, a Roman citizen. Peter needed to understand that what God had made was perfect and acceptable, he needed to understand everyone on earth is part of Gods Kingdom, there is to be no one who is outside the love of God. Sending Peter to Cornelius without the vision would have done no good at all as Peter would not have entered his house. So God had to prepare him.
I wonder how many times God has had to prepare us make us rethink and revaluate before he sends us out to do his will and to do his work. God carefully prepares the ground before us so that when he calls us to do something, we are there ready and able in body mind and spirit.
What do you think Peter was thinking about as he travelled to see Cornelius?
So, Peter had seen the vision, then this servant had arrived and immediately he went with him on the journey, you can only imagine that Peter was mulling all these things over in his mind. He didn't know what he was going to be asked to do when he reached Cornelius’s house, and so he was thinking of the vision and what that vision might possibly mean, we know from our previous encounters with Peter that sometimes he was a little bit slow on the uptake, maybe that's why God had to send him the vision three times! but we do know that Peter was a thinker and so on the way to Cornelius’s house all of these visions and thoughts would have been going on in his mind, he was being prepared by God to work for him.
I wonder if in our busy lives we occasionally have time to pause and think, for this is what Peter had, he had the vision and then on the way time to think, do we perhaps sit or in my case walk and ponder on what God might have told me on what God might be telling me?. It is only as we sit in silence with God that we will be able to truly understand what it is He is trying to tell us.
What do you think Peter's friends thought of what he was doing?
I am sure that Peters friends probably thought he had gone a bit delusional, seeing visions not eating and then going off with a Roman soldier’s servant. I am sure that they would have told him not to go, but Peter went anyway, impetuous as always!
I wonder sometimes what our friends think of us when we say we are Christians. Do they think about us in a different way, do they look for ways to try and see that we are not behaving in a proper Christian way, do they respect what we are, do they perhaps come to us more for help and advice? If you're a teenager this is a really hard question and a really difficult thing to stand up against the norm and say I believe in God, I am a Christian, easier when you're my age because actually I am my own person and if someone doesn't like me for that that's tough. But I can say that because I know that I am loved and accepted by God.
it would be really hard to do that in some other countries in our world today where Christians are persecuted and sent underground. Ironically, it is those churches today that are really growing, it is almost like you're being made to think about your faith because it matters what you think. We are not persecuted; it is very easy to say I am a Christian in England and yet when asked that question few people say they are. Maybe we need to challenge people more to think about their faith to think about what it means, to get them to really live as God wants them to live.
What do you think Peter learnt from this event?
Peter learned that whatever God made is acceptable to Him, we have no right therefore to look at anything or anyone and view them as not belonging, or to view them as someone that we don't want to associate with.
Peter learned that God's love is available to every single person, no one is too far removed for God to want to love them. And if God loves them then, who are we to say that we don't.
This was Peters response to the council in the next chapter in Acts when he was called before them to explain his actions - if God sent his spirit to fall on them how could I deny them from being baptised. Such wise words and without the vision those words would have not been possible. God taught Peter a lesson and it is a lesson that we all need to learn, we have to accept everyone, everyone in God's name.
What did Cornelius discover in this story?
Cornelius like Peter had had a vision, he had seen an angel, Cornelius was a truly religious person inasmuch as he supported the Jewish community, he gave money to the poor, he had the heart of a Christian. God had seen this and wanted him to be accepted into his family, the Kingdom of God. Cornelius’s submission to God is extraordinary, as a high ranking Roman official he bowed not only before God but then before Gods messenger Peter. Cornelius truly found God as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and not only himself but his entire household also. I am sure that Cornelius became a very important person in the early Christian Church.
Cornelius learned how to trust, for in obeying the angel he was rewarded ultimately with the Holy Spirit. Trusting and obeying are two ver