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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, July 19, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 10:17–33

Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.” (NRSV)

“God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” This statement by Peter has proven to be one of the most powerful claims of faith on my own journey of discipleship. It reminds me of the way God’s inclusive love is like throwing a stone into the pond—the circle just keeps expanding and includes more and more and more. So I believe it is with God.

The entire book of Acts focuses on the way the Spirit is busily at work creating a covenant community of love, one that crosses all kinds of boundaries and claims all sorts of people. Perhaps you have heard that rather common phrase “Never put a period when God places a comma.” That sentiment is a good way to sum up the way God’s Spirit moves in Acts. Every time Peter, or Paul, or Cornelius or any of the other named people try to limit or stop God’s love and claim from continually expanding, God’s Spirit pushes right through it and keeps going.

Peter’s actions in this passage are helpful reminders to me that we will never have God all figured out, nor will we ever be able to limit God to fitting into our own understanding. God is always doing a new thing, carving out new space for hope and trust. And God never waits for our approval either. May we follow in the footsteps of our widely inclusive God, allowing our own circles of love and compassion to keep expanding every day.

Generous God, just as you claim me and call me one of your beloved ones, so you do for all. May I see your face in each person I encounter this day. May I not try to limit your love or your power in my life or in the lives of others. Help me to say yes to being a part of your ever-expanding household. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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