Everyone is Invited

15 Apr

Easter is coming and I will blog on the scripture that are prescribed for this coming Sunday. I think I know by heart each of the gospel’s unique announcements about the resurrection of Jesus, yet the other readings for the day fade in my memory.

The reading for this Sunday for the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is really interesting. And probably one you will not hear on Easter morning. In Acts 10:34-43 Peter is talking with a non-Jew. Up until this point the good news that Jesus proclaimed has been for the house of Israel. In fact all religions at this time where based in the one group/tribe/nationality for which they were created. There was nothing universal about any religious of this time. To be born in a country was to have a particular belief system about how creation occurred, how to worship, and the moral code of that people. Even if another country where conquered and the people taken as salves it was not expected that those salves would take on the belief-system of their conquerors.

This reality of the ancient world smacked me in the face this morning as I read the first part of the Acts passage.

34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

What was become Christianity was the first belief-system that moved beyond tribal lines and invited everyone and anyone to become an integral part of emerging faith community. The passage continues by re-telling the central story of the Christian faith to these new non-Jewish people.

37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.

39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

Peter, who is the speaker in this passage, has just received a vision from God. The vision used animal included in the old Kosher law to symbolize that the segregation the excluded the house of Israel from every other tribe of people are no longer in force. The boundaries have been broken down and everyone is invited. To emphasizes the point the Holy Spirit is poured out upon these non-Jewish folks, as it had been on Jewish folks on Pentecost.

44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

God broke the boundary of life and death and then the boundaries that we erect between ourselves were destroyed forever.

This is not to say that I think everyone should be a Christian. It is to say to God has invited everyone to be my brother and sister in love. With God extending the invitation who am I to refuse to welcome.

The cosmically changing, earth shattering, infinitely amazing event of Easter reflects the true grace and power of our God. I pray we do not dwindle it down to bunnies and new flowers. Peace.

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