Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; May 17, 2015

Scripture for Sunday: Acts 10:25-48

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 699 – Come and Let Us Sweetly Join

UMH 57 – O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (vs 1 & 2) – WUMC only

UMH 133 – What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

This is a fifth (5th) sermon in the series:

{Sermon # 1}

{Sermon # 2}

{Sermon # 3}

{Sermon # 4}

We discussed the Samaritan Woman at the Well few weeks ago. Here is a link to that sermon: {Click Me}

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A couple of weeks ago Debbie and I were privileged to meet Maria and Adrian. They work on the cruise ship Majesty of the Seas, and they are Christians. Maria shared with us that her husband (who is also working on the ship) recently committed his life to Jesus. Adrian added with a smile, “Now he tells everybody about Jesus!”

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The story that Adrian and Maria shared with us reminded me of John 4: 28‑30.

NIV2010 John 4: 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well was so excited about what she learned from Jesus that she dropped everything to share the Good News with her neighbors. Similarly, Maria’s husband is so excited about what God is doing in his life, that he cannot contain it within himself and has to tell everyone.

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Today we will continue our conversation about church, community and culture. One of the ways that church interacts with its neighbors is by demonstrating the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit by our actions (“…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” [James 2:17]).

Today’s Scriptures from Acts 10 give us another glimpse on how church, community and culture interact.

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Cornelius was a Centurion in the Italian Regiment in Caesarea. (A Centurion was a commanding officer of a “century,” which included 80 to 100 men). More than likely his spirituality included a pantheon of gods. I suspect that when he came to Judea and learned about the God of the Jews, he probably wanted to add that God to his pantheon. In Acts 10:2 we hear, “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”

{ILLUSTRATION: Explain why a centurion would not worship the God of the Jews only: he had to swear allegiance to and worship the Emperor}.

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God meets people where they are. Acts 10:3-6 tells us about a message from God that was revealed to Cornelius.

NIV2010 Acts 10: 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

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For Cornelius that had to be a humbling request. He was told to invite someone who was not a Roman, and someone who was not in a position of authority among the Jews, into his house and treat him as an equal. It was not how things were done among the Romans; by doing this, Cornelius risked being ridiculed by other officers and commanders.

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Meanwhile, Acts 10:9-23 tells us of a vision that Peter had in which he received instructions to forgo Jewish dietary laws. This request to give up Jewish dietary laws was so difficult for Peter to accept that he even argued with God. In verse Acts 10:14 we hear Peter say, ‘“Surely not, Lord!…I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”’ In response ‘The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15).’ That exchange between God and Peter happened three times (Acts 10:16).

I think that Peter’s vision was an answer to the process of discernment that all of the Disciples were going through at the time. I think that all of the Disciples, including Peter, were struggling to understand what the teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus meant, and how each of them was going to live out their faith and devotion to God for the rest of their lives. If God is the Creator of the whole Universe and every living thing in it, how should followers of Jesus interact with non-believers and non-Jews? If God created pigs, crabs and reptiles why do we consider them unsuitable for food, especially as we watch gentiles eat them with no problems? Does circumcision define us as followers of God, or it is just a [meaningful] ritual and tradition? Can someone be a follower of Jesus without being circumcised?

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I think that Peter’s vision was God’s response to these questions of faith and it had to be a challenging request. Most of us have certain likes and dislikes; Peter was told to eat foods and do something that he had been taught was forbidden since the day he was born. And to add insult to injury, there were a few Roman soldiers at Peter’s door inviting him to Cornelius’ house. That had to be scary; it is kinda like a Gestapo officer inviting me for tea and crumpets.

Nevertheless, we know the rest of the story. We know that Peter stepped out on faith and went to Cornelius’ house, where they had a chance to compare notes and discover that they had much more in common than both of them previously thought. We know that Cornelius made sure that Peter’s efforts were not wasted; he invited many people to hear Peter and to learn from Peter. And we know that Peter had been a part of something like that before when Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two days teaching them (John 4:40). Now we see Peter doing something similar in Caesarea (Acts 10:48).

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When Jesus taught Samaritans, many of them believed first because of the Woman’s testimony and then because of Jesus’ teaching (John 4:39-42). Because of Cornelius’ humility and Peter’s bravery and willingness to step out on faith, many in Caesarea experienced the anointing of the Holy Spirit and were baptized (Acts 10:44-48).

The Samaritan Woman at the Well (a.k.a. Svetlana), Cornelius, and Peter give us a glimpse of how church, community and culture can interact.

The Samaritans in Svetlana’s village did not receive God’s blessing until they saw that Jesus and the Disciples were just as human as they were. Cornelius and Peter were both blessed when they recognized that they wanted to serve the same God. The joy, fellowship, spiritual growth, new understanding, “making disciples for Jesus” for the transformation of the world came when everyone was willing to work together in one accord, in spite of their hubris, fears, and anxieties; when they were willing to celebrate what united them instead of what differentiated them.

Today all of our churches are facing challenges of stagnant growth and loss of membership. There are many lessons that we can learn from Svetlana, Cornelius and Peter. Here are some of them:

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1. It is up to us to summon courage and reach out. Jesus went where the Samaritans were; Peter went to Caesarea.

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2. The process will be less than comfortable. Svetlana tried to pick two fights with Jesus[1]. Peter had to be scared to go to Caesarea. Cornelius had to humble himself to invite Peter into his house.

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3. When we concentrate on minutia, we will have plenty of reasons to argue. Instead we need to look for and celebrate what brings us together. Jesus did not argue with Svetlana, instead he offered her love, grace and understanding. Peter and Cornelius discovered that they had a lot in common in spite of having very different backgrounds.

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4. When we find things that unite us we experience the Holy Spirit: “Behold how good and pleasant it is when sisters and brothers worship together in unity” (Psalm 99) and also “when two or three gather together….” When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we become like radio antennas broadcasting the Good News with our actions. Svetlana went back to town; her neighbors came to Jesus. Cornelius’ household was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Maria’s husband tells everyone about Jesus.


[1] “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. Why are you even talking to me?” (John 4:9) /// “We worship on mount Gerizim and you worship on mount Moriah. You worship wrong” (John 9:20)

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One response to “Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; May 17, 2015

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message. | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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