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Oct 07, 2018

This is Us: Open Table

This is Us: Open Table

Passage: Acts 10:1-16

Speaker: Pastor Chris Riedel

Series: This is Us

Category: Faith, Hope, communion

Keywords: bread, communion, wine

This isn't the table of any particular church; it's the table of Jesus Christ and there are no strangers at His table. All are welcome!

Excerpts from Acts Chapter 10 

There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.” 

“Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.” 

Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He ... sent them off to Joppa. 

The men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door...Peter went down and said to the men, “I think I’m the man you’re looking for. What’s up?” 

The next morning he got up and went with them. Some of his friends from Joppa went along. A day later they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had his relatives and close friends waiting with him. The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.” 

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.

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. 

46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Devotional

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In it he compares the sharing of the good news with a farmer scattering seeds. Some of the see falls on the road, some on rocks, some is scorched by the sun and others are eaten by birds. But some of that seed hit fertile soil, it grows and yields a crop of a hundred times what is sown.

There is the more contemporary story about fishing, where the fish are so numerous, they practically jump into the boat.

That is what I think of when I read today’s passage. Cornelius was a fish that jumped into the boat. His yearning for truth was so powerful, that an angel appears to give him instruction. His servant sensing their master’s urgency, literally awaken Peter from a trance and at the Spirit’s urging, he grabs some of his followers and goes.

Peter shares the good news and those assembled immediately respond and are filled with the Spirit. They want to seal this transformation by being immediately baptized. Peter’s folks are shocked. What just happened? This was not even a Jewish audience.

Sometimes, the soil is just fertile. A person hears the Word and they are immediately transformed. I am sure this happens on a daily basis. Occasionally, it happens on a large scale. Throughout Christian history there have been great revivals where people respond to the Gospel in huge numbers. There was The Great Awakening in 1734, a second Great Awakening in 1800. Our denomination was an outgrowth of the Methodist revival of the 18th century. My own Christian roots spring from the more recent Azuza Street revival. I was also one of thousands who participated in the Promise Keepers revival of the 1990s.

Why do I bring this up? Revivals always come after a period of social upheaval. Immorality, wars, injustice. These are the hardpack soil. But the Spirit moves through history. It breaks up that ground into fertile soil and the Church is renewed. 

I’m no sage. But I look at the world today and I see the fabric of society tearing into pieces. It is time. We are due. And frankly, I want to be part of sowing the next great harvest. Search your heart. I think you want that too.

Prayer

Your Spirit is preparing the ground. The world is yearning for transformation and healing. Transform our hearts and make our words the seeds that bring about Your harvest.

Written by Ben Roberts. Ben leads one of the Men's Ministry groups. He lives in Ashburn with his wife Jennifer and their son Ethan.