My first sermon at the new church will be on April 28 at the contemporary service. As a church during the Season of Easter we're following the scripture lessons from the Book of Acts, discussing the formation of the church known as "The Way". You know, the actual first church.
My given reading for the day is Acts 11:1-18. A really cool reading where Peter lays it on the new Christian converts in Jerusalem that evangelism is the new name of the game. That's something that they already knew a little bit about, except there was a new wrinkle to God's plan that they hadn't realized yet - the Kingdom is open to the Gentiles. The Way was open to all who were ready to choose Christ. This should have been old news at this point, but the people needed a little sermonizing from Peter to get the point.
To be truthful, (and Peter does admit) Peter initially balked at this call from God. God had come to him with a vision, showing him the new life open to the world, and when Peter didn't understand, God said, "Never consider unclean what God has made pure." The table is open, Planet Earth. We're all invited to the Lord's party.
Probably the most striking verse of this passage to me, though, is the final one when the apostles and other believers praise God, saying, "So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life."
I just want to say here that Gentile hearts had been changed throughout the history of the nation of Israel. Gentiles had always been drawn to God's people, there are even extensive rules on their inclusion in the community. Many heroes of the early faith were Gentiles. But they were never reached out to, evangelism wasn't the thing.
It's not the Gentile hearts that needed changing so much as the hearts of the new believers to reach those outside of the family.
But, really, how UMC is this reading? It's an actual scripture about an Open Table (and hearts and minds that were being opened).
Kind of leaves me thinking about this: