Set an Extra Plate – Sermon Summary   Leave a comment

Acts 10:1-11:18 (10:44-48 focal).

One of my favorite memories of grade school was what happened on our way home on the last day of school.  Our bus would always stop at The Golden Bear, a local ice cream stand typical in small communities where I grew up in Ohio.  I’d ask Mom for money or save pennies or whatever it took to have enough to get an ice cream cone – what a special treat.  I also remember my last day of school in 2nd grade.  Whether I forgot my money or we didn’t have any is not what I recall, but I do know that I did not have any money and I sat in the back of the bus crying while watching all of the other kids get off the bus to go get their treat, laughing and playing and not paying any attention to the one kid being left out. 

I know what it means to be left out of something of which I really wanted to be part.

Early Judaism struggled with the issue of inclusion.  Just who can be part of us?  Peter was a strong Jewish man who had a definite opinion about all of this, but God was about to open his eyes that would change not only his outlook, but the outlook of the whole church.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion with an unusual trait – he actually understood something about God and even prayed, although I would not go so far as to call him a Christian or believer yet.  God sent an angel to get Cornelius to seek out Peter and a vision for Peter to seek out Cornelius.

The vision came to Peter while on a rooftop praying.  A sheet covered the earth and on it was everything God had made, including “unclean” animals and such, like pork chops.  A voice told him to chow down but Peter refused.  The response – God didn’t create any junk food, it’s all good!  Peter sort of got the point and was told to go with the men who were looking for him.

When they arrived at the home of Cornelius, Peter started his speech by saying that he really wasn’t supposed to be there because these were “Gentiles” but God told him to go anyway.  While he is doing this, God is teaching him that the love of the Lord is available to all and that all are welcome to be part of His family.  The Holy Spirit comes upon Cornelius and his friends causing Peter to basically say, “How could we possibly say NO to anyone who believes?  Let’s baptize these new believers!”

When Peter shared this story with the church in Jerusalem, things changed.  No more racism, gender exclusions, creeds or judging.  While this did not happen instantly, the table was set.  Peter even said later that God doesn’t want anybody to perish but for everyone to come to Him (2 Peter 3:9).

So what are some barriers that churches put up today that prevent others from coming in?  Is there anybody not allowed in your church because of…

  • Race?
  • Sinful background?
  • Differing beliefs, such as women in ministry?
  • Rough looking – leather, tattoos, piercings?
  • Not dressed up like you think they should be?
  • Different worship styles?
  • Saying “Amen” out loud in a normally quiet church?

Are all truly welcome?

Peter told the church of his wonderful encounter.  “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'” (Acts 11:18, NIV).

Can you imagine God’s response to us if someone doesn’t make it to heaven because we wouldn’t welcome them in ? 

Maybe this is why scripture often says that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Maybe the weeping will be similar to my missing the ice cream that day simply because I didn’t have what I needed, even though I was surrounded by others who probably could have helped out.

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