On the Plains of Moab Blog
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April 6, 2012, 6:26 PM

Sermon Pre-Game

This Sunday, I will be preaching from the lectionary.  I chose Acts 10:34-43.  The broader context here is Peter's trip to the household of Cornelius.  Cornelius is a "God-Fearing" gentile.  This expression, "God-Fearing" referred to non-Jews who embraced Israel's God, but stopped short of being circumcised.

We are not going to be dealing with all of the events leading up to Peter's speech, which we will use.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough time to preach a sermon that long.  What I will be doing on Sunday will already be a little on the long side.  Be forewarned!

Here's the back story.  Cornelius sends for Peter to come and preach for him and show him the way to God.  At the same time, Peter is having this culinary nightmare: A sheet coming down out of heaven with all kinds of unclean animals -- pork BB-Q city baby, chasing it down with a little shrimp cocktail.  The voice then tells him to go and have at it.  Eat it up!  Long and short, God has to remind Peter that he is to call nothing unclean.  No person is unclean.  So, he can even have table fellowship with dirty, smelly, unclean gentiles!

Peter, when he puts it all together, realizes that God is working something on a grand scale.  God is intent on redeeming the whole world.  The Gospel is for the world, not just Israel.  Funny thing, this was nothing new.  This thought didn't come out of left field.  The Old Testament planted those seeds long ago (cf. Gen 12).  As I like to say, there's nothing new in the New Testament.  Israel just got greedy and turned in on themselves.  They forgot who they were called to be.  They were to be the mediator between God and the world.  To bring the light to the world.  They were supposed to be the ambassadors calling the world back to God.  Didn't happen -- that's why Jesus had to come.

Please understand, many groups are using this same Cornelius text to suggest all manner of fantasy.  That God changed his mind about certain sexual behaviors and now says, "Oh, it's okay now -- don't call anything unclean!"  All behaviors are permissable so get over your little social hang-ups.  I can't address this issue in the pulpit on Sunday, but, take my word for it, it is a creative attempt to read into the Scriptures something that isn't even remotely there.

On Sunday, we will be using this text to help us understand the meaning of the resurrection and on a grander scale, what the Gospel is really all about.

That's the set up for Sunday.  One other thing that I need to do is put a plug in for two books that I am greatly indebted to in my understanding of the Gospel.  N.T. Wright's How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels and Scot McKnight's The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited.  Those of you who know me know that the former Bishop of Durham (Wright) is my man!  Who'd have thought that a Presbyterian minister would be going to Canterbury for his theological fare?  I even borrowed Wright's title for the title to the sermon.

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