Summary: At a pivotal moment, Peter discovered God loved those outside his inner circle. Who are we including or excluding?
The Lord God Made Them All –
How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? It depends upon which denomination you belong to.
If you are Methodist, you are welcome no matter what the status of your bulb. You can be bright, dim, or completely burned out. You can be a light bulb, a turnip bulb, or a daffodil bulb. Just bring the bulb of your choice along with a dish for the potluck and join us.
Of course, if you are Charismatic, it only takes one to change the bulb, since your hands are in the air anyway!
A Baptist only takes one person to actually change the bulb, but it takes three committees, one to select the person, one to figure out how to pay for the bulb, and one to decide who brings the fried chicken and potato salad.
Presbyterians and Lutherans have a real problem, since they are opposed to change. In fact, someone in the congregation will remember that their great grandmother donated that light bulb! Change indeed!
The Amish only have one question. “What is a light bulb.”
Today we can make jokes about the differences among us – at least sometimes. But back in Peter’s day, the believers were trying to figure out what this whole thing meant! And they did not agree about much.
A key struggle was the fact that most of the first believers grew up in the Jewish Faith.
They followed dietary Law
They were circumcised and circumcised their sons.
They followed the Leviticus Commandments
They did not associate with outsiders.
And somehow, they decided that this is what Jesus would want them to do. They understood that followers of Jesus were another way to practice their Judaism.
Paul had already felt the call to something more, but Paul was an outsider!
And so we find the very respected Peter being the person God sent to hear this new message. It is he who carries the message first to the Gentiles God sends to his door, then to the believers who sent him.
And he doesn’t have an easy job of it. He follows God’s calling and finds himself faced with a whole group of people who are telling him that he is doing things all wrong!
You understand today that Roman Catholics theology believes that the Pope is infallible. He cannot err. It also believes that Peter was established as the first ever leader of the Church after Pentecost, and that he acted as the very first Pope.
I think this crowd that confronted Peter, angry and challenging, failed to get that message. As long as Peter didn’t see it their way, he was wrong.
And yet, Peter defended himself by telling them what God had said. His final defense, “Who and I to hinder God?”
We, the church today, often act like that first century church. We believe that we are the insiders and everyone else is an outsider.
When I left Seminary, my first responsibility was to send my Pastor Information Form out into the world. And once I had done that, I had the joy of speaking to many committees on the phone. I’d like to share one of those conversations with you, since it wasn’t yours.
The conversation began with the head of the Nominating Committee telling me why I should want to come to their church. First of all, their church owned the nicest property in town, and their pastor got to live in it. The ladies of the church came by regularly to inspect it and make sure the pastor and family were keeping it up correctly.
So, I asked about why they chose me.
They normally preferred someone from Princeton, but the last four Princeton Graduates had left after less than a year, so they thought they would try someone from SFTS.
Then I asked a burning question. They lived in a city that was highly multicultural. It had been in the news recently concerning this issue. Yet the statistics for the church showed they were 100% anglo. “Why?” I asked.
The answer was very telling. “We have some of them come to visit. But they never seem to stick around or want to be with us or do the things we like to do.”
Do you hear it? Us and them. They never really belonged, they were always the outsider.
Someone once asked me, with three churches, why Gary chose Longwood to join. He told me it was because some of the members there reached out and tried to make him feel special. Of course, even little things like an accessible bathroom where he could easily get in and out and up and down, counted as feeling welcoming, something neither Otterville nor Range Line could offer.