Back at the beginning
Acts 11: As it sank in, they started praising God.
The event at the house of Cornelius sets the table for the next big thing from God. At first the Church in Jerusalem is skeptical. They’ve had trouble from the religious powerbase in Jerusalem before and if word spreads that these followers of Jesus are mixing it up with Gentiles there’s bound to be renewed opposition. However, when Peter tells what happened, especially how the Holy Spirit came to them even as he came to the 120 in the Upper Room those who have been critical of Peter can’t help but praise God. Their Messiah is, indeed, the Savior of the world! Such an eye opening and faith-expanding event has come just in time because even as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem are beginning to grasp the enormity of what Jesus has accomplished things are happening hundreds of miles north of them in Antioch. The Gospel is being proclaimed and non-Jews are coming to Christ by the hundreds and maybe thousands. Because of what happened at one house in Caesarea and with just one Apostle, Peter, the Church in Jerusalem is ready to respond to the big thing happening in Antioch. From a micro point of view, the event at Cornelius’ house is pretty cool, but not that big a deal. However, God is doing something much bigger, preparing the way for the Good News to spread like wildfire throughout the Mediterranean region. It is fun to be part of the big deal, but it’s pretty neat to be there when the “big deal” was still a relatively “little deal.”
Take Away: What a blessing it is to be in on the ground floor of some great movement of God!
All are welcome here
Isaiah 56: My house of worship will be known as a house of prayer for all people.
Previously, when I’ve read this passage, I focused on the “prayer side” of this message: that God’s house is to be a house of prayer and God’s people are to be a people of prayer. That theme is very much present in this passage, but it really isn’t the heart of its message. The core of this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy is the “all people” statement. God’s salvation, we’re told, isn’t just for the Jewish “insiders” but for the Gentile “outsiders” as well. Those with physical limitations whose worship experience is limited by the laws of Deuteronomy are not to be treated as second class worshipers. In fact, God promises that those who fall in the “outside” category yet are faithful to the Lord will be given an honored place, even more honored than that of the insiders. Everyone is invited to come to the “house of prayer for all people.” My response to this passage today is on two levels. First, I thank God for it because I’m one of the outsiders who have been granted access to the Lord. I wasn’t born to the right family but I’ve been adopted in. Second, I want to conduct my life with a strong realization that God welcomes people who aren’t like me. As one who’s been graciously granted access, I gladly join the “welcoming committee” that invites other outsiders in. Also, while I won’t take time to develop it here, the literal meaning of this passage reminds me that there are those who need special accommodation to fully participate in the activities at the house of worship. I want the church I attend to be as assessable as possible for those who have special needs and as welcoming as possible to people from all walks of life.
Take Away: The Lord welcomes me but he also welcomes people who aren’t like me.