Welcome to Friday’s Podcast. This is my final podcast for the week – next week my colleague Helen Ward will take the reins and lead us on through the book of Acts.
Today our reading is Acts 10: 17-33 – today we’ll focus on verse 25-28:
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
I’d like to continue our dog theme if at all possible. In 2011 we moved to Cambridge. About six months after we moved the Bishop of Ely came to visit us. He’s a wonderful man – a very tall man who instantly puts you at ease with warmth as big as his stature. As soon as he sat on our sofa our dog, Archie, was really drawn to him. I sometimes think dogs are great judges of character. So the dog got up from his bed and sat at the Bishop’s feet – actually on his feet! He clearly didn’t feel close enough to him so he sat up and rested his head on the Bishop’s lap. We were a little concerned but the Bishop assured us he was fine with the dog’s head on his lap. To show everyone in the room how at peace he was he decided to affirm the dog by stroking him and smiling at him. Unfortunately Archie took it as a signal for a cuddle and before we could leap out of our chair he leapt onto the Bishop’s lap. They were now face to face. It was beyond awkward. Removing the dog from the Bishop’s lap was a whole new level of awkward. It was a total faux pas.
In today’s passage we come across a faux pas.
The first one is Peter’s arrival at Cornelius’s house – immediately Cornelius falls at Peter’s feet. Such an outward display of devotion – of submission – from a man of his stature is incredible. It’s interesting that Peter’s response to make him is to make him stand up straight away. In some ways Peter removes himself from being Cornelius’s object of devotion. He just won’t have it. He’s not tempted to receive the adoration. Peter’s having none of Cornelius’s worship. Peter, after all is just a man – chosen by God.
After Cornelius’s faux pas – Peters opening line to those gathered is this: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.’ He goes on to say ‘But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean…’
This short exchange: Cornelius’ falling at Peter’s feet – the misplaced worship – and Peter’s rather blunt opening line to his sermon tell us this: He refuses to be their god. He refuses to treat them as dogs.
Up until this point, for Gentiles to join the church they would have to become full Jews as well. Now Gentiles and Jews alike are called to repent, to turn their lives over to Jesus and embrace baptism as the sign of new life.
Peter stepping into Cornelius’s home is a sign of incredible breakthrough. It’s a reminder that God by his grace steps into my home and my life. My sin makes me unclean but God in his mercy cleans me up. I’m so thankful! And it’s a reminder that in our less than perfect lives, where our animals can embarrass us – that we’re called to enter places that perhaps we really don’t want to go: to people’s homes, where it’s an inconvenience; or our workplaces where we don’t always want to be, or like the people that we work with; or the communities where we’re confused why the Lord has sent us; all of those places that God is sending us, to embrace, to love and to show God’s mercy.
Let’s enter this day knowing that as Lord has reached out to us, accepted us, he is in the process of cleaning us up. He is calling us on and outwards to bless, and include, and love other people.
I pray Lord you open more doors for us – send us into the places of your choosing. Amen
READING: Acts 10:17-33
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.’
Peter went down and said to the men, ‘I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?’
The men replied, ‘We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.’ Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?’
Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.” So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’