Welcome to the STC Sheffield daily podcast. My name is Helen, and I am looking forward to continuing our journey through the book of Acts with you this week.
Today is Monday 28th October, and we’re at the start of a week that is set to be profoundly significant for our nation, both now and into the future. As I’m writing and recording this podcast a few days before it’s uploaded, I don’t know if any decisions have been made regarding our withdrawal from the European Union. However, what I do know is that today’s Bible passage is an amazing reminder of the sovereignty of God.
Only a God who is all knowing and present everywhere, at all times, with authority over all situations, would have been at work in the structuring of the podcast readings, so that at the start of this week, we would all be reminded of these verses from Acts Chapter 10 vs34-35:
“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
The Message translation puts it like this: “It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from – if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.”
At the start of this week, I can think of nothing more important to be reminded of.
It makes no difference to God whether our passport is blue or red, or whether we even have one at all. It makes no difference to God what is written on our birth certificate, who our parents are, or where we were born. What matters to God is what our attitude is towards him. Do we desire after God’s own heart and are we ready to do as he says?
Because if we are, then there are no check points, no red tape, no deals to be struck, nothing else to prove, before we can enter a relationship with him. The door is always open. This is the amazing truth of the Gospel.
The significance of these words in Acts were as powerful to the culture and context then, as they are for us today. Just as our nation is polarised, with seemingly insurmountable chasms between different groups……so it was at the time when Acts was written. There was just no way on earth that the Jews and the Gentiles would ever come together of their own accord. In fact, there were religious rules that explicitly prohibited this very thing.
But God’s plan was not made on earth, it was sent from Heaven.
What we see happening in Acts Chapter 10 has been described as the final stage of Pentecost – the time when God visibly demonstrated that the power of the Holy Spirit was for Gentiles, as well as Jews.
In Acts Chapter 2, when the Holy Spirit first came upon those gathered in the upper room, they began speaking in tongues. Now the identical thing happens to the Gentiles listening to Peter. There was no difference between the way in which the Holy Spirit operated amongst Jews or Gentiles. As the Gentiles heard the word of God, and responded to it, so they experienced the power of God; just as the Jews had done.
God was showing that he does not have a favourite group of people that he wants to be in relationship with. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit, was going to bridge and move right across the cultural chasm between Jews and Gentiles, and then it was going to continue to spread across the whole earth to every people group, tribe and tongue without favouritism.
In this Brexit week, when so much talk has been of division, borders and barriers; how can we, as Christians, bridge and cross the chasms in our own society? How can we live and act in such a way that reflects what God wants?
Here are 3 simple, practical ideas……
Firstly, we can pray. In Isaiah 56 vs7 we read that as God’s people, we are called to become a house of prayer for all nations. Why not start by praying for the nations that are represented in our church? We have a cluster that reaches out to international women, another that connects with those from the Philippines, we have a group that is supporting the international cafe at the university, whilst others reach out to the Slovak and Pakistani community where they live. There are also 3 members of our church currently living and serving in Uganda. We can all bring down boundaries or borders in our prayer life, and commit to pray for the nations.
Secondly, in verse 36 of today’s passage, we see that we are to be people who “announce the good news of peace.” The Bible is literally overflowing with verses that encourage us to live at peace, seek peace, promote peace and do things that lead to peace. This week in our conversations with others, let us be the ones who speak words of peace. Rather than allowing favouritism and division to dominate our workplaces, our neighbourhoods or our relationships; may we be known as those who seek reconciliation and restoration. Let us be people who work to bridge the gaps, fill the chasms, and lead people into a relationship with Jesus – the Prince of Peace.
Finally, we read in verse 38 that Jesus went around doing good. How can we do good to others this week – particularly those who are from a different nationality or culture to our own? It can be something simple like baking a cake, sending a card, or inviting someone round for a cup of tea. However small or simple, let us do good to those around us, and may our actions declare to others that it makes no difference who you are or where you’re from, God longs to welcome you into his family.
Heavenly Father, help us this week to pray for the nations, speak words of peace and do good to others. Amen.
READING: Acts 10:34-48
Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.