God Shows No Partiality

July 27, 2014

God Shows No Partiality ~ Martin B. Copenhaver

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. From Acts 10:34-43

In Jesus’ day there was a great enmity between Jews and Gentiles. So perhaps it is not surprising that, in the earliest days of the church, there were many who thought that the good news of Jesus was for Jews alone. Peter was particularity fervent in his belief that in order to be a follower of Jesus one had to conform to Jewish practices. But then Peter was touched by the faith of a gentile named Cornelius and he received a vision in a dream that showed him otherwise. Peter said, to everyone’s astonishment (and perhaps his own), “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

Given what perter had previously believed, it would have been remarkable if he had said, “I truly understand that God does not want us to hate one another.” It would have been startling if he had said, “I truly understand that God wants us to accept one another.” It would have been revolutionary if he had said, “I truly understand that God wants us to be in relationship with one another.” But Peter says more than any of those things, and more than all of that combined. Peter says, in essence, “No one is in and no one is out. We are the same in God’s sight.”

That story is such a pivotal one, not merely because it traces an important moment in the history of the church, but also because it reminds us that history continues. God is still extending a wider welcome than we would be inclined to give.

PRAYER: god, we affirm that you are still speaking. May we still listen. Amen

Taken from the United Church of Christ devotional, God Is Still Speaking: 365 Daily Devotionals, ed. Christina Villa (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2013), 222.

Consider Breaking the Law

July 23, 2014

Consider Breaking the Law ~ Christina Villa

He heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times…While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”  From Acts 10:9-23a

Peter is hungry. He has a vision and hears God tell him what to do: “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Wait a minute Peter says, I’m not going to just kill any old thing and eat it! That’s against the rules, and apparently even having God tell him it’s OK – not once, not twice, but three times – isn’t enough for Peter. He’s still “greatly puzzled” by what he’s heard. What could it mean? What should he do about it? He’s still thinking about it later, when the Spirt, sounding exasperated, has a job for him to do, but has to prod him into action: “Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation for I have sent them.”

Sometimes we get so used to following rules that our obedience to them gets in the way of our obedience to God. Sometimes we follow rules in order to avoid challenge or risk. In the process of staying safe, and perhaps congratulating ourselves for being good rule-followers, we never do anything that might be considered divinely inspired – or even very important to us. In this scripture, Peter actually refused to do what God tells him to do – he tells God, “By no means, Lord” – because he’s let the rule become his god. But God is changing the rules here, as if to illustrate the old saying that rules are made to be broken.

What “rules” are you busy following while the Spirit is repeatedly trying to make you “get up” and do something else, something you were meant to do, something God has in mind for you?

PRAYER: Thank you for never giving up on trying to get my attention. Amen.

 Taken from the United Church of Christ devotional, God Is Still Speaking: 365 Daily Devotionals, ed. Christina Villa (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2013), 218.

Action Command

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January 13

Action Command ~~ Donna Schaper

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. From 1 Peter 1:13 – 16

Action has a great public relations agency people want to be active, not passive; engaged, not distant; they remember the full wisdom that "actions speak louder than words." That action without a prepared mind is dangerous.

Don't just stand there, we say, do something. Most of what we do when we are just "doing something" is pointless. Actions without intentions – – an action without humility – – in fake us into thinking we are "doing something." Such action is a short term solution to life's long-term.

Unprepared or unmindful action has become tyrannical. It is divorced from reflection, and the children, after the divorce, are suffering. Whether it is speeding up at work; e-mails at home, at work, on the subway, or even while riding a bike; or on the way "we have become the tools of our tools," as Thoreau said, action is overblown. It has become something that puffs us up, while exhausting us.

The old-fashioned way of talking about this dilemma is to contrast works and grace, the way our doing of even good things can conflict with our way of being grace filled people. If you think it is all up to you and you have to work hard to do good, you are in danger of thinking your works have saved you and not your faith. Sola fide, only faith, say the old-timers. And they had no public relations agency all.

PRAYER: O God, when action threatens to get in the way of grace, permit us conscientious objection to joining its military. Amen.

God Is Still Speaking: 365 Daily Devotionals, ed. Christina Villa (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2013), 14-15.