Daily Devotion - Monday, November 23, 2015
For most of this week our daily devotions will be reflections based on the sermon I preached earlier in the week for Christ the King the Sunday. In the sermon, I made the assertion that if Christians truly believe Jesus is in charge, they should be without fear, worry, anxiety, etc. Our devotions will be centered on that premise for the first part of the week--and then we'll turn our thoughts toward thankfulness as the week progresses.
As part of my daily readings this morning, I read the story of how the Apostle Peter had to explain to the church leaders at Jerusalem (who were all Jewish) how God had led him to go to the house of a Gentile--a Roman centurion named Cornelius, who accepted Christ and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The church leaders in Jerusalem, were not too thrilled that Peter had basically broken all kinds of religious laws when he not only entered Cornelius' house, but also ate dinner with him, and then claimed that he and "all of his household" had come to follow Jesus.
At the heart of their concern, I am sure, was the fact that not only was Cornelius a Gentile, he was also a military representative of the Roman Empire. Think about it for a moment. This guy was part of the very entity that not only oppressed the Jewish people, but also was ultimately responsible for the execution of Jesus himself.
Cornelius was the Other. Cornelius was the Enemy. He was also loved by God, claimed by Jesus and anointed by the Holy Spirit--just like they were. And in the end, they put aside their fear and their anxiety and simply rejoiced because it was obvious that Jesus was up to something new.
I think it's fair to characterize our current culture as a "culture of blame." When things go wrong, there seems to be a real sense of urgency on the part of those responsible to shift the blame elsewhere, and mostly to justify what they did (or are doing) to exacerbate the problem.
And in this culture of blame it becomes all too easy for many of us to find scapegoats, to demonize others and to create enemies out of entire groups of people--especially when we are afraid or anxious.
That's what the church in Jerusalem did initially with Cornelius. Their fears were based on assumptions and stereotypes, which they imprinted upon him because of their past experiences. But when they listened to Peter's story of Cornelius' conversion, they opened their hearts and minds, and were able to see that God was doing something new and incredible.
They realized that Jesus was Lord, not just for them, but also for those they once thought were adversaries.
May you go out into the world today with your eyes wide open, ready to see the new things God is doing to redeem all of Creation through Jesus. May you be filled with grace and peace toward those with whom you have disagreed in the past. And may you learn to see these "others" as children of God, anointed with the holy potential to be your brothers and sisters in Christ.