the one about a new thing...
April 25, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from April 24, 2016

Text: Acts 11: 1-18

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, every week we have four readings within our worship service. Each of the readings that have been chosen – as a part of the Revised Common Lectionary – try to have a running theme or thread within them. Sometimes that thread is easily noticed; sometimes it takes some digging to discover it.

Fortunately, I believe this Sunday the thread that binds these texts together is easier to discover than others.

We are in the midst of Easter and we continue to give praise and honor and shout alleluia for what God has done in Christ our Lord. We get to come to worship in the faith, knowledge, and hope that what God has done in the resurrection of Jesus – God will do for us as we are grafted into that relationship and love because of Jesus’ and God’s love for us – shown to us in the victory over sin and death that Christ achieved in his death on the cross and the empty tomb. The promise of the resurrection.

But, where does that lead us? How does that compel us to go forward each day in that knowledge? Where is God taking us in this venture?

What I think that we see here in our readings this morning is that God has done something new and continues in this ‘new’ throughout our lives and world today.

Your response might as well be, “Well duh pastor – we’ve heard that one before! Of course God has done something new!”

And you’d be right. We have heard that phrase before, but I wonder how often we actually see where this ‘new’ takes us and leads us.

Because there is something interesting about a ‘new’ thing. It’s different. It isn’t like what we had before. It involves the dreaded Lutheran word – change.

Look in our first reading this morning from Acts.

As I read this text I cannot help, but think how much this short story reflects what we see in our world – in the church – today.

Those who have ‘always’ been a part of the religious establishment. Those who have always been ‘here’ questioning if these ‘new’ people are really a part of them. They haven’t paid their dues yet. And in the context of our first reading here – the ‘dues’ to be paid could be very painful to quite a few of us here – if you know what I’m saying.

Those who have been Jewish (from the beginning) and who are now following the Way of Jesus the messiah are hesitant about this message being spread to those who haven’t always been a part of their life and group.

I remember in a previous church setting where an individual had a private meeting with me over a concern they had. Their concern? Some people hadn’t ‘been at the church long enough’ and were starting to lead and start things. They hadn’t paid their dues. Of course the individuals in question had been at the church for over eight years.

The underlying concern is that ‘new’ people bring new ideas, new ministries, new ways of doing things, new identities. We get wrapped up in what we’ve always been that we fail and hesitate to see who and where God wants us to be for the world.

These longtime faithful Jewish followers of Jesus were worried about how these new gentiles would change their dynamic, the conversation, the way we approach issues, and more. Their underlying thought was that what we have is for us and no one else. How can we share this?

Yet, Peter tells them a story of a vision he had where God commands him to eat of food that has normally been forbidden. God is adamant. What I say is clean – is clean. Eat and be fed. So Peter eats.

So, Peter living in the midst of this new thing that God is doing goes to those who have always been ‘outside’ the faith of the Hebrew God and they are welcomed. Welcomed because Christ is for us all – not a select and exclusive group. Christ is for all – especially the ones who you – we – think wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

We are able to see and welcome this ‘new thing’ that God is doing in Christ as we read in our Gospel text about Jesus’ new commandment to his disciples. To love one another as he has loved them. Of course, this love isn’t just saying it and it isn’t showing love in the ways that they had done in the past. Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved comes immediately after Jesus has stooped to wash the feet of his disciples.

Where the love that Jesus talks about is a love that serves others. That brings wholeness to the least of these. A love that gives selflessly to those in need around us. It isn’t a love that is self-serving or only concerned with a select few. It isn’t a love that only walks in familiar buildings, down well-worn paths, and surrounds itself with similar people and ideas.

The new commandment of love that Jesus proclaims and commands is one that sends us out to new places, new people, and in new ways. Proclaiming the gospel to those that others would rather steer clear of. Helping those in need that others have written off because of who they are or where they come from. This commandment to love as Jesus loves guides us into situations and into relationships with others that can make us feel uncomfortable, a little scared because it is different.

And as we live into this new commandment of love, where we are welcoming those who are new, we help live into the vision that the writer of Revelation conveys to us. A new heaven and new earth – where the holy city of God comes down to be with us. Where we realize and recognize that God comes to be with us. The ‘new’ is not that we shed what God has already gifted us to be somewhere else, but that God comes to be with us fully and completely.

This new thing where God is fully and completely present among creation.

As we live into this commandment of love and in this welcoming of those who are not ‘of us’ as those in Acts were critical of; we know that change will occur.

We will be changed. Our community will be changed. Our lives will be changed.

But, in that changing – in that re-formation – God will be present with us. Christ will continue to love on us and we in turn love in and through Jesus.

Where we are made more full and whole.

God is doing this new thing. It can be scary. It can be awkward. But, God is here. Christ is present. The Spirit is guiding.

In this love – this new love that we are commanded to live out – others will see. Others will come. Others will help us to see Christ more fully in the world so that we can continue to live more completely in the commandment of love that Jesus has given us.

We give praise to God for the love that we have been given, for the love that we get to share, for those who see that love and join in, and those that help us love more fully God’s children and creation.

This is indeed a new thing. Amen.

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