the one about shattering and reshaping...
May 7, 2018, 9:56 AM

Sermon from May 6, 2018

Text: Acts 10:44-48 & John 15:9-17

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

So, as I read over the texts we have before us this day, I was greatly intrigued by our first reading from Acts. As I read of Peter and those who gathered with him in Cornelius’ home, I couldn’t help but think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community. It’s a short book, but it is deeply packed with such a good understanding of what living this life of faith in community is meant for and looks like.

You see, Peter and those with him – those who were at that time devout in the Jewish life of faith – we’re accustomed to the thought that they were God’s people. And they are. They truly, truly are. Nothing can take that promise and covenant away from the Jewish people. That promise, that covenant is valid and still stands today and for all eternity.

But, as happens with any group, they began to believe that they might be God’s only people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Especially since there are many stories within scripture showing God ever so often expanding what the community of God might look like and include. The culmination of that expansion is in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Where, according to Bonhoeffer, the entire community exists through and in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t and cannot exist apart from him. For those gathered that day in Cornelius’ home and even especially for us today, God continually shatters our idealized notion of what community is and reshapes it into the community that God intends.

A community that is far greater, broader, and more diverse than ever thought possible.

In our text this morning from Acts, we read of those other faithful Jewish people with Peter who are bewildered and amazed that these others are proclaiming God. The Holy Spirit is made known to them and in them, so much so that all those around them are able to see it.

In fact, Peter earlier in this chapter, had a dream and vision from God that informed him that God is the one who makes things clean, and that which is named clean is not to be called profane.

Peter’s ideal notion of clean and unclean, of those who are a part of the community of God and those who are outside that community is shattered – deliberately – and reshaped into the intent of God’s kingdom.

So, too are those who are gathered that day in Cornelius’ home having their notion of community reshaped by God. They entered that day knowing one thing about what it means to be loved by God and they left with a much fuller and more complete understanding of who God loves and includes in the community. In Christ, it is much deeper and wider than ever before.

This reminds me of a story in my life. Last week I talked a little about my time in Mexico City, today you get to hear another short story about that experience.

One of the greatest gifts we received during those two and a half weeks, was the ability to listen and learn from those within the indigenous communities of Mexico. Specifically, how their community is shaped around God and living into that faith that Christ has given through the Holy Spirit. The individual we spoke to and learned from told a story of those first missionaries who came to ‘save’ her people.

The missionaries were amazed at how well they received God’s Word and promise for them and the entire world. Those they came to minister to were equally amazed that these missionaries were so surprised at this reality. As one leader within the indigenous community said to the missionaries, “You came here to bring us God, but you did not bring us God. We know that God was already and has always been here. We don’t give you thanks for that, but we do thank you for giving us God’s name – Jesus who is the Christ, the savior of the whole world.”

I can only imagine the look of astonishment on those missionaries’ faces when they heard that. They came into this country expecting to bring Jesus to those who did not know, yet they discovered that God had already been present there. Their notion of the community of God was shattered, reshaped, and made far larger than they had known before.

Last Sunday, we read of the Ethiopian Eunuch – another individual who was considered ‘outside’ the community of God based on their country of origin and who he was and how he lived his life. Yet, as he and Philip spoke and read scripture together, the Ethiopian stated, “Here is water – what is to prevent me from being baptized?”

The answer to that question is of course – nothing. Nothing can prevent you from being baptized. Here is water – here is God’s word. You are welcome to the font of living water, you are welcomed to the table of life. You are a part of God’s community and family. Nothing prevents that from you, nor is there anything that can take that from you.

Last week, we heard from the one on the outside of the community asking if anything can prevent them from entering into it in baptism. This morning we hear from those on the inside asking, “Can anyone withhold the waters of baptism from these ones?”

Again, the answer is no, no one can withhold the waters of baptism. All are welcome. Here is water – here is God’s word. Come, be washed, be fed in Jesus’ name and life.

As Bonhoeffer writes, God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. God shatters those dreams and visions of what we think the Kingdom and community of God might and even should look like.

This sense of community – who belongs and who doesn’t – is still something we struggle with even today. Where we attempt to exclude from those being a part of us on account of where they are from, who they are, how they live, what they look like. We do it subtly and unfortunately at times more overtly.

Last Sunday, many here gathered with those in the community to watch the movie Selma. A film chronicling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s epic march from Selma to Montgomery, AL to advocate for equal voting rights. I had never seen that movie before and, for me, it was quite emotional and powerful to watch that movie surrounded by the diverse community of Newberry.

Where in that film the sin of racism was being shown during that time – and where unfortunately that sin still exists today. That film gives each of us a window into seeing how difficult it can be to undergo that shattering and reshaping of God’s community. It is such a struggle that we are still adjusting to it today.

We are still being reshaped in our community so that we might know more fully and completely what God’s love is for the world.

In our Gospel reading this morning, we hear the word ‘love’ spoken quite often, nine times to be exact. It is a continuation of Jesus’ talk with and to his disciples that we heard begun last Sunday. Though, this day we read and hear a very, very important word from Jesus’ lips.

That as we idealize our notions of community – who is in and who is out. We hear Jesus say to his disciples and in turn say to each and every one of us.

You did not choose me, but I chose you.

Jesus has chosen you. Jesus has chosen others. Jesus is the one who chose. Jesus chooses all. Our Lord’s love is so great and wide that all are welcome to the waters of baptism. All are welcome to the table. All are included in the community of God.

God has chosen you through Christ. God has chosen me through Christ. God has chosen even those through Christ. God has done this through the great love that only God can bestow and live fully into.

God’s love, grace, and mercy continually shatters our idea of community, but in that love, grace, and mercy God reshapes us and the community into what God has intended all along. In that new and intended kingdom of God, we are invited to live into that love that God has for us through Christ through and for others.

A final word from Bonhoeffer about community, “The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.”

Let us live this life of faith knowing that we are shattered and reshaped. That in our reshaping, God has made this community that much more full, complete, and whole. Let us live into this reshaped community and kingdom of God so that we might all know Jesus and his love for all more fully. Amen.


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