Who moved the Line? Let’s pray…. Rev. Stuart Buisch
So how do we make up our minds on what we believe is right? I have a good friend who will not do laundry on Sunday. Doing laundry for me is mostly throwing the clothes in the machine – on an intense day I need to do some stain spraying, add detergent, turn on, take out, put in drier. Voila laundry is done. Laundry is an opportunity to get something else done for me.
Each of us have I would guess lines in the sand of what is right and what is wrong. Every time something calls that line into question we are compelled to decide where is the new line and is it appropriate or not. Let’s explore Acts 11. People heard! Don’t you love it. I have found that those things we don’t want anyone to hear, are heard. The information we wish could be proclaimed on the roof-tops gets lost in the noise. This was big news. The enemy in terms of Jewish faith was accepted. It’s hard to even describe this in the 21st century. As a child my parents were pretty clear about who they thought were believers and who were not. Even as a man in my twenties there were churches that kept the riff raff out of their communion as I once had the experience in a church I visited.
Pure faith is a thing. It is probably more of a thing for each of us than we would happily admit. This is faith, that is not faith. My friend would say that laundry on Sunday is not faith. Sometimes I answer a call on a Thursday – my day off- because it will let me stop thinking about what somebody wanted. With our personal definitions of sin and wrong we can ask how we came to that or we can just continue to think what we have always thought. The early church was Jewish. Everybody in it followed Jewish rules. Jewish rules said that non-Jews were outside, not part of redeemable humanity unless they converted to Judaism. Peter’s vision focused on eating laws and rules. But Peter understood from his vision that this involved people too.
What is wonderful is that this whole account started with a man who behaved like a Jew or may I say better. Then when he heard about the Jewish hope – a Messiah who would fulfill everything, again God moved and allowed the Holy Spirit to indwell him and his family and friends just like the experience of the critics who couldn’t imagine Gentiles being accepted by God.
Here’s the problem, Peter had a vision three times that was in complete opposition to the Jewish faith. The early church had a problem. What is faith for this Messiah? Is it what we do or don’t do? Jewish Christians wanted to keep the Gentiles out. When we get a new idea how do we determine that it came from God? Things in the church have changed a great deal over the several centuries from the time of Christ to today. Some people of faith find much more pleasure in measuring morality than in sharing grace, forgiveness, hope and courage. The final proof of God’s presence was the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. There’s a line that can give faith to new people.
So we are back face to face inside for worship. Today we started our service with Palm Sunday music- to recall Christ’s entry and path to crucifixion, our first hymn was Easter – our declaration that human/mortal life is not all there is, our second was Pentecost – God’s Spirit dwells in us. All holidays that we have not shared together in worship in this pandemic. This has been an interesting journey in my faith. A friend of mine went to an empty church on Easter so that the building wouldn’t be empty. Another friend was convinced that the first Sunday back should be Easter. I celebrated Easter, albeit remotely but Easter was real for me, and one of our long distance members is still talking about the service on the river that he watched on line. These festivals are not unlike the truths of the Jewish festivals. Those festivals celebrate every year a God who delivers (Passover), A God who provides shelter (Booths), A God who provides the law, the Old Testament(Pentecost). What is amazing about those descriptions is that for the Christian church the law shows what is wrong but isn’t necessarily helpful in building faith, strengthening forgiveness, assuring of pardon. The Spirit helps us see the only lines that will ever matter. We may not have met face to face but the story of our faith continued. The truth of the holidays we allegedly missed did not get bumped. That truth is still true. We are a people who are delivered, sheltered and given both words and Spirit to lead us along the way. Our task is to enter into those faith stories with our story. To tell our children what God has done, will do, wanted to do and yet will unfold to do in our lives. Amen.
Lord of the Cosmos, grant us peace and light in the darkness…
Pain-bearer Christ, open our eyes and souls to your constant presence…
Sustaining Wind of God, bless fresh hope into our despair and angst…