From “Who was I, that I could hinder God?”, a sermon on Acts 11:1-18.
And so finally Peter is inside Cornelius’ house.
And he’s talking with these Gentiles, eating their food, accepting their hospitality.
And they’re getting to know each other.
And then the Gentiles ask Peter to speak a message to them:
“Tell us about Jesus, so we may be saved.”
And Peter has come a long way already.
And still, still, when they ask him to preach the Good News to them…Peter hesitates.
I’m not cut out for this, God.
Why do you have to put me in these situations?
Why can’t you just keep me with the people I know and am comfortable with?
And we know what Peter decides to do in the end.
But I want to linger at this moment of hesitation for a minute.
And I want to ask…
Have you ever had a moment that felt like this?
Has God ever put you in the position where you are side by side with a person, or a group of people…
that makes you uncomfortable, for some reason?
And you have to choose how to respond?
I’m leading an Inquirers class after worship today.
And in preparing for that, I was reminded of three history-making moments that we claim as part of our tradition in the UCC.
The first happened way back in 1785....
When Lemuel Haynes, an African-American veteran of the American Revolution, was ordained by a Congregational church in Connecticut.
The first African-American ordained minister in this country.
The second happened in 1853…
When Antoinette Brown, a women’s rights activist and graduate of Oberlin College, was ordained in a Congregational church in New York.
The first female ordained minister in this country.
And the third happened only 45 years, in 1973.
When Bill Johnson, a graduate of Pacific School of Religion, was ordained at the UCC church in San Carlos.
The first openly gay ordained minister in this country.
And we celebrate each of these moments as part of our church’s legacy. They seem inevitable now.
But the truth is, each of these cases happened, because there were a group of human beings gathered together in a room.
Gathered, just like Peter and the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house.
And sure, maybe some of them knew the right thing to do right away.
(Of course we like to think we would be one of those people!)
But I bet a far greater number of people who voted, in each of these situations, were like Peter in our story.
Coming face to face with an other person they didn’t fully understand.
Maybe even a person they had been taught their whole lives to avoid...
Certainly a person who they had not associated with the full holiness of God.
And so, as every stereotype, and preconception, and anxiety swirled around in their heads…
And I bet not a few of them prayed something like Peter must have prayed.
This wasn’t my idea of serving you, God.
I’m not cut out for this.
Why can’t I just stick with the group I feel comfortable with?
And as they prayed, there is no doubt in my mind, that a voice came to some of them…
just as it came to Peter in Cornelius’ house.
Don’t you get it?
THIS is what following me is all about.
Breaking down the boundaries of our world… is what my love means.