Homily: May 10, 2015

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar "Everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

 

Everyone?

Peter, are you SURE about that?

 

After all, God had to send the Apostle Peter a vision

before he'd  even darken the door of Cornelius the Roman centurion!

 

I can just hear Peter pleading

"But God, They re GENTILES!"

 

It's only when the Holy Spirit falls on those Gentiles

that Peter realizes God means business!!

 

God was stretching Peter's comfort zone.

But to be fair,

God wasn’t picking on poor Peter alone.

 

From the beginning on the day of Pentecost

throughout the book of Acts

God's Spirit was consistently pushing and pulling

all of God’s people towards the edges.

 

God was leading the first believers out from

comfortable old Jerusalem

the Holy City with its familiar sights and sounds and good old boy network.

 

God first pushes followers of Jesus Way toward the Samaritans.

 

The nearby Samaritans were just a few miles to the north.

But they might as well have been a thousand miles away.

 

Many Jews considered the Samaritans to be half breeds, foreigners.

But slowly the Jewish followers of Jesus way

began to accept the Samaritans who believed in Christ

as equals, first class brothers and sisters.

 

That happened back in Acts Chapter Eight.

But God wasn’t content with that.

 

Here in Acts Chapter 10

the Spirit pushed the early followers of Jesus even further.

 

God said to Peter- “accept the Gentiles”

embrace the Romans like Cornelius the Centurion.

A tough sell.

The Romans were the occupying army in Israel,

the oppressors, conquerors of the Jews.

 

Everywhere the followers of Jesus Way have gone

they have been stretched out of their comfort zones.

Its been that way since the beginning.

 

Sometimes people think all this talk about inclusivity

is just modern liberation movements in society

invading the church from outside.

 

You name it!

African and Native Americans, Women,   LGBT issues.

 

But inclusivity is not a modern invention.

It’s always been that way.

 

In every generation

Believers in Jesus have thought to ourselves

“we’ve gone about as far as we can go.”

 

Here are the boundaries-

This is how far the love and compassion of God can lead us

And no further.

 

Every time       EVERY TIME

God says- go just a little farther please.

 

Have you ever wondered   Why that is?

Why does God keep stretching us,

Moving us beyond our comfort zones?

 

Its because that’s where God is.

He’s just as much out at the periphery,

way beyond our comfort zones,

as he is near us.

 

The reason God stretches us

to love beyond OUR comfort zones

Is because he loves that way too.

God lives that way too.

 

<<Last Thursday evening

As part of our Celebration of New Ministry

we remembered an English saint

whose feast day was Friday, Julian of Norwich.

 

She didn’t travel far and wide-

She probably never went more than a few hundred feet

from her tiny monastic cell

attached to the parish church at Norwich.

Her room was no likely bigger than our baptistery room

at the back of the church.

 

She spent many decades in that tiny space.

But no one was stretched further to the boundaries

in God’s love than she was.

 

The first book written by a woman in the English language

came from her pen in 1395,

when a series of visions led her

to compose a treatise called Revelations of Divine Love –

an extraordinary contemplation

of universal love and hope

written in a time of plague, religious schism, uprisings and war.>>

 

This is part of what Julian wrote:

 

God showed me a little thing, a hazel nut,

lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed.

I thought, 'What may this be?'

Came the answer:

'It is all that is made.'

It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it.

And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”>>

 

(Remember Julian’s hazelnut?)

Julian saw all things in love,

because she saw all things in God.

 

For Julian,

God’s love had no boundaries-

It was in the tiniest hazelnut

And out there also-

to the farthest edges of the universe.

 

That boundary stretching love is the hope of our world-

a world where people every day

fight and claw their way to the top,

a world where people look down on others,

where war and injustice seem often to prevail.

 

That is the hope I have

about Baltimore,   And Kosovo,

and right here in our own city and neighborhoods

where we have to live the boundary stretching love of God.

 

God is always stretching all of us us

to look for the next person to love.

 

What Julian saw in that hazelnut

is also what drove the Apostle Peter

Beyond is Jewish comfort zone

into embracing Cornelius the Centurion.

 

That same love is what will strengthen us today.

 

Where are the boundaries of your comfort zone today?

And how is God sending you out beyond it in love?

Amen.