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."
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.
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?