May 10, 2015 Text: Acts 10:34-48

Dear Friends in Christ,

A resurrected Christ means radical change. Just ask Peter. He’s stunned, shaken, shocked. Nothing could have prepared him for the encounter he had with Cornelius. He was to eat food he had never eaten before. He was to eat with people he had avoided his whole life. Drastic changes were in store for this famous apostle.
The scene is this: Peter is praying on a rooftop. God comes to him in a vision. Three times He tells Peter to eat certain types of animals that a good Jew back then (or now) wouldn’t ever let cross his taste buds. These were foods that had been forbidden for religious reasons. It was going against his whole spiritual upbringing to eat them. They turned his stomach because they were associated with what he thought God didn’t want him to eat.
Is he shocked? Stunned? Shaken? He has to be. Peter’s response isn’t surprising, “Surely not, Lord!” But God says He has made these foods clean, and Peter is to eat them.
But for Peter it was more than strange foods. God also tells him to eat with a Gentile family. Once again, for religious reasons, Jews just didn’t enter a Gentile’s house. It would make them unclean, unacceptable to God. Peter had grown-up avoiding non-Jews. He didn’t touch them or their belongings. Could you sit down and eat with someone who had the plague, a disease that you could catch just from being in the same room with that person? It would be tough. This is what is happening to Peter. He’s shaken. He’s stunned. He’s shocked.
But Peter does what he’s told to do. He eats with the Gentile Cornelius and his family. He eats food he’s never eaten before. Everything’s changed. Radical changes are in the air. Why? Because Jesus has risen from the dead.
A resurrected Christ changes our world, too! He wants to bring together people who just aren’t usually seen together. He wants people who so often avoid each other to eat at the same table. The radical changes leave many stunned and shaken.
Think about it. We live in a world where people notice differences. Those who wear black leather and nose rings don’t hang around much with elderly widows. Those who drink fancy coffees and eat goat cheese on their sun-dried tomato bagels don’t travel much in the same circles as your meat and potatoes people.
Look at the differences perpetuating themselves daily. The political left does battle with the political right. Aging baby boomers hold jobs and positions that younger folks want. Who stays and who gets pushed out? Tension is high. And we have ethnic battles. What to do about immigration? How many resources and dollars should be spent? Racial problems still abound as we have been seeing about every night on our television. A different skin color and background often separates. Suspicion and fear are more common than togetherness. We live in a country where belonging is not easy and we are divided.
But the church of Jesus Christ is different. We include, not exclude. We join together, not separate. We fellowship, not divide. And that can be shocking.
This is the way Jesus does things. He makes radical changes because He’s the resurrected Christ! Just look at what changed for Peter.
Even though in shock he still went to the home of Cornelius and spoke amazing words. He announces that God accepts all people. No favorites or partiality. You can be any ethnic background, any race, male or female, young or old, rich or poor. The Lord welcomes everyone. Everyone who believes in Jesus and receives forgiveness of sins through this resurrected Savior belongs to God’s church. To be accepted by God even though we are sinful, to belong to His church even though we have failed Him, is the wonder of His grace in our lives.
Even though stunned, Peter speaks these words to Cornelius’ family and friends. The message is simple: Jesus is Lord of all. He was anointed by God’s Spirit to rescue people from the power of Satan. But He was killed. Hung on a tree to die. But God raised Him from the dead. Easter resurrection! Easter joy! The grave could not hold him in. Death would not be victorious. Everything that could keep us from God was defeated that day. Everything that was needed for us to belong to God forever was won that day.
Even though shaken, Peter eats with this family and shares with them that he ate with the resurrected Christ. The one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. Those who eat with Jesus are forgiven, accepted, raised to new life, promised eternal life.
This is good news for Peter and us. Look at the radical changes a resurrected Jesus brings to our lives. Instead of rejection by the Almighty Father, we are accepted, forgiven by this Jesus who is risen from the dead. Instead of a cold grave, we are given life eternal, victory over death. Instead of being left out, we eat with Jesus; receive His very body and blood every time we go to His table to take Communion. And, yes, because of a resurrected Christ we bring together at the communion rail, all of God’s people, young and old, rich and poor, different parts of our world, the fancy dresser and the casual wearer.
At my first congregation in a small West Texas town the congregants were mostly the same. Men in suits, women in dresses, some cowboy hats and boots. German and white by background. One Sunday, we had a man appear in the back of our church. Disheveled and definitely not in a suit. Rode his bike to our church. Some of the folks were a little leery of this stranger. But being the friendly Texans that they are they reached out and visited with him. I do recall he came back a few more Sundays and then he disappeared. Who knows what happened, but prayerfully a group of Christian men and women made a difference in his life.
That’s the power of the resurrected Christ. He changes Peter and He changes us. That is what Easter is all about. The Easter holiday that we are still privileged to be in is celebrated anew. Why? Because the resurrected Christ has brought radical changes to our lives.