Today I was rostered to take the service and I wrote both the liturgy and the sermon around the theme presented in the Bible readings as set down in the Uniting Church in Australia Lectionary.
In Acts 10 there is an account of Peter having a vision or dream, if you like, of a sheet being let down, held up by its four corners. In the sheet there were all sorts of animals, some of which would have been considered by the Jews at that time as being unclean and therefore unsuitable for consumption.
But a voice told Peter to kill and eat. Peter, recognising the voice as that of God, refused, saying he had never let anything profane pass his lips. That was understandable, given the Jewish purity laws. But the voice of God persisted, telling Peter that nothing God had created was unclean and therefore, unfit for eating.
Peter, in the context of another event, realised that God was telling him that the old law had passed away and that a new law had been installed. That new law meant that Jews could then mix freely with Gentiles and that God loved all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.
I then gave accounts of congregations quite different from ours who were loved by God and who all professed to love God. And in those congregations people conducted themselves in vastly different ways, despite being committed Christians.
I also challenged the congregation to include all people with whom they have contact, under the commandment to care for each other.
Knowing that some would need to step out of their comfort zone to do that, I outlined reasons why people could come to have quite different views on how to live out their Christian commitment or different views of which faith to which they should choose to belong (or not belong). I also pointed out that Jesus had commissioned us to do “great things” and that if we needed to step out of our comfort zone, the Holy Spirit would be with us.
I thought that it should be clarified what deeds might be considered “great things”. For some, waving to a neighbour is very difficult if they had never done so in the first 70 years of their life.
But God has given us a command and we should be prepared to prayerfully, take a deep breath, and step out.
I remember a woman who led brilliant leadership programmes saying that “bluff” could impress upon a group that that person leading them at the time was competent and in charge of their material. We can be very unsure of ourselves but if we go forward boldly and believe Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit presence supporting us, it will appear to listeners that we are on top of our game. And with the Holy Spirit working through us, that will be true.