Heart change comes before behavior change.
Michael Murray, M.A., LCCA, LCPAA, is the Executive Director, A Better Tomorrow, PO Box 304, Cherokee, TX 76832, (325)-622-4044, www.abttexas.org. Please support and affirm Michael’s calling to protect and nurture children in foster care.
We will have Holy Communion on May 11th. Jesus celebrated Holy Communion when he broke bread with his followers on the night before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:25-29, Mark 14:21-25, Luke 22:15-21, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). The United Methodist Church recognizes Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper) and Baptism as sacraments because they were instituted by Jesus as means of bestowing the grace of God upon the recipient.
How was your Easter? Easter didn’t turn out like everybody thought it might. You and I went to Easter morning expecting to hear that Jesus has been resurrected. Some were wondering if the preacher would come up with something new. Easter story is heard every year for over two thousand years. You should know that at the first one, almost no one expected Easter to turn out like it did. Peter thought the idea of a crucified Messiah was crazy. So crazy - we all know - that Peter denied Jesus, despite Peter’s sworn loyalty to follow Jesus. Peter was a card carrying orthodox Jew. Peter considered himself a member of the covenant God made with Abraham. The notion that God’s promises to Israel, could include folks other than Jews, was a crazy idea for Peter. I want to feel certain that Peter knew about Rahab and Ruth, both non-Jews, and both parts of Israel’s history. I want to believe that Peter knew that God sent Jonah to Nineveh to save the gentiles. But somehow, despite Peter’s knowledge of the Law and the prophets, despite Peter seeing Jesus go to the Samaritan woman at the well, Peter would have remembered that Jacob met Rachel at the well, and Moses met Zipporah at the well. Both married the non-Jewish women they met at the well. Peter worshipped with Jesus, and heard Jesus change the Passover meal and making the new covenant. Despite Peter witnessing the resurrection of Jesus, despite the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost … despite all that, Peter couldn’t seem to get over the idea of God including a non-Jewish person into the covenant. God gave Peter a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven. A dream, rather what he had seen and heard with his eyes and ears, is how God reached Peter. After that dream God sent men to take Peter to the home of a non-Jewish person, Cornelius. Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Peter. (Act 10:28-32) Cornelius said to Peter: Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” Then Peter preached: “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation God accepts those who worship him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel-- that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:33-36) Peter continues to preach: “You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John the Baptist began preaching his message of baptism.”
And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after Jesus rose from the dead.”
And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all the living and the dead. Jesus is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that “everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
Maybe Peter was preaching to himself. Maybe this is why we need to hear the scriptures so often, because we are like Peter. Despite it being “plain as day”, right in front of us, we limit God’s grace. We like to pray and give thanks that God loves us despite our sins, and we like to judge others and ask God to change those not like us so they can be loved like we are. What is the new covenant in the Easter Sunrise service? How about this description God gave to Paul: For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29) All is a big word. Big as that word is, it cannot fully describe the length, and depth and width of God’s love for you and for me and for our neighbor we both think isn’t not included. Enjoy the eight weeks of Easter.
The story gets even more crazy around Pentecost.