Easter 5C
Sunday May 2nd, 2010.

after Glenda Kowald shared about her experiences in Mongolia…

ACTS 1:1-18 Peter Reports to the Church in Jerusalem
1The apostles and the followers in Judea heard that Gentiles had accepted God’s message. 2So when Peter came to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish followers started arguing with him. They wanted Gentile followers to be circumcised, and 3they said, “You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!”

4Then Peter told them exactly what had happened:

5I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision. I saw heaven open, and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down to me. 6When I looked in it, I saw animals, wild beasts, snakes, and birds. 7I heard a voice saying to me, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”

8But I said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.” [a] 9The voice from heaven spoke to me again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.” 10This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven.

11Suddenly three men from Caesarea stood in front of the house where I was staying. 12The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry. Then six of the Lord’s followers went with me to the home of a man 13who told us that an angel had appeared to him. The angel had ordered him to send to Joppa for someone named Simon Peter. 14Then Peter would tell him how he and everyone in his house could be saved.

15After I started speaking, the Holy Spirit was given to them, just as the Spirit had been given to us at the beginning. 16I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?

18When they heard Peter say this, they stopped arguing and started praising God. They said, “God has now let Gentiles turn to him, and he has given life to them!”

When I hear Glenda speak and this account of Peter being shown by God of something very challenging for him (that non-Jewish people are sought and loved by God and can be made holy and one with God too) I can only think of one word to describe these experiences: transformation.

Glenda has spoken of a transformation into seeing and understanding something more; having her ideas, her inner being shaped into another way by the experience she has had – or should we say, the experienced God was with her in and orchestrated.

Peter was transformed by his experience of the Spirit of the risen Jesus coming upon people he thought could never receive him nor should receive him. Peter had a foundational belief that he had been brought up in totally undone by God. Peter had always been taught that he was one of the chosen people and that no other people can be chosen and loved by God, the creator and redeemer of Israel.

This fundamental belief of two worlds (Jewish and Gentile) took a lot of moving even by God. It is a huge account that Luke tells. Peter needs visions, strangers, a miraculous show of the Spirit working in others right before his very eyes and through his own speaking for him to finally come to new insight and new spiritual place that “God does not show favourites but accepts people from every kind of people who honour him” (Acts 10: 34).

What about you and me? What are our fundamental beliefs that God wants to and needs to completely disassemble in order for us to become the person of vision, witness, courage and faith that Peter became when he was coerced into giving up this “them and us” view of people and God?
Glenda had to be moved along, nudged here and there, challenged, encouraged, made uncomfortable, so she them could experience the reward of joy that following God’s lead brings for her to see new things for her life, the church, her calling as a mum, teacher, parent and friend….

What about you? What about me? What about us?

Here’s some things that God seems to challenge in me…
• People I don’t like don’t deserve God’s love or mine.
• Only “good” people can be Christians. What was that about healing and forgiving
• People who place their faith in other religious faiths or philosophies are not
loved and sought by God…. That’s the Peter belief that God undid so that many
people could find healing and peace through Peter’s life.
• God can’t do anything much with me because I am too………
• I am not much use to God and this church because I am too…………
• God’s love and truth only comes to the world from Christian people…. What was
that about the good Samaritan?
• Being Christian is about going to church services…. What was that about Jesus
being “all in all” and the Spirit of God blowing when and where he wills as he
calls, gathers and enlightens the community called the church?
• God doesn’t really mind what we do and who we are during the week as long as we
turn up to church now and again…. What was that about the way of the cross and
picking up the call of Jesus and carrying it – following him and his voice?
• I can trust what and who I like for life because God is always gracious and will
accept me…. What was that about “repent and receive the good news of forgiveness for you sin”?

Ocean Forest is God’s community and he is seeking transformation in each of us. It seems that God will go to great lengths to transform everyday people with extraordinary measures to make people bringers of good news and healing for anyone and everyone.

God might be asking us to consider how we are holding out on him and resisting his new understandings and new ministry that he dearly wants us to be part of. How could you find yourself where Glenda found herself and bring such good news to people she does not even know?

How much will it take for the Lord to convince you that he is wanting to transform all of you for your great blessing and the freeing of many people who are still strangers to the mercy of God?

Could it be that our Mongolia is Ocean Forest? Could it be that God is transforming you into a person of great impact and influence in the lives of the people who are in and around this school and community?

I don’t know what you need to let go of. I don’t know what you need to take on. I do know that God is into transformation, not just information. He is into proclaiming good news not just giving information seminars about grace.

I do know that we are not meant to be standing still in our spiritual journey. God is offering growth, deeper understanding, a spiritual direction and the great fulfilment and joy that comes from trusting him – really trusting him; Letting the safe beliefs be examined, tried and tested and then modified, removed or strengthened as he nudges us, leads us, challenges – all in love and surrounded by grace.

It is scary stuff at the start. I reckon Glenda would agree. But then it becomes a place you never want to leave.

Transform us, Jesus, more and more into people of joy, love and influence for your grace working through us to bring life and healing to this community in need. Amen.