Easter Sunday, Acts 10:34-43
Simon Peter was a young Jewish man who made a living in the fishing industry. I imagine that he thought he would retire in style and die an old man with the smell of fish on his hands. He could not have been more wrong. Simon Peter, history tells us, made the decision to follow Jesus of Nazareth. He traded in his hopes and dreams, his understanding of how things worked, his very identity for God’s story; a story of relentless love pursuing humanity with good news that peace is available through Jesus Christ. Peter died a relatively young man, upside down on an x-shaped platform. He did not consider himself worthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord, Jesus Christ. I’m not sure even the most creative among us could have imagined a more unexpected ending for Simon Peter.
Cornelius was an officer in the army of Caesar “the Invincible God,” then the world’s most powerful force. He was stationed in Caesarea, which was northwest of Jerusalem on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea was the capitol of Rome’s presence in Israel. Cornelius had a good heart, showing kindness and generosity to the poor, and respected the God of the Jews. I imagine that he thought after a few years he would be deployed to another part of the world, moving on to another adventure, and would retire in style as a high ranking officer in the army with all the perks and benefits. Cornelius, though, did not retire in style as a high-ranking officer. He became a follower of Jesus and could no longer burn incense to Caesar as a god and was discharged, possibly even punished. Church tradition tells us that Cornelius became the first bishop of Caesarea. Again, who would have imagined a gentile, Roman army official becoming a member of the people of God?
Like Peter and Cornelius, all of us have a story to tell. I’m sure most of us, if we’re honest, would not have imagined 10, or 20, or 30, or 40 years ago that we would be where we are in life today. All of us have some hope of where or how we might end our days, but none of us can really be sure in the end. Like Peter and Cornelius, before we get too comfortable with the way things are, we are invited to trade our stories.
“Then Simon Peter said to Cornelius the Roman, “I see very clearly now that God shows no partiality. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.”
We are invited to trade our stories – stories of broken and sinful lives, of dreams and hopes accomplished and lost, of loneliness and failure, of success and temporary happiness – for God’s story. For God shows no partiality and is willing to accept everyone who will fear 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.”
We can trade our stories of turmoil for God’s story, in which peace with God is made possible through Jesus Christ.
We can trade our stories of self-rule and self-destruction for God’s story, in which Jesus is Lord of all. A Lord who does not rule like the rulers of this world, but one who rules with all the wisdom and mercy of a God who loved us so much he gave over his own son to death in order to save us.
“You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John 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.”
We can trade our stories of being oppressed by the devil and by the sinfulness of fallen humanity for God’s story, in which Jesus heals and sets free all who are oppressed because God is 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.”
We are invited to trade our stories in which we struggle and toil to experience life for God’s story, in which we are crucified with Jesus and raised to new life, a victorious life. The things that you and I battle with, occasionally or constantly, can be forgiven because of Christ’s death and be overcome because of Christ’s resurrection.
Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
We are invited to trade our stories of loneliness for God’s story, in which he shows hospitality and invites us to his table where he offers us the very body and blood of his son, Jesus Christ.
And he ordered us to preach everywhere and testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all – the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
We are invited to trade our stories in which we have nothing interesting to tell, no words of encouragement or hope, only words of death and destruction for God’s story, in which we have good news to proclaim to all the world – peace with God is possible through Jesus Christ and there is forgiveness for sins and victory in life, even over death!
We are invited to trade our stories for God’s story, in which Jesus of Nazareth lived a perfect life of service to humanity and submission to the Father, was crucified and thereby conquering sin, dead and buried, and on the third day rose from the dead conquering death, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and waits for the appointed day on which he will return and make all things right.
We are invited into the story of the one who shows no partiality in rescuing the rich and the poor, the Jew and the Greek. In this story we get to be the hands and the feet of the one who sets the oppressed free, heal the sick, provide a home to homeless, give bread to the hungry, visit the sick, look after the widows and the orphans – be part of the plan for rescue and renewal.
Once we trade our stories we will find that God’s story is more than any one of us. God’s story compels us to go and do likewise – to show no partiality, to do good works, to set the oppressed free, to preach the good news of peace with God and forgiveness of sin available through Jesus Christ. An invitation to trade our stories for God’s story is an invitation to enter into that story of rescue and renewal.