Sermon. May. 24. 2020.
Rev. John Steitz
Acts10: Radically Inclusive
The church does not trade in goods and services. Rather we, guided by the Holy Spirit, engage in relationships and community with one another. In our relationships with one another and in fellowship as a Jesus Way community we seek to be radically inclusive.
Acts 10 is a key passage that shows how the emerging Jesus movement, the early church, was led by the Holy Spirit to become radically inclusive.
The issue was accepting Gentiles, that is non – Jews into the church. Jesus was Jewish. All of the disciples that Jesus gathered around him, the twelve and the seventy, were Jewish. The apostles were all Jewish when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Jerusalem.
Therefore, some reasoned, anyone who became a believer must first need to become a Jew in order to fully become a disciple of Jesus. It seemed clear to many of these early disciples that in order to join the Jesus community a person would first need to embrace being a Jew.
As Acts 10 unfolds the Holy Spirit transforms Peter’s heart and mind. He realizes that God is calling the emerging Jesus movement to be much more radically inclusive than he had imagined or thought possible.
Peter is led to declare, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.” This understanding, this insight transforms the church from being a sect within Judaism to becoming a radically inclusive global movement.
God created us in God’s image. To express this as Quaker do, there is that of God in every person. By declaring that God shows no partiality Peter makes it very clear that every person is a child of God.
Biblical scholars see Galatians 3:28 as the earliest Jesus Way creed. There Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Radical inclusion was an essential characteristic of the early church, as expressed in the Galatians 3 creed. No distinction was to be made between Jew or Gentile. The social distinction between slave and free, so important to the way of the Roman Empire was not to block participation in the Jesus community. In Christ Jesus even gender distinctions were transcended.
This radical inclusion combined with a radical sharing within the early church to make sure everyone was feed, and the way disciples loved one another, really made the Jesus Way community stand out.
In Acts 10 verse 47 Peter challenges those who are already Christians, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Basically, who are we to reject those who the Holy Spirit includes? Yet painfully we see people who claim to be in Jesus’ church rejecting others for a variety of reasons.
The very reason that there are Black churches in our country is that historically White people did not want Black people to worship with them.
In Richmond, Indiana where I went to seminary, there were two congregations very close to each other that belonged to the same denomination. The members in one congregation historically had been from professional and business families. The other congregation was very much working class.
This second congregation was formed specifically because the professionals and factory owners in the first congregation didn’t want to worship together with the workers. So the wealthy folks built and funded a congregation for the workers separate from the congregation they worshipped in.
As an Open and Affirming congregation we join with Peter in truly understanding that God shows no partiality. We see the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. We seek to be radically inclusive as we welcome, embrace, affirm, and love one another in Christ.
Next month we will be celebrating twenty years as an Open and Affirming congregation. We are going to be lifting up our commitment to be radically inclusive in our hospitality to people who are transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual.
One important way we are being radically inclusive is through our emergent Open and Affirming committee. Although we cannot meet in person, we are gathering online. We are advocating for and modeling the radically inclusive Jesus Way.
We are now being called to engage in ministry that is radically inclusive in a COVID 19 world. As an Open and Affirming congregation we seek to forge a path forward that keeps people safe and that ensures that those most vulnerable to the effects of the virus are included.
Through this weekly worship video, the daily prayer circle, our care partners, and doing our committee work online we seek to be radically inclusive for all.
As we discern together God’s call for us in this time and place we recall Paul’s words in Ephesians 3, verses 2 – 6:
“Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit just as God has called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.”