The View from the Vicarage: The Church and the World

Todays stop on our journey through the Acts of the Apostles takes us to Acts 10:1-23 where we meet Cornelius the Centurion and the Apostle Peter both having visions that will transform the early church in its witness and mission.

As we start looking at this passage we must be clear that here we have the Apostle Peter a Jew who now follows ‘The Way’ the new Christian movement and is one of its leaders as ordained by Christ himself alongside a Roman Officer who is a gentile (or a non-jew).

The history behind this is clouded and tricky but I will try and sum it up briefly, the Jews (Israel) are Gods’ chosen people, they are the elect – they were however chosen to bring the word of God to the whole world and this wasn’t quite how it panned out. Israel got being God’s chosen people mixed up with being his favourites and then began to despise others, they used to refer to Gentiles as ‘dogs’ and saw them as less than human. St Peter is part of that heritage and Cornelius is subject to that heritage.

So we have two visions, the first is that of Cornelius a God-fearing praying man, a Centurion, a gentile, who sees and Angel of the Lord who asks him to call Simon Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ to come to him so he can hear what Peter has to say.

The second vision sees Peter confronted by a large sheet coming from heaven, on the sheet are animals and reptiles all foods forbidden by Jewish law. Peter is told to kill and eat, he is told this three times as he must not call unclean anything that God has made clean.

There s a clear link between the two visions as then Peter comes to the gate to find the servants of Cornelius the God fearing, praying gentile calling for him to come to him. If he cannot call the animals unclean because God has made them clean he must go to Cornelius as an angel appeared to him, surely a person cannot be unclean if God has made them clean.

This is the next pivotal moment in the history of the early church, here we see the gentile mission, a church that leaves behind part of its Jewish heritage as it begins to realise it is not of God. As it begins to realise that being Gods elect does not mean being his favourites.

The church today can be guilty of the very same thing, in lockdown we have opened our services online and many are participating who were unable to join us in our very regimented style of worship at a certain place at a certain time. The services are viewed by many as they go out live and then by many more later. The church is reaching out beyond is traditional attendees and so it must, we are all Gods children – we are all his favourites and that wonderful Easter morning was for us all.

We as a church at St Matthew & St Wilfrid Sunderland are looking to plan our next steps over the next few months, our own roadmap in line with the Governments. We need to ensure that as we do we are reaching all Gods favourites, all for who Christ died and rose again as we do this.

These COVID19 days are horrible but they are passing, these days will and must never be forgotten, we must learn from them and become better people, better followers of Jesus and a better church because of it.

Todays hymn is sometimes called the “National Anthem of Christendom”. It was written by English Anglican-turned-Methodist and later Dissenting preacher Edward Perronet (1726-1792) while he was serving as a missionary in India, and English Baptist minister John Rippon (1751–1836).

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Crown him, you martyrs of our God,
Who from his altar call;
Praise him whose way of pain you trod

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

O prophets faithful to his word
in matters great and small
who made his voice of justice heard

now crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

All sinners, now redeemed by grace
who heard your saviours call
now robed in light before his face

O crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Let every tribe and every race
who heard the freedom call,
in liberation, see Christs face

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Let every people, every tongue
to him their heart enthral:
Lift high the universal song

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.


Your friend and Vicar





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