What's For Dinner? (Come to the Table, part 4) - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, May 6, 2018

What's For Dinner? (Come to the Table, part 4)

What’s for dinner?
Hey, mom, dad, I’m starving!  What’s for dinner?  Parents, ever heard that before?  When I was younger, I could come into the house and guess by the savory smells wafting from the kitchen.
As I got older, I noticed that before I could get it out – I was asked – What’s for dinner.  That was the signal it was my turn to cook.  So I would dig through the fridge and the cupboards, trying my best “Gordon Ramsey, celebrity chef” in pairing up whatever strange ingredients there were to create an amazing dish.  My early attempts were novel ideas.  PB&J – with marshmallows.  Or Mac in Cheese from a box. Or a whole bag of Doritos. And I always stayed away from the one food that I didn’t like to eat – like vegetables.

Today, we continue our series on Come to the Table.  We’ve been exploring what Jesus did around the dinner table.  We’ve noticed that he welcomes everyone in, he eats at the strangest places, even when he’s a guest, he serves.  In our studies, we’ve learned that Jesus is demonstrating what our faith journey can look like.  We don’t have to know everything, be everything, do everything perfect – we just come as we aware with all our quirks and baggage and unbelief, and yes, sometimes even utter disdain – and Jesus still sits next to us.  We’ve learned that the traditional way religious organizations do things – “once you are perfect just like us, and believe just like us – then we’ll accept you”  is not the way Jesus went about doing business.  His approach was – join us imperfect ones, even in your unbelief, and together you will discover the way as I show it to you.
Nowhere is that made even more clear than in today’s story of a strange table.  Some might call it the picnic from the sky.  Peter called it – What’s for dinner?
Please stand with me as you are able as we read aloud together from Luke’s continuing story of the church in the recorded history of the church – Acts of the Apostles 10:9-16
ACTS 10:9-16
The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds.13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.[b]
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
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In our passage today, we are re-acquainted with Peter.  It’s been nearly a decade since Peter first dropped his nets and chose to follow a young rabbi.  Peter has grown up a bit, his temper subsided, his rage quelled.  This passage takes place about 7-8 years after he drew his zealot’s sword and chopped Malchus’ ear on the night of Jesus arrest.  It’s been that long since he stood inside the courtyard, watching the humiliating trial of Jesus and thrice denying he ever was friends with him.  It’s been years, since Jesus embraced him and told him – “hey, I love you anyway.  You still belong.”
It’s been years since the Holy Spirit was poured out as a sign upon the eagerly awaiting 120 men and women gathered in the upper room, the day when Peter accepted his new found calling and stepped out to preach to thousands from the rooftop of his building.
For the last 8 years, Peter has been weighed down with the accelerating movement, as more and more people, the rejected, the hurting, the ostracized, and now even other respectable leaders began to follow Peter’s guidance.  The same people who 8 years ago had avoided this movement of Jesus followers where now flocking to them.  And Peter was the head of the organization – with his hands full keeping everybody in line all around Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. 
How do you keep people in line?  Every person in management knows.  You make rules.  Develop handbooks.  Tell people what they should and should not do.  It makes the job so much easier.  So less messy.  So you want to follow Jesus – then you have to do 1,2,3; a, b, c.  If you are Peter, that’s the way to take charge and get things done!  After all, he want’s do what God has prepared for him.
And then Jesus interrupted. Again. 
You see, if you looked at Peter’s life – Jesus had this annoying habit of interrupting him.  And Peter had this amazing habit of learning from Jesus’ interruptions.
There is an aspect of Peter’s character that we can grab on to.  Peter doesn’t do anything half way.  He’s gung ho, sign me up, get me out there.  Yes, I can walk on water – maybe not.  Yes, I can heal people by myself, maybe not.  But when he discovered where true power and authority lay – he was an unstoppable force.  He wanted to be all hat he could be.  He wanted to be what God had prepared for him.
So how can we be like Peter, how can we chase down the nourishment that Jesus has provided for us?  This passage shows us.  What’s for Dinner?
If you want what God has prepared for you… come hungry. (10)
I don’t know what Peter was doing all morning.  I do know that he was praying.  He might have been praying and fasting.  But verse 10 says it all.  And He was Hungry.  He was waiting for the meal to be prepared.  Great meals take time to get made.  Even the cooking shows give the top chefs 30 minutes to create something.  We are not talking fast food here!  There’s no Casey’s pizza to grab.  He was hungry.  He was waiting.  I even think by now, he had learned some patience.  So instead of being demanding – he prayed.  He sought guidance from Jesus:  Jesus, prepare me.  Jesus, be my bread of life, my cup of strength.
Yes, Peter was hungry.  Hungry not just for a meal that would nourish his physical body.  But hungry for what God would do next in his life, in the life of his church, in the life of his friends, and community.  Peter was staying in the town of Joppa, a port city on the coast of the Mediterranean.  An old port city – centuries earlier, this is where Jonah departed from before encountering the whale.  From here, he could travel all over the world to visit other Jewish communities.  He was hungry to spread the good news of Jesus and give good leadership the Jewish communities of Jesus followers that had sprung up everywhere.  He had his plan set, just what option should it be. And Jesus interrupted.
The other night, we went to Lilly’s favorite restaurant Olive Garden, to use a birthday gift card.  After looking through the menu, I decided I wanted something different from what I normally always order there – soup, salad, and breadsticks.  I mean, I haven’t deviated from that order for about 20 years!  But I could not decide what I wanted.  And then then the waitress said, would you like me to surprise you?  I said yes, do that!  I want a change!  And as soon as she left, I knew what she was going to do – find the most expensive thing on the menu and ring up her sales!
Peter thought he was hungry for what he normally ordered.  But this time, the chef stopped by the table.  By the way, the chef will never stop at your table, if you are not in the restaurant.  Chef’s hang around hungry people.  A restaurant doesn’t last long if no one orders anything because they are full and content.  That’s complacency.  That’s the slow death which kills off more organizations than anything else.  Peter wasn’t complacent.  He was hungry.  And the chef just ordered up the surprise special.
If you want what God has prepared for you… spring into action! (13)
As a teacher, it is my job to motivate students.  To get them to do their work – even when they don’t want to.  Yes, kids, you have to turn in your homework.  Yes, you can not play on your phones in class – even if you do in church!  I can’t tell you how many times, students try to get out of work, insist that they did it when they didn’t.  They just want to sit there.  Content to live a life of Minecraft or youtubing.  I think their unofficial slogan parallel’s the Popeye cartoon character Wimpy’s philosophy: I’ll gladly repay you Tuesday for a burger today!
And while many middle schoolers might think that’s all there is to life – you older high school students know different!
The difference between those who just think they are hungry and those who are starving comes down to 3 little action verbs.  Get Up.  Kill. Eat.  When the opportunity presents itself, do you jump on it?  Do you find those deals at the yard sale?  Do you search for that groupon coupon?  Do you shake the tree until all the fruit comes falling down?  Do you settle for anything less? 
I haven’t seen many episodes of those survivor type shows, but I do know that when they haven’t eaten a few days and they see food on four legs, they spring into action.  When you are truly hungry, that’s what you do.
When you are hungry for Gods word to change your life, you dig into scripture.  When you are hungry for God’s character, you seek wise counsel.  When you are hungry to share with others the good news of what Jesus did in your life, you support missions, or go on missions trips.  When you are hungry for God to change your community, your school, your worksite, you look for opportunities to serve others.  Spring into Action!
Some will say – but I don’t have it all figured out.  That’s OK.  I don’t either.  Just stay hungry and go for it!  The chef will explain it on the journey!

If you want what God has prepared for you…look to the future (14)
Peter’s vision was disturbing.  He could not figure out what it meant.  God had just told him to do something that was against everything his culture had raised him to act.  Everything that had been carefully written and handed down over the centuries in the Mosaic law.  The entire code revolved around what was clean and unclean.  What things could be done and what rituals could rectify them.  And the whole cleanliness code revolved around the relationship to the temple in Jerusalem.  The closer one was to it, the more requirements.  The high priests had whole laundry lists of regulations.  Each concentric courtyard had less and less.  These were just simply dietary laws which people even in the countryside could follow.
So Peter, naturally objected.  He saw himself as a faithful member of Judaism, who followed Jesus as the highest expression of his Jewish faith.
But this vision, this new paradigm, this new lesson that Peter needed to learn was so important – that it repeated three times.  This wasn’t a dream that Peter forgot about when he woke up.  It bugged him.  He could replay it over and over in his mind.
What was the point God was making?  Peter was stuck in the past.  Focused on the Mosaic Covenant.  Nothing wrong with that – but God had other plans.  You see, Jesus did not come into the world to merely reaffirm the Mosaic Covenant – but to re-introduce a new covenant that hearkens back to timeless creation.  The cleanliness codes of Mosaic law revolved around a place – the Jerusalem temple.  But the new codes of the the new Covenant revolved around a relationship with the person who sits on the throne of the New Jerusalem – Jesus Christ.
The past paradigm limited Peter’s ministry.  But the vision Jesus was giving him showed what the future could be composed of.  A time free from the shackles of binding regulations replaced by the grace of God for all humanity.  Including you and me. 
No, Jesus did not dissolve moral law.  There is still right and wrong, good and evil.  There are still consequences to poor decisions.  But all of the petty little rules that people put up to keep others from belonging – those are what Jesus tore down.  That’s the reckless love that seeks out the 1 lost sheep instead of writing it off as the cost of doing business.  That’s the real love that cares about every living being born into this world.  That’s the Jesus who loves you.
If you want what God has prepared for you…take what he gives. (15)
I’m reminded of this often told story.  Of the man, whose home is encircled by floodwaters, crying out to Jesus to rescue him.  God says, don’t worry.  I will.  And when the rowboat comes by, he declines the lift – saying God’s gonna take care of me.  And when the motor launch comes, he declines again.  And finally when the waters are up to the peak of the roof and he’s standing on the chimney the helicopter drops a line.  And he yells – I’m trusting God to help me out here, so go get someone else. 
The moral of the story is – take what God sends your way. Take what he gives you.  When he calls something clean, it is clean.  Don’t put more regulations on what God can do in your life.  God has no limits – we usually put our limitations on him.
In Peter’s vision, he repeatedly sees that God is changing the dynamics of the entire Christian movement.  What was once forbidden is now fully open in the unfolding revelation of God’s plan for humanity.
This is when Peter wakes up and hears the knock at the door.  In come several messengers, Gentile messengers, having traveled from Caeserea, a good 33 miles away – letting Peter know that God had sent them here to bring him back to teach them about Jesus Christ power and love.  In the past, Peter never would have gone – but he began to get a glimpse of what could be.
Peter went with what he got.  Did he have it all figured out?  Nope.  Did he understand everything?  Nope.  Was he still a bit hazy and confused?  Yep.  But he began the journey, hungry for what God was going to do.
Jesus interrupts our plans and traditions because he wants everyone to belong around His table.
In the next verses, which we did not ready today – but go ahead and read them this week, Peter traveled to the Gentile town.  He preached.  And then he saw the Holy Spirit change lives.  The signs were so powerful, he knew that only Jesus could have done that.  There was no reason to stay stuck in the past, to exclude people different from his culture from seeking Jesus.
Peter had a choice to make.  Would he keep doing things like he had always done them, or would he allow the Holy Spirit to create something new, dynamic, messy, and world-changing?
That’s our choice too.  Are we ready to embark in a journey in our church live and personal life that is ready to embrace the newness of the Holy Spirit that welcomes everyone into a faith journey that we discover together?  That’s my prayer.  That’s my desire.  
Are there any elements of my faith that hinders others from belonging in the body of Christ.
This is a tough question to reflect on.  But an essential one if we want to be used by Jesus in reaching our community.  I’m not asking us to deny Jesus Christ, or to reject the morality found in the Bible.  I am asking, are there parts where I’ve tried to convert people to my particular preference of doing things, or political affiliation, or personal style that end up not allowing others to see Jesus?  Sure, I can live in my preferences – but should I force them on others when the Holy Spirit is working in their lives?
Let our guide come from scripture – Acts 10:44 and following tells us what happened when Peter obeyed his vision and began to talk with those not just like him:
44 Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 45 The Jewish believers[e] who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 46 For they heard them speaking in other tongues[f]and praising God.
Then Peter asked, 47 “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” 48 So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Each of our faith journeys are different.  The way we think Jesus has to work is not always the way he does.  There is only one thing he calls us to do – Love God, Love our neighbor.  And there is no better way to do this than through eating with one another at a common table.
It is here at communion, when we recognize the simple, yet complex faith that leads to our freedom.  An acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord, He is our Messiah, Savior.  That he gives us faith, confidence, and healing.  That his promises to lead us and guide us shall never fail.  And the assurance that not only despite our messed up lives, but because of our messed up pasts – we are all welcome to celebrate his love for us with each other.
The early church, learned from Peter’s example.  Years later, John re-iterated this in one of his letters:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
6 And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross[b]—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.
So today, I invite you to come forward to the table – Where Jesus Loves you.  Come to the Table