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Peter takes a risk
Sunday school lesson for the week of October 18, 2015
By Rev. Denise Walton
Lesson scripture: Acts 10:24-38
In the book “Hearing God’s Call,” author Ben Campbell Johnson writes the following about the call of God in our lives:
“God has always called human beings to share in the divine mission in the world – and he still does. God calls women and men to ordained ministry in the church, and he calls other followers of Christ to special ministries both in the church and outside it. One of the persistent questions in the minds of both serious clergy and seeking laity can be stated simply: ‘Is God calling me to do this work or this ministry?’ A call from God has the power of a conviction that it is not our work alone but is something both intended and empowered by God.”
In our text, Acts 10:24-38, we examine the call of God on both Cornelius and Peter.
Peter represents the apostle who is experiencing a continuation of the call of God. Cornelius is a God-fearing layperson seeking to hear God’s word.
Peter’s vision and call to Caesarea
Peter, called by God in Luke 5:10 to be a fisher of people, was a devout Jew committed to Christ. However, the scriptures help us to see Peter’s growth and maturity as a disciple of Christ. Peter, as a faithful disciple throughout the ministry of Jesus, witnessed the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), denied Christ three times before the crucifixion, and witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The book of Acts (chapter 2) describes Peter as one of the significant leaders in the early church. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we move forward in the book of Acts, the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8) began to be persecuted. Many of the leaders (Phillip to Samaria) begin to share the gospel outside of Jerusalem. Even Saul, later named Paul, was converted to a believer on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).
“…and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’” Acts 10:11-13 NKJV
Phillip has preached the gospel in Samaria and lives have been changed. Saul has been converted and begins preaching and teaching. Eventually, Paul will take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
As a devout Jew, there were strict dietary rules that rendered one clean or unclean.
The vision is less about food and more about things dwelling together otherwise not allowed. God is calling the apostle Peter to share the gospel with the Gentiles.
Ben Campbell Johnson poses a question related to call: “How do I know the call comes from God and not my unconscious longings or fears or even cultural influences on my perceptions and decision-making? This question leads us straight to the issue of discernment. In this instance, Discernment is the process of determining what is God's call to us and what is not.”
Cornelius and the call of God
It is Cornelius and his call as a layperson that helps Peter responds immediately to the vision to go and share the gospel with the Gentiles. Cornelius was a man in Caesarea, a centurion, described in Acts 10: 1-2, as a gentile God-worshipper. Cornelius and his entire household worshipped God. As God gave a vision to Cornelius, he responded immediately and sent three men to Joppa to locate Peter.
An important point in the revelation of the text (Acts 10:7-23) as Cornelius responds and sends the three men: God is working in Peter’s life to receive a new call. Peter responds to the three men and leaves the next day for Caesarea. In the midst of the call of God to both clergy and laity, the gospel is shared with the Gentiles in Caesarea.
Peter takes a risk
“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.’” Acts 10:34
Peter is growing in his faith and discipleship. The call of God on his life was continuous and caused him to discern the vision, respond to God’s call, and reinterpret his understanding of who is acceptable to God. Equally as important, Cornelius was seeking God and in his seeking responding to God’s call on his life. However, the call was to both clergy and laity to work together to bring about God’s plan for the Gentiles.
Peter took a risk in his response and went beyond the traditional boundaries of the church.
God is still calling the Church today
The call of God continues in the lives of clergy and laity today. All of us are called to serve the Kingdom of God. How might you respond to the call of God on your life today? In what ways can you walk together clergy and laity in your local church to reach out to those beyond the walls of the church?
May we continue to be open to God’s call and risk responding so that the kingdom of God can grow in our lives and the lives of others.
Rev. Denise Walton serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at email@example.com.