Over a decade ago, I was speaking with a Christian friend, when a non-Christian friend overheard us talking about Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). The non-Christian friend shuddered when we mentioned the name "Cornelius", which struck us as odd. When I asked him why he responded that way to "Cornelius" (at which, he shuddered again), he stated that it reminded him of "Dr. Cornelius" (a sophisticated and talking ape) from "The Planet of the Apes"...a movie he watched as a child and which, obviously, had left a chilling image on his young mind. We laughed. One web commenter describes the movie's theme as being about the apes' "prejudice against humans, based on religion".
Ironically (or not!), the story in Acts 10 deals with God breaking down cultural and religious prejudices between Jews (such as Peter) and the "unclean" Gentiles, non-Jews (such as Cornelius). Even as my friend responded negatively to "Dr. Cornelius", partly because he was so "different"...so Peter responds negatively to the thought of crossing the boundaries of "Jewish law"; but God prepares him, in a vision, to accept those, like the Roman Cornelius, who are different culturally and, even, religiously. This is another huge turning point in the story of God. God loves the world. God loves people from all "nations". And he is drawing people from all nations to himself, so that all who call upon the Name of Lord (Jesus), shall be redeemed and "recreated" into his image. For Peter, this even means the "unclean" folks like (insert shudder) Cornelius. And even me. And even you. The text of Acts 10 takes another big step in displaying that all humanity is invited to come to the table and experience the love and grace and mercy of our Holy God. This weekend we will explore this more deeply; may we come to the table...together!
Grace and peace,