And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us
‘and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ These are the words God spoke to Abram in Genesis, thousands of years before Jesus and Peter and Paul. God called Abram to go on a mission, to carry a promise. He would be a father to a nation, Israel, and that nation, would be a priestly people, a people on a mission from God. That mission was to gather all people, the wandering, the lost, the outcast and the rebellious, back to just, merciful, and peaceful relationship with God and so with one another.
As quickly as that paragraph can be typed by me and then read by you, it is vitally important. It reminds us that faith in Christ is not just one other is a long list of self-help programs. Jesus did not come, die, rise and give the Holy Spirit so that we could come to church to feel better about ourselves. The church exists to be on a mission and that mission is no less than participate in God rescue of a world that is tearing itself apart through fear, anger, greed and violence. Genesis tells us that humanity kept dividing itself through violence and selfishness and hubris and that God called Abram to go into that same world, with faith in God. Now, according to Acts 15, the promise, of a people in the world, creating a just and peaceful community for the healing of all the nations has come true. This was God’s purpose, God’s plan all along. That Israel would gather all the people to the Kingdom of God, to its justice and peace. According to Paul, the gathering of all ethnicities and peoples is not some shocking and unexpected heresy, it is the fulfillment of God’s ancient plan for the renewal of creation.
Two thousand years later, we are called to the same mission, to gather all people to our blessed community, to teach them the ways of justice and peace manifest in the life of Jesus and so to work with God in renewing all Creation. Two thousand years later, we face the same challenges. We divide ourselves into denominations and groups, we wish to love all and struggle with the implications, we leave some excluded, sometimes intentionally and sometimes without realizing. And two thousand years later it still takes the courage and the bravery of an Abraham and a Paul, to step outside of the well-worn paths of ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ to discover the joy of adventuring in new directions with new people who have never known that God’s love extends to them.
Have you ever thought of faith as a call beyond your own peace of mind? Does that thought challenge or trouble you? Does the thought of exploring new paths and new people excite you? How can you invite others into sharing that excitement?