This Sunday is Easter! At Covenant we will join Christians all over the world in celebrating the resurrection! I was rather surprised when I read the assigned New Testament lectionary text for this Easter. It’s a story from Acts chapter 10, in which Peter, a Jew, goes to preach at Cornelius, a Gentile’s house. I have always loved this story, but I have never considered it an Easter story. But isn’t that just like God to use something we don’t consider to be connected or relevant to illustrate a very important truth.
This story starts with Peter being hungry and having a vision with all of these foods available to eat, but they are all things considered by Jews to be unclean foods. So Peter declares he will not eat these unclean things. God’s response to Peter is “don’t you dare call anything I make unclean.” Poor Peter. He doesn’t know that this is a set up. The real deal is that God is preparing him to go preach the gospel at Cornelius’ home; a person Peter and his religion considers to be unclean.
Nonetheless, when things unfolded as told to him, Peter goes to Cornelius’ home. Peter and Cornelius’ interaction with each other begins with this awkward question posed by Peter to Cornelius: “Why did you send for me? I’m a Jew. Don’t you know that I’m not supposed to be hanging out with folks like you?” Well, they get past this moment of awkwardness and Peter begins to preach to those assembled at Cornelius’ home. Then the truly unexpected happened. While Peter is preaching, all the Gentiles are filled with the Holy Spirit, so Peter then baptizes them. It is a great story, but where is the Easter connection?
As I reread this very familiar story to me this week, it made me want to shout and celebrate the resurrection as never before. In this untraditional Easter story, I saw clearly the hand of God at work bringing hope into the lives of people who at that time were considered to be unclean and thus unavailable to receive the promises of God. This story demonstrates that Jesus didn’t come to resurrect hope for just a select few but for everyone. I believe the use of this story of Peter’s preaching at Cornelius’ house and God sending the Holy Spirit into the lives of Gentiles gathered there is the true meaning of the resurrection of Jesus. Simply put: God sent Jesus to be “The Resurrection of Hope for All” people.
It reminds me that we are on to a great truth at Covenant when at the beginning of each Sunday’s worship service we proclaim that “No matter who you are, where you are on life’s journey or even who you love: you are welcome here. That’s because we are the people of God who live as the people of hope.” In other words, we believe in Jesus as “The Resurrection of Hope for All!”
So join with us at Covenant this Easter Sunday morning for a celebration of the Resurrection. At 7:30 AM, we will be having Sunrise Service, followed by Easter Breakfast at 8 AM. Then at the 10 AM service, I will be preaching a sermon called “The Resurrection of Hope for All.” The scriptural texts for our Easter Celebration of the Resurrection are “Acts 10:34-43” and “Luke 24:1-12.”