Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First Sunday After the Epiphany - January 8, 2017

"I truly understand that God shows no partiality." - Acts 10:34 

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Last week, at the New Year, 

we received as a gift from the book of Matthew, 

a secret key, meant for us to unlock

the Gospel of Christ’s Love.

And the key was this:

If we wish to love, to honor, to serve Jesus, 

then we do so by loving, honoring, and serving our neighbors,

specifically, the ones Jesus calls “the least of these,”

“the least, the last and the lost,”

the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, and so on. 

Amen? Amen. 

And not only do we serve Jesus in this way,

the unlocking revealed, 

but also in this way, we come to realize God’s presence. 

God is present, 
there is God 


acts of love. 

In acts of justice. 

In acts of genuine charity. 

There is God, wherever Love happens. And the lowly are lifted. 

For after all, “God is Love.” 

(This we learn from the epistle of 1 John). 


This week as we read from the book of the adventures of the first disciples, 

known to the Church as the book of Acts, 
or The Acts of the Apostles, 

we receive yet another secret key.

And what this key unlocks of the Gospel is also powerful. 

For with this key, St. Peter, and then St. Paul, 
and then, at their lead, much of the first century church, unlocked a whole new vision (and also experience) of God, 
of God’s nature, 
of God’s being in relationship with God’s Creation,

all of this about 2,000 years ago. 

What Peter unlocked of the Gospel,
(or perhaps the door that was opened to Peter when God revealed to him the key)   
challenged Peter and disrupted him, 
as the Gospel does, when the Gospel acts as the Gospel, 
and so it widened the capacity of Peter’s heart for love.

It made him a better disciple, though he already was one.

And as his heart widened, 

so did his world, so did his mind, 

and so did the mission to which Peter was called. 


Certainly this key, given to Peter, then Paul, then the whole church of the first century, 

still has the potential to unlock that vision of God for us, 
to offer us an epiphany, 

to open a new door through which God’s love might flow in and through us. 


And this is the key, the epiphany with which Peter was gifted, as Peter said it with his words: 

“I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

In Greek, it says something like this: 
I now grasp, I now hold, I’ve now “got it”
that God is not a προσωπολήμπτης — prosōpolēmptēs.

In English, we can read it this way: 

I finally get it: God doesn’t discriminate. 
God is not a discriminator. 


I finally get it: God doesn’t discriminate. 


Peter should’ve know this. 

He was with Jesus when Jesus healed at the bold request of the Syrophonecian woman. 

He was with Jesus when Jesus lifted up a Samaritan as the example of how all the faithful should live. 

He was with Jesus when Jesus healed the Roman centurion’s son. 

All of these figures in the stories of Jesus’ life were Gentiles, 

and all a part of God’s saving work in Jesus. 

Not to mention the shepherds, the magi (the “We Three Kings” that we sang about this morning, 
the first travelers to spread the Good News of the Birth)…

Not to mention the soldier at his death who proclaimed “truly this man was the Son of God.”


We know that 
it’s one thing to see God work in another. 

And it’s one thing to believe that God can work through another. 

And it’s even one thing to believe that God is present when you do good stuff for that “other;” to believe that that other is one of the least of these, the least, the last, and the lost that 


are called to call Jesus, 

and so therefore: 

that you are called to love and serve;

But it’s a whole-other thing to feel with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind, to “grasp” to “hold” to “get”  and to know in your bones, 

that that Other is not only another, 

That that Other is not simply the passive recipient of “your” “Christian” charity 
the one who gives, 
towering in self-righteous
condescending power…
giving, while maintaing your power-over,
therefore maintaining injustice, the opposite of the Reign of God,
(the whole time calling it “love”)… 

But (as we’ve already said) it’s really power over the one who receives….

It’s a whole other thing 

to have unlocked to us 

the truth that that the one I see and identify as the Other is: 


I am the Other. And the other is me. And we find God in one another, we find the Other in the other, together. 


We don’t “do God” to one another.

We don’t “do God” through acts of holy condescension, 
but there is God, somehow, in the lifting and the lowering of the lowly and the tyrant—in leveling, in becoming One. 

In Love. 


In the words of St. Paul, 
“there is no Greek or Jew, Male or Female, Slave or Free.”  
“The only thing that matters now is faith active in Love.”


Peter should’ve known this. 

He did know this. 

But it took him a while to grasp it. 

It took him a while to take hold of this secret key. 


Even as he was a missionary, called by God, he made a huge mistake:

He thought that as he and his friends founded the church and spread the Gospel, 
that it was mostly only people from his religion, his class, his language that would share in the Good News. 

He thought the Good News was mainly, only(?), for people like him. 

Even though he knew better. 

It took an Epiphany (in his case it was a vision)

for him to move from “knowing better” 

to really grasping it, 

to turning the key which opened his heart to deeper love, 

and which changed his behavior accordingly. 

“I now fully grasp that God shows no partiality, that God 
(unlike me) 
does not discriminate!”

This is what Peter said at his Epiphany. 

There is social construct. 

There is division and conquering. 

There is hate and oppression. There is partiality. 

And all of these things exist outside of and inside of me. 

But God shows no partiality. God does not discriminate. And God’s liberation is meant for all who suffer from the world as it is, as they wait for the world Jesus calls it to be. 


To see God, we find in Peter’s key as it unlocks the Gospel of Christ’s Love, 

is to see the whole human family,

And to see the human family that we see, 
as family. 

To discriminate, to fall prey to the ~isms:

classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, 
(dear God…)

(very easy things to fall prey to)… 

To fall prey to the ~isms:

is to be blinded to something about God, 

to lock a door, to shut out something of the Gospel of Christ’s love;

To fall prey to the ~isms:

to exclude Christ; 

and in the meanwhile, 

To fall prey to the ~isms:

is also to be blinded to something important about ourselves, 

about yourself: God’s child, chosen indiscriminately by Love. 


God is Love. 

Loving and serving Jesus is loving and serving one’s neighbor. 

We are one in Christ. 

And God does not discriminate.


These are secret keys to the Gospel with which the church has been entrusted from days of old. 

Keys we continue to need 

if we are to unlock God call for us even today. 


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