Sunday, February 3, 2013
What has God remembered about you?
Acts 10:30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Cornelius was a Roman Centurion who was living in Caesarea and in the eyes of all good Jews, he was a pagan. However, something had stirred in the heart of this man and he became sensitive to the tugs which he would sense on his heart. We are called to love God and to love neighbor and without having had this teaching, here was a man who prayed (loved God) and gave to the poor (loved others). He was living out the commands of God which was much more important than birth into a particular religion. God was breaking down the barriers which had been established by the religious people of the day. From the very beginning the faith of the Israelites was to be an evangelical faith. Even in times of the Old Testament God gave instructions on how the alien among them was to participate in the worship of God. Sadly it was not the aliens who created the barriers to worship, but the people of God themselves.
The God we serve is not a God of barriers, but a God of his own kingdom. He is in the business of bringing down the walls that have created division among us, as long as we are faithful to him. Cornelius was a man of prayer. The Bible reminds us that if we seek him, we will find him when we seek him with all our heart. It doesn't matter who we are -- or what we've done! Cornelius began to seek God with all of his heart, and he acted out of obedience to his relationship with God. Not only did he pray, but he gave gifts to the poor. It was this combination of love of God and love of neighbor which was significant. God literally pulled back the curtain between heaven and earth for this man and sent one of his messengers to meet with him personally -- and then provided a vision for Peter -- and then brought them all together so that the good news about Jesus Christ could be shared with Cornelius and his family. God was performing a miracle here for this was the affirmation that the Gospel was for everyone who would hear and listen. God remembered the relationship and faithfulness of Cornelius and God used him to expand the walls of the kingdom.
What God saw in Cornelius was greater than what he saw in the lives of the religious leaders of the day. Yes, they may have spent time in prayer, but too often we learned that their prayer time was a rather self-interested prayer. Instead, here we find Cornelius at three in the afternoon spending time alone with God in prayer. The dedication to prayer is vital. Everywhere in the Scriptures we read about the godly people who were spending time in prayer. I'm not sure what we think we can accomplish here on this earth without spending significant amounts of time in prayer with our holy God! It is in prayer that we fellowship with him and we are transformed. One would believe that Cornelius was transformed personally through his time in prayer with God. Out of the fellowship with God his heart became tender toward the poor. The poor are mentioned over and over again in the Bible. Followers of Jesus Christ are told to give to and care for the poor. These are the marginalized of our society and it is our responsibility as God's children to not only love God, but to love the world around us and this includes caring for the poor. Too often that is not heard in our churches these days -- this idea that living out the Christian life must include care for the marginalized. We must recognize the resources that are available to us, and realize that they are not given to us for our own personal enjoyment, but that that we might be able to share them with the suffering world around us. Whether our resources are material or influential, we have a responsibility to live out our faith in the world.
If God were to look on our lives today would he find that we are a people of prayer and a people who give to the poor?
Lord, please help me to listen to you in the intimate places of our relationship and know how to engage with the needs of the world around me. Amen.