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God even accepted Roman soldiers? Astonishing!

February 28, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 10:34-48

34 Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. 35 Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 This is the message of peace he sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all! 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism John preached. 38 You know about Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and endowed with power. Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil because God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of everything he did, both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and allowed him to be seen, 41 not by everyone but by us. We are witnesses whom God chose beforehand, who ate and drank with him after God raised him from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Guided by God, a Roman commander named Cornelius invited Peter to speak at his residence. Peter began a bit tactlessly: “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). His visit had an amazing result—a whole Roman household baptized! What God did so astonished those early Christians that, in Jerusalem, at first “the circumcised believers criticized [Peter]” (Acts 11:2).

  • Peter and the other Christ-followers were more surprised than the Romans. Can you feel Peter’s wonder as, meeting Romans who’d invaded his land, he said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another”? Also, “the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45). When has Jesus’ love reached astonishingly past what you expected?
  • One way Rome insisted (with a few grudging exceptions) that citizens in its empire show their loyalty was to say, formally in a temple to the emperor, “Caesar is Lord.” Imagine Peter telling these soldiers, sent to enforce Caesar’s lordship, “This is the message of peace he sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all!” (verse 36) What “lords” has Jesus challenged and dethroned in your life?

Jesus, you are Lord of all. That takes in all the world’s big problems that sometimes trouble me—and it also takes in all my internal struggles. Be Lord of all, inside me as well as outside. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

Growing up, I used to tell my older brothers that I was Mom and Dad’s favorite child. There was always some reason or situation I would point out that confirmed my “favorite child” status. They typically responded with, “Yeah, you were actually an accident.” Despite my claims of favorite child status, there was no doubt that our parents loved all of us big and that there was no favorite.

Interestingly, when Doug and I had our first child, I really wondered if I could ever love another child as much as I loved Kate. You see, the feelings I had for Kate were truly beyond what I ever imagined. And to be fair, she didn’t exactly try to make herself loveable in those early days. She was messy and smelly, didn’t sleep at night, and was constantly demanding to be fed or held, with no regard for any of my plans she might be interrupting. For some reason, even though at times she challenged us, we loved her more that we could possibly understand.

Then along came Carrie. She was equally amazing, but also equally demanding. In her own ways, she ensured we met her requests and that her big sister didn’t get more than her share of attention. Carrie easily matched big sis with her late-night demands, had her own little set of icky smelly behaviors, and lack of regard for our schedule. Yet, we loved her beyond words, every bit as much as we loved Kate.

We then added Ryan to the mix. He was his own little perfect person! He slept even less than his sisters had, he ate nonstop, was equally fragrant, and didn’t intend to be left out of anything. He was easy going, until he wasn’t. Then he made his demands very clear until they were met. And we loved him beyond words.

The Scripture tells us that “God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.” As I read these words my first thought was, “How could that possibly be?” How can God love each of us and not favor some of us over others? Then I thought about my own children and how much I love them. And that somehow, as different as they are, I love them equally and nothing could ever stop me from loving them. In fact, one of the few things I cannot put into words is the unrelenting, overwhelming love I have for each of them.

In that time of reflection, I considered each of my kids and our relationship. Kate and I chat every day–we cover everything going on no matter how small. Ryan doesn’t like to talk on the phone and when we are not together, he provides info on a need-to-know basis. And Carrie died as an infant, so our conversations are only in my head. But the crazy part is, none of that changes the love. Talking to Kate is the highlight of my day. My less frequent calls with Ryan are perfect for him and when we talk, he is open and honest. I cherish that talk time. And Carrie, some of my most favorite “conversations” are talking to her about what she would have been like, picturing how she would have engaged with her siblings, and imagining her big dreams.

You see, just like God loves us all the same, I love all my kids equally. Including Carrie, who isn’t here. God loves when we connect with him daily, or multiple times a day. That constant connection brings Him joy. God loves us just as much when we don’t connect as often, but he cherishes the times we do reach out and are open and honest.

And just as we love Carrie who isn’t physically here, God loves us when we when we are absent. He already knows our big dreams, our fears, and how we are engaging with those around us even when we are silent.

As I kid, I knew my own parents loved my brothers and me equally. And as a parent, I know that I love my own kids just the same. But the idea that God could love me, with all my smelly messy self, my demanding ways, and my failure to connect with Him as I should the same way He loves everyone is more than my little brain can understand. But I believe it. And just like I love connecting with my kids, God loves connecting with me. So, this Lenten season, my goal is to connect with my Father-–often, honestly and openly, sharing my big dreams, and all the little details. Because I know how much I cherish those connections with my kids that I love so very much!

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.