Twenty-Third Day of Easter   12 comments

Gentiles:  The Other Sheep

Monday, April 23, 2018

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Acts 11:1-18 (Revised English Bible):

News came to the apostles and the members of the church in Judaea that Gentiles too had accepted the word of God; and when Peter came up to Jerusalem those who were of Jewish birth took issue with him.

You have been visiting men who are uncircumcised,

they said,

and sitting at table with them!

Peter began by laying before them the facts as they had happened.

I was at prayer in the city of Joppa,

he said,

and while in a trance I had a vision:  I saw something coming down that looked like a great sheet of sailcloth, slung by the four corners and lowered from heaven till it reached me.  I looked intently to make out what was in it and I saw four-footed beasts, wild animals, reptiles, and birds.  Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’  But I said, “No, Lord!  Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  A voice from heaven came a second time:  ‘It is not for you to call profane what God counts clean.’  This happened three times, and then they were all drawn up again into heaven.  At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; and the Spirit told me to go with them.  My six companions here came with me and we went into the man’s house.  He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, ‘Sent to Joppa for Simon Peter.  He will speak words that will bring salvation to you and all your household.’ Hardly had I begun speaking, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as upon us at the beginning, and I recalled what the Lord had said:  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  God gave them no less a gift than he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  How could I stand in God’s way?’

When they heard this their doubts were silenced, and they gave praise to God.

This means,

they said,

that God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles also.

Psalm 96 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD and bless his name;

day  by day proclaim his victory.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvellous deeds to every people.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

For the gods of the nations are idols every one;

but the LORD made the heavens.

Majesty and splendour attend him,

might and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and might;

ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name.

Bring an offering and enter his courts;

in holy attire worship the LORD;

tremble before him, all the earth.

Declare among the nations,

The LORD is King;

the world is established immovably;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,

let the sea resound and everything in it,

let the fields exult and all that is in them;

let all the trees of the forest shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with justice

and peoples by his faithfulness.

John 10:1-18 (Anchor Bible):

(Note:  The Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts lists 10:1-10 as the Gospel reading for Year C and 10:11-18 as the Gospel reading for Years A and B.  I have merged these.)

[Jesus said,]

Truly I assure you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit.  The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep; for him the keeper opens the gate.  And the sheep hear his voice and he calls by name those that belong to him and leads them out.  When he has brought out [all] his own, he walks in front of them; and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

Although Jesus drew this picture for them, they did not understand what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said [to them again],

Truly I assure you, I am the sheepgate.  All who came [before me] are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters me will be saved; and he will go in and out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy.  I came that they may have life and to have it to the full.

I am the model shepherd: the model shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, catches sight of the wolf coming, and runs away, leaving the sheep to be snatched and scattered by the wolf.  And this is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the model shepherd: I know my sheep and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  And for these sheep I lay down my life.  I have other sheep, too, that do not belong to this fold.  These also must I lead, and they will listen to my voice.  Then there will be one sheep herd, one shepherd.  This is why the Father loves me: because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one has taken it away from me; rather, I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to lay it down again.  This command I received from my Father.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given your Church the great joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:  Give us also the greater joy of the kingdom of your elect, when the flock of your Son will share in the final victory of its Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The other sheep who did not yet belong the fold in Jesus’ analogy were Gentiles.  The Apostle Peter extended his mission to include Gentiles, surprising himself and scandalizing others.  This was a common reaction at the time.  Indeed, if one reads the three verses past John 10:18, one notices that some Jews accused our Lord of being demon-possessed and out of his mind, although others rejected this interpretation.

Scandalous grace extends to all who will respond favorably, exposing as useless human attempts to make people seem worthy.  Peter realized this after his vision.  As he said, he could not stand in God’s way.  So I challenge everyone (beginning with myself) to ask oneself the following questions:  Am I standing in God’s way?  If so, in what way?  Then I challenge everyone (beginning with myself) to get out of the way and to stay there.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

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Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2018, April, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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