Worship Preview for 8.28.22: Visions, Acts and Witnesses

Sunday at 10:30amVisons, Acts, and Witnesses” Scriptures: Psalm 98, Philippians 2:12-13, Galatians 5:22-23, and Acts 10 with Rev. Christopher Eshelman preaching.


In Philippians 2, after a beautiful poetic hymn celebrating Christ’s humility and sacrifice, Paul says to the church in Philippi: “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

This verse was crucial to John Wesley. With awe and wonder, he spent his life “working out his salvation” and helping others to do so. Grace and faith are gifts. Works are how we respond. We do not earn our salvation – but we do “work it out” both in thought and action. What we believe should lead to what we do – in fact, it has been said that what we do shows our belief much more than our words. So sometimes we make religion more about controlling others and trying to enforce our understanding on them, rather than controlling ourselves. We talked last week about Paul’s journey and the transformation he underwent on the road to Damascus – his vision, his blindness, and how both he and the community responded. It's not that obedience and practices are unimportant – it's that we root ourselves in God’s amazing grace and Christ’s generous humility, knowing, growing, serving and sharing, rather than enforcing.

Acts 10 is the story of two visions and a number of actions. It is a story of witnesses and of transformation. Cornelius, a Centurion, a gentile, who nonetheless worships the God of Israel. He is known among the Jews as generous and prayerful. Simon Peter – a follower of Jesus and the leader of the disciples. Jesus had called him “rock” and, according to Matthew’s gospel, holder of the “keys to the kingdom.” He has boldly proclaimed Jesus as Messiah both before and after his crucifixion. Yet we know from all 4 gospels how often Peter had stumbled, denied and fallen short. Still, it is Peter who Christ charges to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, feed his sheep (John 21) and it is Peter who boldly proclaims the power of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2).

In Acts 10, Cornelius has a vision – an angel, a messenger of God, tells him to contact a Simon, known as Peter, in Joppa. Cornelius immediately sends messengers.

Soon after, Peter, staying at Simon the Tanner’s house, goes to the roof to pray while waiting on a meal to be prepared and we’re told he is quite hungry. He has a vision that seems to be centered on food – and then Cornelius’ messengers arrive.

Sunday we will hear and ponder this story – what Peter sees, experiences, and then does. How those who witness his words and deeds, in Joppa and in Cornelius’ house, respond. We’ll consider how we respond and how we read, hear and live out the Scriptures. I believe Acts 10 is not just a story from long ago, but an invitation here and now to see, experience, and share God’s love and grace. I believe the risen Christ calls, sends, and equips us to bear good fruit. I believe we can be assured we are on the right track not when we merely adher to, much less enforce on others, narrow rules and traditions – but when our thoughts and our actions lead to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5).

If you do not have a church home, or just need a change, you are invited to join in worship at 10:30am at 301 S. National, coming just as you are with your questions, doubts and hopes - and to experience the transformative, healing love and grace of Christ - which makes us whole.Seewww.firstumcfsks.org/newvisitorsfor more information on what to expect.

This Week: Wednesday, August 31st, 5:30pmFeeding Families in His Name– this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. 301 S. National. We are thankful for all the volunteers from other area churches and community groups that make this meal possible each week.


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