Cuantos entienden lo que yo digo?
Some of you perhaps speak Spanish and for you, hearing
the Gospel read in that language was a welcome relief.
Perhaps it is your native language and the one in which
you do your primary thinking. For others like me, I used
to be on the brink of being able to automatically think
in Spanish, but there's still plenty of grammar rules
that I break and vocabulary that has to be translated.
But placed in Spain or Mexico, it would eventually come
back to me. Others know the slang words or barely enough
to get by if you need to purchase something or find the
But whether you speak Spanish or
not, I just proclaimed the Gospel and gave a very
important commandment that Jesus told his disciples to
follow, in fact everyone should follow. For by doing
this, everyone would know you are a Christian, and
therefore everyone would come to know God. So, without
looking at your cheat sheets can anyone tell me what
that might be?
Right, love one another. Yet, if
you did not already know this commandment because
someone had taught it to you by some method other than
language, I could say those words over and over again
and you wouldn't understand.
And, that is why the Peter and
Cornelius story is so very significant. For many of us,
we can hear that story and say how wonderful it is that
God's love was not restricted to the Hebrew nation and
that all of us who are not descended from Jewish
ancestors can be accepted into God's loving embrace and
God's family. I'm going to venture to say - faith wise,
it is the best news we can ever imagine for just about
all of us sitting in this room.
But just as significant is the
patience of God and Peter and all the other apostles who
ventured into gentile territory to speak a word for the
Lord. For what they did was so much more than just
saying, "Oh, well now you can worship with us, God said
it was okay." Because, how many gentiles do you think
were just waiting or even interested in hearing the
news? Think too of all the many differences between a
Roman or any other nationality and an Israelite and how
difficult everyday conversations were at that time.
Try right now to imagine when
you were in a setting where you didn't feel you
belonged. For example, I am totally lost among a bunch
of folks who like to watch football. They will sit
around talking about the players and the plays and the
scores of the last important game. I might as well not
be there in the room, because I don't understand the
game or what all the excitement is about. AND to make
matters worse, I don't even have an interest to learn.
What little I know of football is - for me - boring.
Now, just by saying that I have totally alienated myself
from many people in this room and will no doubt never
receive any invitations to Super Bowl Sunday parties. I
will miss out on an important American cultural ritual
and a community affair.
For many of you men, you don't
want to wander around in the women's clothing
department, go to a Mary Kay cosmetic party or have your
nails done. That's a part of the women's world that you
would just as soon not be in. You may want your wives
and girlfriends to look beautiful, but just would rather
not be included in the preparation process.
That's the kind of emotions that
would have existed in Israel's multi-cultural world.
Imagine yourself being an American tourist in Russia in
the 60's or in China before their borders opened to the
outside world. Or place yourself 150 years ago among one
the early American Indian tribes. A difficult situation
to say the least. You would either have stayed on the
fringes and observed with great curiosity and fear or
you would have done the hard work of preparing yourself
to appreciate and engage in a very different and
difficult cultural interaction.
So, back to the differences in
Israel, clothing and hairstyles were very different. The
kind of foods they ate and even the way they cooked
their food. Music and entertainment. How they dated. The
stories they told their children of how the world came
to be and why there were animals and trees, insects. Why
the sun came up in the east and set in the west. Why
people died, and where babies came from. These may seem
insignificant but they aren't. When completely different
worlds meet as happens on a trade crossroads or in
occupied nations - both of which applied to Israel,
communication - real communication that would allow
someone to authentically accept another person - much
less their religion required effort, imagination, caring
and patience and love.
I declared the Gospel to you
earlier in Spanish to try to help you see how
challenging it is to receive a witness of someone else's
faith. While maybe you might have understood some of the
words that I read, you would not necessarily understand
all the nuances and beauty of the communication.
We could take a dictionary and
go word by word and translate, but still you would not
get the same sense and depth as one who was brought up
in that language. This my friends brings us to the gift
that God gave the world - the virtue of motherhood.
When I think of Peter trying to
explain to a gentile - a Roman centurian what the event
of Jesus Christ was all about, I cannot get away from
the image of a mother of an infant trying to teach the
child to talk. Not only did Peter and Cornelius
understand the world through different native languages,
but their whole concept of the world came from different
stories. Their whole way of understanding God or a
pantheon of gods - plural, was different.
I remember how fun and
challenging it was to create experiences for my babies -
that would communicate what the meaning was behind the
sounds I was uttering. I now watch with envy sometimes,
the joy of mothers in the grocery stores wheeling the
carts down the aisle showing and saying. I think of the
mistakes little children make and the patience of a
mother correcting them. I remember the incessant
questions, "what's this?" "why that?" I think of sitting
and reading when a toddler comes with a favorite book
and says, "read me a story."
The Holy Spirit inspired
Cornelius to come to Peter and hear the story of Jesus.
And Peter rose to the challenge of crossing language
barriers, cultural barriers, and even old religious
taboos that said, Gentiles were unclean and unworthy.
When Cornelius asked, what's this and why that, Peter
taught him the vocabulary that brought him to a new way
Moms, our task is no different.
God sends the little ones into our world for us to bring
them to life not to get them to breathe. Our task is not
just to feed, diaper, and clothe. But to bring them to
joy in their creator. It does not end with English,
math, and good behavior but a knowledge of Jesus Christ
that can sustain them throughout the challenges of this
As I look out into this
congregation, I see many moms and many more that have
had moms. What an honor and a privilege to enter into
this kind of relationship that nurtures a person to
maturity. The virtue of motherhood embodies the love
that teaches the foundational stories that can center
and focus a child's life. Motherhood has the opportunity
to show by your way of life, the life that is to be
desired and sought after when the child leaves the nest.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we
have those same opportunities and those same
possibilities for joy. Every encounter with a stranger
brings us an encounter with a child of God to be