Daily Office Readings for Wednesday Proper 9 of Year 1
“He stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ He answered, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4)
Those of us who pray believe our prayers ascend up into the heavens. And we believe God hears them. But what about the alms we give? What about the money we give to the needy?
It is obvious that money does not go up to heaven. However, the generosity, concern, commitment and care for the less fortunate is made manifest in a divine goodness that does go up the God.
Cornelius was a Roman army officer, theoretically in charge of a hundred men. “In New Testament times, an estimated ten per cent of the population of the Roman Empire consisted of God-fearers, Gentiles who recognized that the pagan belief in many gods and goddesses, who according to the myths about them were given to adultery, treachery, intrigue, and the like, was not a religion for a thoughtful and moral worshipper, and who had accordingly embraced an ethical monotheism — belief in One God, who had created the world, and who was the upholder of the Moral Law.” (James Kiefer)
When I first inquired about the Episcopal Church some forty plus years ago I read a brochure that said the Episcopal Church was a “thinking man’s church.” Today it would probably say a “thinking person’s church.” But the point is the same, a wise and thoughtful person who has realized that our existence is not just a random act and that all walks of human life are both needed and precious in God’s eyes will seek out a community of worshipers that fully inculcates the principles of loving God and neighbor with the full understanding that all people are our neighbors.
This neighborly inclusivity is brought to fruition in the food example shown to Simon Peter while he was in his trance. The voice said to him to kill and eat various kinds of animals. Peter initially refused because he was taught that some animals were unclean or profane. Then, the voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’” (Acts 10:15)
Perhaps it’s a jump with this metaphor but the writer of Acts sees this inclusiveness of food the same as the inclusiveness of people. No one is profane or unclean or not worthy of love and compassion. We are all God-made and God-loved. We are sent like Simon Peter to model that inclusive image.
Therefore, let us hear what the Spirit is saying through (and to) God’s people.