The Jews of Jesus’s time practiced the strict dietary laws laid out in the book of Deuteronomy. Those people who were not Jews were called Gentiles. They did not believe in the Jew’s one God , but in many different gods. They ate the foods that the Jews were forbidden to eat. Jews, therefore, were not allowed to eat with them and friendships with them were discouraged. Of course, Jesus was criticized by the Jewish religious leaders for eating and making friends with Gentiles.
In last Sunday’s Scripture reading , Acts 11: 1-18, Peter was criticized for eating with a Gentile while in Caesarea. He told the disciples what caused this event to happen. He recalled a dream sent to him by God in which He told Peter it was alright to eat the previously forbidden foods. At about the same time, God sent an angel to a Gentile Roman soldier by the name of Cornelius. He was to seek out Peter and meet with him. The Holy Spirit told Peter to go with the men that Cornelius had sent for him.
While with Cornelius, Peter told him and his family about Jesus and his teachings. As he did so, the Holy Spirit came down on the Gentiles. Because they believed in Jesus, Peter baptized the whole family. When the disciples heard this story, they were amazed and stopped their criticism of Peter. They realized, as Peter had, that God was giving new life to everyone, not just the Jews.
Clara and Mr. Richard made a banner entitled, “God Loves and Includes Everyone.” On it were quotes about inclusion from the scripture reading and Trinity’s Mission Statement, “Inviting, Inspiring, and Serving Christ in ALL People.” Then they cut out and pasted on photos of people of different colors, ethnic backgrounds, economic levels. and religions.