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God does Not play Favorites
by the Iowa Star
based on Acts 10:32-43
Once upon a time, there was a church that was going to receive a new pastor. The District Superintendent told them he wanted to present a clergywoman who listed her poodle "Fluff" as her pastoral associate. The committee thought this sounded alright as practically all of the church members liked dogs. The woman agreed to come for an intereview on one condition. She wanted them to first interview Fluff. They could only ask Fluff questions from a list she had made for them. The Committee thought this was strange, but reluctantly agreed
During the evening of the interview, everyone came into the room. Then the DS brought in the clergywoman and her dog. They looked a bit nervious, but sat down and smiled all the same. The committee chair then started down the list of questions for Fluff. "Uhh.. 1st question, Fluff, It's about the old testament. "How would you describe the travels of the Israelites over the 40 years they were in the desert?" "Rough!". said Fluff. "Ok, 2nd question on the New Testament. In Luke 5 and Mark 2, Jesus cures a paralytic whose friends got him into the room i n an unusual way. He was lowered down through the what, Fluff? "Roof!" said Fluff. "Ok, third question. What's your favorite book of the Bible in general? "Ruth!" By this time every member of the committee were angry with this crazy lady and her dog. They ended the interview by grabbing both of them by the ear, throwing them out of the church and onto the street. As the woman picked herself up and started to dust herself off, her pastoral associate, Fluff, mournfully came over, head hanging low and tail between her legs. Then the dog opened her mouth and said, "I'm sorry Mom. With that crowd, I should have said my favorite book of the Bible is Judges."
We're going to talk about differences today. Our reading from Acts comes at the end of a long story of how Peter comes to get the point that Jesus' message wasn't just for the Jews, but for everyone in the whole world. When all those foreigners and strangers called Gentiles, heard Peter say what he said and knew he had invited them into the circle, they were thrilled to be Baptized and know that God cared. We can get excited about this too, for no person will ever be able to understand just how deep and wide and rich is God's love for the whole world. We are all one family, equal partners, fellow traveleers, companions and friends. Does it feel that way? I hope so for one of the toughest obstacles to over-come inside of the church walls is when some people or groups of people appear to be more special than the rest. Do you know what that does to a family? It's pretty painful when you feel like there's a favorite child in the family, and it's not you.
How about the school kids here, have you ever heard of someone called the "Teacher's Pet?" There's a balance we have to be careful to keep, or everyone suffers, and I mean that. We all suffer Pastor's tend to like it when people are supportive and cooperative. Some other's may not feel they are getting enough attention because they don't fall into that category. I'm sorry it happens. I need your help to make sure we all feel listened to and cared for, even when we disagree. The children learned a song that speaks to this. It says, "God's house is a great big house, with room enough for all, with a great big yard, where we can play football, and a great big table with lots and lots of food. God's house is a great big house." Peter says "I now realize that God does not show favoritism, but accepts people who fear God and do wha't right."
In the long version of our story from Acts, Cornelius came banging on Peter's door. Cornelieus was not a Jew and Peter had been taught to keep away from any one who was not a Jew. Yet, he listened to the Holy Spirit who told him to "do a new thing." Cornelieus and the people with him were bapitzed then. Churches tend to get themselves in trouble when we forget the house is great big. It's easy to start fighting over proof of the Holy Spirit, proof you have been saved the right way, or proof you can pass the test. Listen to Peter. He said, "I now realize that God does not show favoritism, but accepts people who fear God and do wha't right. Peter's saying that our relationship with God and our desire to do the right thing, our actions, are more important than the particulars of what we believe about all those crazy issues that try to drive us apart. That's what this particular scripture says to me.
I had an amazing experience happen to me this week that has put a lot of this in perspective. Almost all of you know I am divorced. I've been that way for a long time now. Last fall, the son of a mutual friend of my former husband (Doug) and I got into serious trouble. It will take thousands and thousands of dollars to get him out of it. A defense fund was set up for those of us who want to help the family. So, last fall I wrote Doug to tell him about all of this. It is the first contact I've had with him in over 8 years, and at that time we were not on good terms. Wednesday I got a letter back from him. The letter was a lot like Doug, kind in parts and cold in others. But he's doing alright. Communicating with him now has been good for me. Of course there's this chasm between us that isn't going to change. But I did not realize how good it would be to hear from him and have a chance to say to eachother, "all is well." It gives me peace I didn't know I needed. Perhaps I can put aside a little more of my anger and bitterness and resentments that I have used to condemn him, and focus on healing myself.
Because God really doesn't show favorites. God's working on me, God's working on Doug, God's working on my most vocal opponents and my closest friends. When we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit there's a path that's going to be laid down. Your path may lead you over rocky hills, mine may take me onto slippery slopes. Every path is different and so are our spiritual lives, our believes, what brings us hope, salvation, healing. But, if we can hear each other, revere God, and strive to do what's right, we are all going to become a new creation and take up residence in that big, big house God promises. Amen
Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999