Good News

Good News for Everyone

Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, 40 but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One Whom God appointed as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.”

There are several sermons in this text. 1. How God moved from the Jews being His exclusive people to the believers, whatever their nationality. 2. Jesus began His miracle healing ministry after the Baptism. (which disproves some of the apocrypha writings telling of some miracles ahead of this time.) 3.  Proclaiming Jesus’ healing ministry. 4. What Luther called the Gentile Pentecost. 5. The different physical ways the Crucifixion could be described. (cross, pole, tree—the implications some doubters make of this.) 6. Jesus’ command to proclaim the Good News. 7. How the Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus. And even more things could be highlighted.

When I was a new pastor back in 1970, I read an article describing how we read the Bible over and over again and then suddenly one verse stands out, takes on dark print and almost waves at us. Something we read and read but passed over without really seeing it. Then suddenly we understand it and we wonder why we didn’t understand it before?

And that is why I chose this one verse: “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism…”  Your version says, “truly I understand.” Luther translated this as “Now I truly experience this.” The Greek; “In truth I perceive this.”   In any event it means to pass from knowing something to understanding something.

“I now realize.”  There had already been the episode of the faithful Roman Centurion. Jesus rewarded this gentile. There was the Samaritan woman who persisted in wanting a miracle—even the crumbs off the master’s table. Jesus rewarded her. There was the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus shared the Gospel with her.

Then too there were the prostitutes and tax collectors. In Peter’s previous Judaism, these were not candidates for holiness. Finally, it hit him. When Jesgood Newsus said, “Go out into the world and preach the Good News to everyone,” He meant the whole world and he meant everyone.

Well, what made him say this? The context is Cornelis the Roman centurion, a believer, described how an angel in exact terms told him where to find Peter.

So, an angel and the exact information caused him to say this. Proof enough! But why now? What about the resurrection? Why wouldn’t that have made him more open to the idea that things were to be different. Sometimes it takes time to see things differently.

I suppose we have all dated back in high school or college. We thought someone was very nice and so we spent some time with that person. Then after a while, that little quirk became annoying and we came to the conclusion that person had other faults so we started looking elsewhere. On the other hand, that person we were with seemed nice enough but then we got to know that person better and began to feel otherwise—and that person became the special person, the number one. Well, why didn’t we see that in the first place?

I was selected to attend Army radio school. Basically we were trained to find problems and repair them, especially out in the field where we had almost nothing to work with. I passed the course and went on to use that trade for 2 years. But honestly, I really didn’t know much about what I was doing. Later I took a job in electronic and wanted to know more so I went back to school.  Now things became clear. Electronics was logical, everything has rhyme and reason behind it. Why didn’t I pick that up in that Army school????

And so it is also with religion. Some people are raised in one denomination – or even religion—and become aware of some things and so they change.  My church in Berlin, for example, has baptized over 700 Muslims!!! In learning German from the Bible, the Holy Spirit opened their hearts to see and realize that God is love!

After explaining the Lord’s Supper to an AOG pastor, using just Jesus’ exact words and St Paul’s, he saw the true meaning for the first time although he was well aware of these verses all his life. I could cite many other examples in adult confirmation of how some people were amazed to discover what they had been taught was not entirely true.

To be fair, I have also met some Lutherans who did not understand some things and later had their eyes opened.

For 20 years I had conducted funerals and shared with my members all the right verses to give them comfort and assurance—but—I always had an uncomfortable feeling because I hadn’t lost anyone. If asked, I would have been unable to tell people that this really helped me to overcome my grief—because I had never lost anyone. Then when my sister passed away, for the first time I really felt what I had been preaching was actually a comfort. Likewise, when others of my family passed, I felt this comfort I had only been talking about.

I recall a woman in my Ca. congregation telling me how close she felt to her late husband when she took communion. “Okay, if that is the way you feel….”  Well then when my sister passed, I felt that too. Then I thought about our prayer: “Therefore with angels and archangels and ALL the company of heaven….” (The dead in Christ. Those who were now in heaven, as Jesus said to the thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”)  We are the “living” in Christ and they are the “dead” in Christ and in communion we join them for a brief second as we share their hymn, “Therefore with angels and Archangels and with those who have gone on ahead of us we laud and magnify Thy glorious Name evermore praising Thee and singing, Holy, Holy Holy….”

Something I had heard as a Layman, and had repeated as a pastor, now took on new meaning—a deeper meaning. “I now realize how true it is.”

Orthodoxy is—to an extent—how well we recite the basics of the Christian faith. But true Christianity is what we truly believe in our hearts.

Some Lutheran theologians do not feel comfortable with what they call “Subjectivism.’ That is – well for example—any hymn which describes a personal relationship with Jesus—like In The Garden. However, recall what Jesus said when He asked, “Who do MEN say that I am?” The apostles gave a few answers and then He specifically asked, “But who do YOU say that I am?” He already knew what was in their hearts but—He wanted them to look within themselves for a personal answer!

“Now I truly I understand.” “Now I truly experience this.” “In truth I perceive this.”  “I now realize.”  Take any translation. Now do WE move from the objective to the subjective? Not really! It is the Holy Spirit moves us from the one to the other. He was the One who made Peter really realize the Gospel was for everyone. He made me feel the comforting words I had been sharing for years and made it apply to myself. He makes the confession and absolution which I had been administering for decades now take on reality as our pastor speaks these same words over me.

There is a difference between saying the Apostles’ Creed and meaning it as Luther explained it: I believe that God has made me and all creatures. I believe that Jesus Christ, is my Lord Who has redeemed me. I believe the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel. Now I fully realize that what the Bible says is true and applies to me and everyone else—certainly that includes you also. Amen.

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