On Sunday August 28th our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led worship. Worship began when we sang, ‘O Worship the King all glorious above. Christine led the opening prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer before we sang, ‘The King of love my shepherd is’. Acts 11.1-18 was about Peter’s report to the church at Jerusalem showing that God accepted Gentiles; he had been shown a vision of unclean foods he was told to eat; repeated 3 times, so Peter was prepared to go to Cornelius to share Jesus with him. We sang, ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’, which is one of my favourite hymns as it shows the scope of God’s mercy being way beyond any mercy we can show. We heard the reading from Luke 14.1,7-14, which described humility and hospitality.
Christine then began to preach wondering if we had a week and £1000 to spare to go on a course at a finishing school to learn about English and French table manners, including how to handle different utensils. Jesus was once a guest in a prominent man’s house, where he advised the people not to choose the place of honour or they could be humiliated by being asked to take a lower place. Jesus was not giving a lesson on etiquette, but trying to stop people from pushing themselves to the highest place. Jesus told the story of the Kingdom of God in the prominent Pharisee’s house, where he knew he was being watched, but he was also watching the people arriving, the guests jostling for the best places, as they wanted power and influence. The Pharisee was educated in scripture and experienced in debate and desired to live according to the rules and obey them. It was then a small step to condemn others who were less perfect than themselves. The Pharisees invented all kinds of rules and regulations.
Christine was taught that Sunday was special day, so she was allowed to play out in the back garden, but not in the front garden on a Sunday; she could never find out why that particular rule was implemented. People were considered unclean and not allowed to worship if they were ill. The Pharisees seemed to feel they deserved God’s favour as they earned it by following the rules. It was not expected that God would call the Gentiles to join the Jewish Church. Peter had had the vision three times of unclean food and been told by God that he was to eat it as God called it clean. Then the messengers arrived from Cornelius the centurion, so Peter went to his house and as he told them about Jesus, the Gentiles received God’s Holy Spirit as they themselves had on the day of Pentecost. Now Peter had to explain himself to the church in Jerusalem, saying that they could not oppose God. It is God who invites us; it is a warning to us not to choose the best seats. It is a timeless parable, which applied to Jesus’ time, the early church and still applies now. Where do we fit in? We need to remember that whoever is exalted will be humbled and the humble exalted. Each one of us is called to worship and share with others and we are to invite others.
We then sang, ‘O for a heart to praise my God’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Come let us of a wonderful love.’