This week, we will be wrapping up our series “Finding Your Way Again” with a brief summary of the topics we’ve been discussing in this worship series on discernment. To catch up on messages you missed, visit our YouTube Channel. You can always catch up using our app: download by texting “medfordapp” to 833/700-2226.
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion in the Italian Company. 2 He and his whole household were pious, Gentile God-worshippers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish people and prayed to God constantly. 3 One day at nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, he clearly saw an angel from God in a vision. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Startled, he stared at the angel and replied, “What is it, Lord?”
The angel said, “Your prayers and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to God. 5 Send messengers to Joppa at once and summon a certain Simon, the one known as Peter….
9 At noon on the following day, as their journey brought them close to the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted to eat. While others were preparing the meal, he had a visionary experience. 11 He saw heaven opened up and something like a large linen sheet being lowered to the earth by its four corners. 12 Inside the sheet were all kinds of four-legged animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice told him, “Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!”
14 Peter exclaimed, “Absolutely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke a second time, “Never consider unclean what God has made pure.” 16 This happened three times, then the object was suddenly pulled back into heaven.
17 Peter was bewildered about the meaning of the vision. Just then, the messengers sent by Cornelius discovered the whereabouts of Simon’s house and arrived at the gate…..
21 So Peter went downstairs and told them, “I’m the one you are looking for. Why have you come?”
Sometimes, the things that happen to us don’t make sense until we have the opportunity to talk them through with someone else. Discernment – the process of uncovering what God is doing now, and anticipating where God wants us to move next – requires holy conversations in community.
Peter was utterly confused by his vision. And likewise, I’m sure, Cornelius was surprised by the angel’s command to send for Peter.
It’s as though each of these men had half the story. Only when they came together did the whole story begin to make sense.
Our lives as Christians are meant to be lived in community, and in conversation. That was true for Jesus and his disciples. It was true in the early church. And it’s certainly true now.
If we want to understand what God is up to, it’s not enough to be listening for God on our own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s absolutely necessary to be listening for God on our own – after all, both Peter and Cornelius received their visions in times of private prayer – but it’s not enough.
That’s because Holy Spirit is given to the Church not just for the upbuilding of individuals, but the whole community. The Spirit is at work when we retell the stories of what God has done in the past, talk about where we see God at work now, and dream together about where God is moving next.
We can’t do the work of discernment all on our own. None of us hears that clearly. We need each other to make sure we’ve got it right. The vision that helps me to determine my next step may start as a conversation between me and God, but it isn’t meant to just stay there. Peter needed Cornelius. Cornelius needed Peter. And you and I need each other, to hear clearly the things God is saying to us.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Discernment requires community and conversation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you had a conversation that felt “holy” to you? Who was it with? Have you spoken to them lately?
Prayer: Holy Spirit, we thank you that you distribute the gifts of wisdom and discernment so freely to those who follow you. We ask that when we need vision, encouragement, and guidance, that you might make yourself and your will known in holy conversations. Amen.