After proclaiming that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled in him, Jesus then informed the people of his hometown that God’s grace was often rejected by God’s people, but received by outcasts. This made the people so furious that they tried to kill Jesus, but he managed to slip away.
Right from the start Jesus had a sense that his work would cross boundaries and include those who were usually rejected. But, as is often the case, the religious insiders couldn’t stand this idea. God’s scandalous grace brought out the worst in them, and they became violent, angry and judgemental.
Peter, who as a good Jew would never have entered the home of a Gentile, was convinced by a vision that he should go to the home of Cornelius and preach to the Gentiles gathered there. As he spoke, God’s Spirit came upon his listeners, and Peter realized that they too were included in God’s salvation. So, he made sure that these new believers were baptized.
Later, though, he had a lot of explaining to do to the Church leaders back in Jerusalem. However, when they heard Peter’s story, they rejoiced and opened their arms to welcome their Gentile sisters and brothers. This is the inclusive purpose of God’s Reign at work – and we are called to participate in it.
One of the marks of Jesus’ ministry was his welcoming of all who came to him. In worship, as we gather together, we greet each other as a way of welcoming each other. This act teaches us to live with a spirit of welcome. Today, welcome everyone you meet, greeting them with grace and respect.
As you have welcomed and included me, O God, so I welcome and include others.