Readings:  Joshua 5:1-6:5 and Acts 10:1-17

Joshua 5:-9:  When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.  And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”  And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

Acts 10: 1-2:  At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.

 

“Looking at What God Removes”

Cornelius was a man of integrity.  He had his reputation of being the “Italian Cohort”, meaning that he served as a non-commissioned officer, much like an army captain, who was in charge of 100 freedmen.  They served only when the need arose, much like the Reserves do today.

Joshua also was a man of integrity.  His reputation was being one of two spies who gave a positive report about how the Children of Israel, with God’s grace and help, would take control of the land promised to Abraham.  Joshua had been chosen by God to succeed Moses and lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Canaan.

But for both men, something had to be removed.  Joshua had to deal with men who were ‘outsiders’ to the Jewish people.  God would remove the disgrace from His people through circumcision.  God would now declare these people ‘clean’ from the unclean Gentile world, a world which the Children of Israel had left some 40 years before.

Cornelius was a Roman; he was an outsider to the Jews, and being one of the representatives of the Roman government, there was that feeling of hostility.  The barriers between his people and the Jewish people had to be removed.  Peter was the ‘agent’ to learn how God was going to accomplish this.  God would declare Cornelius ‘clean’ as he would be forgiven his sins.  

The Scriptures are full of examples of how God changes the common and unclean and makes them clean and holy.  The signs were provided for God’s people to see their part in this purifying and sanctifying process.  

Cornelius is described as ‘devout’ and ‘feared God’.  Could he have heard about what Jesus had done through the missionary work of Philip who had been in Caesarea (Acts 8:40)?  Could he have heard the Apostle Paul when he preached there (Acts 9:30)?  We may not know, but what we do know is what lesson Peter would learn about how God can make clean what was unclean.  (That’s coming in the next day’s reading!)

God was removing the barriers that separated His people.  Seems like we’re experiencing that today, only in reverse!  We see the divisions that people are creating to pit one race or group of people against another.  Yes, it’s Satan at work, again, as he has been trying to destroy the good things of God ever since the Garden of Eden.  

God restores through forgiveness and faith.  Joshua saw how circumcision and the promise made to Abraham would be granted to those who had been born after their parents had left Egypt, the land of bondage. Cornelius would learn how God would announce for him his being made clean in the sight of God through the forgiveness of his sins.  

We also have been made clean in God’s sight by what He has done.  “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you for the forgiveness of your sins,” Peter proclaimed on that first Pentecost (Acts 2:38).  Soon Peter and Cornelius will learn just how God will make them both clean and holy!  Joshua stood with those newly circumcised, a holy army, ready to enter the Promised Land.

You, also, are made holy in God’s sight through the purifying and sanctifying blood of Jesus.  You are washed in the font of baptism at your Gilgal, where the stones from the Jordan River of Christ’s baptism provide that meeting place where you are joined to God’s family.  You are nourished in His holy supper, not of manna and quail, but of His own body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness and removal of sins.  You stand prepared to enter the Promised Land of heaven.

 

Let us pray:  Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, You opened Peter’s eyes to see that all of creation is good and is to be used by Your people for their delight and joy.  Open our eyes to see that our bodies, restored by You in Holy Baptism, proclaim the goodness of Your creative will, that in paradise we will come to the fullness of what You created us to be.  Instill in the hearts and minds of all people a love that goes beyond race, and restore our nation by Your guiding presence.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Our Father…

The grace of the Lord + Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.  Amen.