- Kathleene Card
Acts 10.30-33 (NRSV)
30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31 He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”
Conversion, or changing the way we see things, is difficult. Cornelius describes how he had an unusual spiritual experience where he was told to seek Peter. The uniqueness of this experience is that Cornelius follows through and brings together a group of people so he can share what he has discovered. Something important has happened to Cornelius. Willimon describes how conversion is more significant than one person being changed. Listen to Willimon’s explanation:
“The church is not only the validator of personal religious experience but a necessary component for its continuation and growth. In speaking of conversion two sociologists note: ‘To have a conversion experience is nothing much. The real thing is to be able to keep on taking it seriously; to retain a sense of its plausibility. This is where the religious community comes in. It provides the indispensable plausibility structure of the new reality. In other words, Saul may have become Paul in the aloneness of religious ecstasy, but he could remain Paul only in the context of the Christian community . . . This relationship of conversion and community is not a peculiarly Christian phenomenon’ (P. Berger and T. Luckmann, p. 158). No matter how wonderful our experience, the experience can continue in us and can transform us only when it is embodied in community.’” (Willimon, P. 82)
I think it is critical for us to understand that Christianity is not a religious experience for individuals alone. When the Lord changes us, as the Lord did with Saul and Cornelius, the purpose is greater than just helping Saul and Paul to know God. Conversion is not complete until it involves blessing others and helping them to understand that God loves everyone. To do this the converted person needs a supportive community so that person will be able to keep on taking it seriously. Have you ever felt the need to share how much you feel God has blessed you and wants you to bless others?
Prayer Recap: Dear Lord, Your blessings in my life have been abundant, and the joy I feel when I remember all that you have done and continue to do is immeasurable. Help me to tell people how Your story and mine are connected. Amen.