Radical Change: Scripture and questions for May 13

Acts 10:25-35
On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?” 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. He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 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.’ 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.”

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Psalm 98:1-4
O sing to the Lord a new song,
  for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
  have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
  he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
  to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
  the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
  break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Context and questions
One definition of the term “conversion” when used in a religious context (as opposed to converting rice or money!) is, “a radical change in one’s spiritual or religious orientation.” The scripture passage from Acts speaks to several conversions. Peter is converted from his legalistic religious orientation to one in which he discovers that “God shows no partiality.” Cornelius is converted in his socio-political orientation that Jews were persona non-grata to Romans to a new position and he is actually seeking out the wisdom of Peter and bowing down to him in homage. Many who witnessed these conversions were in turn converted to faith in one loving and radically all-embracing God. It is interesting that we don’t speak of conversions in Progressive Christianity; that is a term almost exclusively used by other religions and more conservative or doctrinal expressions of Christianity.

What conversions have you witnessed?

Is “conversion” a term we can use any more, or has it been completely co-opted by more conservative religious groups?

If one “converts” to Plymouth’s open and progressive faith, what does that mean for one’s daily life?

Jeffrey Sartain
Executive Minister

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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1 Response to Radical Change: Scripture and questions for May 13

  1. Ronaldpalosaari@hotmail.com says:

    In 1967 I took the course Anthropology of Religion as part of my doctoral program. I did my course paper on the conversion experience, something I had experienced. Four years at Bethel College and four more years at Bethel Seminary and three years as a Baptist minister had left me with a desire to understand better the dramatic experience that had changed my life. What I discovered was that the conversion experience was not only a psychological experience but a physiological one basically, a chemical altering of the brain that left the person open to a new orientation of life
    The term “born again” is an apt one as the newly converted is open to accepting a new interpretation of life.
    The religious conversion in a different context can be termed brain washing or indoctrination. The evangelical wing has a system to bring this about as do a group like the Moonies or the Scientologists. The liberal church has no such system. The liberal church loses people to the evangelicals, but also gains as evangelicals are unable to maintain the world view but move as I did to a new synthesist Evangelicalism now constructs a view that denies science in key areas, that insists on a view of the Bible that is difficult or impossible for many like me to hold.

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