Our world is full of boundaries. Zip codes denote one area from another. A sidewalk signifies where the school district ends. Cones direct your driving. The path on a board game shows the direction you are to take. Signs tell you where you can, and where you can’t, venture to. Then we encounter streams, mountains, lines of trees that direct our movement. These boundaries help us to reinforce our identities.
Earlier in Acts, we witness as Cornelius has a vision. In this vision he sees an angel who instructs him to send for Peter (10:4-5). Cornelius was not a full convert to Judaism; he was a God fearing man and definitely a Gentile. This made him different from Peter; Peter was a Jewish Christian.
When Peter was sent for, he too saw a vision. This message in the vision told him to go and to follow them without hesitation (10:20). Peter would have had some hesitation due to the distinction between these two groups of people. What astounds Peter is that when he speaks to the Gentiles and the Jews, the Holy Spirit is poured out over all the people.
We witness in the reading for this week that Peter sets aside his preconceived notions of how these people were divided. In this, Peter is a witness and understands now “that God show no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” (10:34-35). This opens Peter’s eye to observe as the Holy Spirit is moves over all who listen to him.
And like Peter, we must be willing to look past things which we thought were barriers, in order to more fully serve God.
It is very easy for us, as a church community, to get caught up in how we are doing. We create categories for who is a member and who is not; who comes to the 9:00am service and who comes to the 10:45am service; who is new and who is old. What would St. Dunstan's look like if we chose to break down these barriers? How will we, like Peter, reject traditional boundaries and borders so that we might welcome all to God's family?
Our new Neighborhood Engagement group at St. Dunstan's seeks to help break down these barriers. The purpose of this group is to build relationships with those organizations and groups that surround us and are already part of the community we serve. This enables us, as a community at St. Dunstan's, to be more effective in our ministry and serving of our community.
One group that we have connected with already is Little Falls Village. Little Falls Village seeks to help neighbors in our community of the 20816 zip code to “Age-in-Place”. These sorts of relationships are mutually beneficial and life-giving. As we encounter members of our community who might need help aging in place, we can look towards this relationship we are building with Little Falls Village. Additionally, for them, the community of folks that they serve have the benefit of learning about and possibly taking part in our events, like the Parish Picnic on May 31st.
This Neighborhood Engagement group will seek to build relationships with those around us. In doing this, we will build up our community and our network so that we can more effectively do the good work that God is calling us to do.