Shaggy dog story - Cornelius, Peter and the message of God - by James Archer

 

 

This is a narrated story which involves everyone and will take somewhere between 15 and 40 minutes, depending on the number of iterations!  (This version will probably take about 30 minutes.) Feel free to extend or cut as appropriate. Suggested actions and sounds are:

  • Cornelius – salute and say “Yes,sir!”

  • Roof and/or house – triangle over the head

  • Pray or prayer – hands together in prayer and chant “Amen!”

  • Gave gifts to the poor - spread out one hand as if sowing

  • God – bow down or go reverently on one knee

  • Angel – “Ta-daaa”

  • Household – spread out hands to show everyone

  • Servant – same as Cornelius, perhaps less strongly

  • Peter – a fisherman casting

  • The sea – wavy motion and whooshing sound

  • Heaven – look up to the sky

  • Clean – thumbs up and cheer

  • Unclean – “Yuk!”

  • Jews – thumbs up and cheer

  • Gentiles – “Yuk!”

  • Animals – Baa, Meh, Cluck, Moo, Oink, Humph as appropriate

  • Loo – “Yuk!”

  • Holy Spirit – blow out long and loud

  • Nitpickers – touch noses and turn them up

 

At the start bring as many children to the front as possible, and make sure you don’t let the adults get away without joining in. 

Now, boys and girls, I’m going to tell you a shaggy dog story – or rather, we’re all going to tell a shaggy dog story.  Does anyone know what a shaggy dog story is?  It’s a story that repeats itself until we all get the point and remember it.  Now to help us remember it, we’ve got some actions and noises.  And rather than teaching you all of them, I will do them and you can join in whenever you hear the appropriate word.  So you have to listen carefully and concentrate.  And your Mums and Dads will be joining in too, won’t you Mums and Dads? (If necessary, “Oh yes you will” etc).  Now, are you ready?  Then let’s begin.

Once upon a time, there was a Roman soldier, a centurion called Cornelius.  He feared God and gave gifts to the poor.  One day, he was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”

So Cornelius called his servant and said to him, ‘I was on the roof of my house, praying, when an angel appeared to me.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So go to Joppa, to the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea, ask for a man named Peter, and tell him I was on the roof of my house, praying, when an angel appeared to me.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”’  So the servant went to Joppa and found the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.

In the meantime, Peter was on the roof of the house, praying, and he had a dream.  He saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” said Peter.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  A second time he saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” said Peter.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  And a third time, he saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” said Peter.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  Then the sheet went back to heaven.

Just then, as Peter was thinking about the meaning of the dream, the servant of Cornelius knocked on the door.  And he said to Peter, ‘My master Cornelius was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So please come and bring the message of God for him and his whole household.’

And Peter replied, ‘You know that Jews are not allowed to associated with Gentiles. But just before you arrived, I was on the roof of the house, praying, and I had a dream.  I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  A second time I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” And a third time, I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  Then the sheet went back to heaven.

‘Just then, as I was thinking about the meaning of the dream, you knocked on the door and said to me, ‘My master Cornelius was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So please come and bring the message of God for him and his whole household.’  So it is clear me that I should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.’  So Peter travelled with the servant of Cornelius to the house of Cornelius. 

 

In the meantime, Cornelius had sent messengers to:

His father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

Saying, ‘Cornelius was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So Cornelius has sent to Joppa for a man named Peter, who is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea, who will bring a message from God for him and his whole household. And he says, “Come to my house to hear the message from God for him and his whole household.”

So his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo,

Came to the house of Cornelius to hear the message from God for him and his whole household.

So when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, Cornelius greeted him and said to him, ‘I was on the roof of my house, praying, when an angel appeared to me.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So I sent to Joppa for you, and I sent to

my father and my mother and my uncles and my aunts,

my brothers and my sisters and my daughters and my sons,

my nephews and my nieces and my servants too,

the maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo

to come to my house to hear the message from God for me and my whole household.

'So I am here with

my father and my mother and my uncles and my aunts,

my brothers and my sisters and my daughters and my sons,

my nephews and my nieces and my servants too,

the maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo

to hear the message from God for me and my whole household.’

Then Peter said, ‘You know that Jews are not allowed to associated with Gentiles. But just before you arrived, I was on the roof of the house, praying, and I had a dream.  I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  A second time I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” And a third time, I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” Then the sheet went back to heaven.

‘Just then, as I was thinking about the meaning of the dream, your servant knocked on the door and said to me, ‘My master Cornelius was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So please come and bring the message of God for him and his whole household.’  So it was clear me that I should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.’  So I travelled with your servant to your house to bring the message of God for you and your whole household.’

Then Peter brought the message of God to Cornelius and his whole household:

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

 

While Peter was still speaking the message of God to Cornelius and his whole household, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message, Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

 

The Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of them being baptised, for they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he baptised Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

When Peter returned to Joppa to the house of Simon the Tanner who lives by the sea, all the believing Jews heard that Cornelius and all his household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo,

Had received the Holy Spirit, some nitpickers criticised Peter and said to him, “Why did you, a Jew, go into the house of a Gentile?”

 

Then Peter said, ‘You know that Jews are not allowed to associated with Gentiles. But just before the servant of Cornelius arrived, I was on the roof of the house, praying, and I had a dream.  I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.”  A second time I saw a sheet being lowered from heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, come and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” And a third time, I saw a sheet being lowered down heaven, and in it were all sorts of animals – clean – sheep, goats, chickens and cows – and unclean – pigs and camels.  And a voice came from heaven, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”  “Never!” I said.  “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  And the voice replied, “Do not call unclean what God has declared to be clean.” Then the sheet went back to heaven.

‘Just then, as I was thinking about the meaning of the dream, the servant of Cornelius knocked on the door and said to me, ‘My master Cornelius was on the roof of his house, praying, when an angel appeared to him.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”  So please come and bring the message of God for him and his whole household.’  So it was clear me that I should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.’  So I travelled with his servant to the house of Cornelius to bring the message of God for him and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

 

‘So when I reached his house, Cornelius greeted me with his whole household and said,  I was on the roof of my house, praying, when an angel appeared to me.  “Cornelius! God has heard your prayers and seen your gifts to the poor.  Send to Joppa for a man named Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the sea.  He will bring a message from God for you and your whole household.”

 

So I brought him the message of God for him and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

 

While I was still speaking the message of God to Cornelius and his whole household, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message, Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

 

Then I said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of them being baptised, for they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So I baptised Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.’

 

Then the nitpickers said, “It is clear us that we should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.  For the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message, Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo.

So then, God has accepted the Gentiles just as he has accepted us.  Hooray!

 

Now, boys and girls, the thing about a shaggy dog story is that you never forget it.  But if you do forget it, you can look in the bible and read Acts chapters 10 and 11, and you can see that this shaggy dog story really is in the bible.

 

And I hope that when you are older, and have your own children, you will tell them this shaggy dog story about Cornelius and Peter and the message of God to his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo,

that we should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.

 

And when you are even older, and have your own grandchildren, will you tell them the story of Cornelius and Peter and the message of God to his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo,

that we should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.

 

And when you are even older, and have forgotten about Peter and Cornelius and his whole household,

his father and his mother and his uncles and his aunts,

His brothers and his sisters and his daughters and his sons,

His nephews and his nieces and his servants too,

The maid who does the cooking and the man who cleans the loo,

I hope you will still remember the message of God,

that we should not call unclean anything that God has declared to be clean.  Amen.

 

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