Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's Clean and What's Unclean?

This week's scripture is Acts 10: 9-35.

The Wonderful Wednesday Kids are going to be acting out the first part of this scripture for us on Sunday. You won't want to miss it.

When we look at this passage, it's a very strange story. Cornelius has a visit from an angel telling him to send for Peter. Peter gets a vision (and a pretty weird vision at that) which he interpretes in a way that lets him go to Cornelius when Cornelius sends messengers asking him to come.

I got to thinking about this passage. And it seems to me that this is the first time that God has taken such an active, out front role in making things happen since He sent an angel to Mary and a dream to Joseph. I asked myself why that was? What is happening here that is so important that God wants to make sure that everything goes according to plan?

Then it hit me. The importance of this moment is the move of Christianity out from being simply a Jewish sect, to being a faith for all persons. God is going to 'drop kick' as it were the new Christian community into relationship with, and acceptance of, their non-Jewish neighbors. Before they get set in their ways and start demanding that everybody who wants to be a Christian has to first convert to Judeism (and there are some in the early Church who will want that to be the rule), God is going to jump into the middle of the discussion and say, "No...don't you DARE go calling what I have said is 'clean', 'acceptable', 'kosher'...don't you DARE go calling it 'unclean'.

And Peter got the message. That was the good news. The bad news is that it didn't stick for very long and Peter would later chicken out a bit when an intimidating bunch of muckity mucks from the Jerusalem church showed up. But this day, he got it. And because he got it the Christian Church got its first gentile converts.

It's a funny thing though. Even after God gave him this great vision telling him that nothing and no one was 'unclean', even after he's stood there and watched the Holy Spirit come down on Cornelius and his household, Peter still slide back into his fear later on. Kinda like me and you. I need to ask myself over and over: 'who am I calling 'unclean' that God has made clean?' 'who am I blocking out that God has included?'

I am always humbled when I ask those questions of myself. Cause there's a long list of folks I wouldn't want to make a long car ride with; and a long list of folks who (if I'm honest) I harbor resentments toward; who I have deemed 'unclean' in my own heart. And the judgement of Jesus when I look at it honestly is, "when you do this to them...you do it to Me."

What's it like when you ask the questions?

Hope to see you Sunday.


No comments: