Scripture: The apostles and the brothers and sisters throughout Judea heard that even the Gentiles had welcomed God’s word. When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him. They accused him, “You went into the home of the uncircumcised and ate with them!”
Step-by-step, Peter explained what had happened. “I was in the city of Joppa praying when I had a visionary experience. In my vision, I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. It came all the way down to me. As I stared at it, wondering what it was, I saw four-legged animals—including wild beasts—as well as reptiles and wild birds. I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!’ I responded, ‘Absolutely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice from heaven spoke a second time, ‘Never consider unclean what God has made pure.’ This happened three times, then everything was pulled back into heaven. At that moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Spirit told me to go with them even though they were Gentiles. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered that man’s house. He reported to us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is known as Peter. He will tell you how you and your entire household can be saved.’ When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as the Spirit fell on us in the beginning. I remembered the Lord’s words: ‘John will baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?”
Once the apostles and other believers heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and concluded, “So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life.”
- Acts 11:1-18 (Common English Bible)
Meditation: As we continue our Lenten series, The Compassionate Table, we continue to focus on the ways that we can see even more clearly the ministry of Jesus Christ specifically at the table.
In this particular passage, we are actually receiving a summary of chapter 10, of what happened in Caesarea with a man name Cornelius, and his family and friends. (I highly recommend that you read chapter 10 in addition to what you will hear on Sunday!) More specifically Peter is summarizing what happened, because the believers in Jerusalem were quite skeptical and critical of Peter's actions. You see Peter traveled down to Caesarea and (gasp!) ate with people who were not Jewish!
Now I added that little note (gasp!) because it does sound crazy to us now - why couldn't Peter eat with other believers, regardless of how they came to know Christ? Well, there were very strict laws against this, and Peter's dining with Gentiles prompted quite a few questions to the church in Jerusalem. Who should be included within the circle of the people of God? Are the traditional boundary markers will to be observed? If traditional prevents Jews and Gentiles from associating with each other, what happens when the old social distinctions no longer exist? How are they to relate to each other within a newly configured people of God?
What about us? What social distinctions keep us separated from one another? What social distinctions, if they were to change would dramatically change the way we associate with one another? What social distinctions might change in order to foster the in-breaking of God's kingdom here on earth? I have a few ideas, but I'd love to hear yours and continue this conversation. Won't you join us on Sunday?