Sunday, October 25, 2015

First Time For Everything

There's no telling what I might do. 

Acts 11:1-18

New International Version (NIV)

Peter Explains His Actions

11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Here in Chap 11 we see a reiteration of everything that has happened in Chap 10. 

Peter has to come back to Jerusalem and give an account of all that has happened. 
One thing that I'm raking through my mind is - did he really? Or, maybe more accurately, what he intending to? The only reason Peter has to come back to Jerusalem and retell the entire narrative is because there are so many people retelling it themselves. All the commotion is enough that there are people back in Jerusalem that want to here what happened from the man himself. Peter. 

What is their problem? The statement is just the same rhetoric that they heard when Jesus was here walking with them. The Pharisees were always giving Jesus a hard time because of the company that he kept. Jesus ate with "sinners". Jesus kept a relationship going with the poor and downtrodden in society. The religious leaders just didn't understand why in the world he would want to hang around with them. As the world turns and changes after Christ's Resurrection and Ascension, there are believers here who clearly have found salvation in the name of Jesus, but are still clinging to the ways of that have been taught to them as Jewish people. You don't hang around with Gentile people. Those people are outside of our social network. Those people are not a part of our religious community. Those people don't look like us, sound like us, believe like us. That social and religious fragment of their theology and philosophy is a hard thing for some to shake. 

I can't help but make the shift right into our own world.
How many times has a person had to come to board meeting and give an account of why they spent some church funds on this project or why they went to this place and did some kind of ministry? How many times over the years have you heard about someone getting chewed out by some long standing church member because this certain someone did some kind of ministry that long standing church member just doesn't approve of? That's right where the Apostle Peter is in this moment. Criticism is a harsh agent. Criticism has to do with perception. The hardest part about handling criticism is that people don't always have all the facts before that perception is formulated and then dished out through their critique. These leaders back in Jerusalem have stories being throw to them. All they are hearing is enough to stir the pot and get the fires burning. 

Now, Peter has to tell them his side of the story. 
We know how it all goes. We've been reading it over the last month. God spoke to some Roman soldier through a angelic vision. God spoke to Peter through a vision of his own. Some of the men came to find Peter. He goes back to Caesarea and tell them about salvation in the name of Jesus. To the person who is focused on following our Lord, the account doesn't sound disturbing at all. Unless we are harboring some kind of prejudice or bias in our hearts. It's not just as simple as sharing the message of jesus with some people. It's about whom it was shared with.  We have been eluding to it for months. Now, it is here. There is clearly a racial and social issue to deal with in our make-up. It's hard for us to grasp just reading some words off a page. We don't see it as we read. We can't see color or race in these black words on white pages. The reading of this kind of scripture need for our attention to turn to our own world and see the prejudices that are prevalent right before us to fully understand. We need to see the lack of desire to share the message of salvation with those outside of our own immediate circles of race or preference. Only then does the message of our scripture begin to make sense. 

“Race” is a random human term. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Mark Schoofs writes, “Not only is our concept of race arbitrary, but it is based on a relatively insignificant difference between people. Skin pigment, eye shape, and hair type are all determined by genes.”
Anthropologist Eugenie C. Scott writes that humans cannot be compartmentalized into racial categories:
However, even if people in different geographic areas differ, it is impossible to draw sharp lines between racial groups. Few if any populations are cut off from others, and even if laws, culture, and/or religion prohibit it, mating does take place. Characteristics of people change gradually from one geographic area to another; where across Central Asia do European ‘whites’ leave off and Asian ‘yellows’ begin? Anthropologists see races as temporary, changing phenomena, products of genetic processes and natural selection. The races we see today are different from those of yesterday and will be different tomorrow.3
“Race” is a random human term. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Mark Schoofs writes, “Not only is our concept of race arbitrary, but it is based on a relatively insignificant difference between people. Skin pigment, eye shape, and hair type are all determined by genes.”
- See more at:

In Sept 2014, a California eighth grader was placed in detention for having a good heart. He shared his brown-bagged chicken burrito Tuesday with a classmate who didn’t like what the school cafeteria was offering–cheese sandwiches. Kyle Bradford, a 13-year-old student at Weaverville Elementary School didn’t see the harm in it, according to local ABC affiliate KRCR Channel 7 News. Said the child:
It seemed like he couldn’t get a normal lunch so I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage if I didn’t eat it.
It was a variance to the time-honored tradition of comparing and trading school lunches.
But citing hygiene and possible food allergy issues, the sharing of meals at Weaverville is forbidden.
Tom Barnett, the district superintendent, explained:
We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals. Of course if students are concerned about other students not having enough to eat we would definitely want to consider that, but because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals.
But Bradford believes he did the right thing–and his mother, Sandy Bradford, agrees. She would prefer that the school concentrate its efforts on education:
By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent.

 If only the issues before us could be so easily resolved.
This matter in Acts 11 seems as if it was just too easy. It should have been harder than this. But, the words the wrap up this section in verse 18 make it sound like everything is peas and carrots.
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Why isn't it that easy in our own world? Why is it that we have to spend 3 hours in a board meeting hashing and rehashing our biases and feelings about issues that truly should be simple to resolve. (Oh, I've sat through some loooong meetings.) When God speaks, when God shows us what we need to do and why & how we need to do it, the response should be to follow. God wants us to share the message with everyone we come into contact with. No one is "unclean". Places where we wouldn't normally find ourselves going, that's exactly where we need to go. People we wouldn't normally find ourselves talking to or sharing a meal with, that's exactly who we should be talking to and sharing what we have. Put the shoes on the other feet. How would you feel if you were excluded because of your skin color or shunned because of your race?

Jesus loves everybody.
You ought love everyone too.

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