23 April, 2023
This week we are moving into the Acts of the Apostles and we begin our reading with one of the biggest culture shifts for those Jesus followers who were Jewish – that of including the Gentiles.
For thousands of years the Jewish people have been very specific in what makes them different from the other cultures and people around them, and this is usually done through sticking to laws such as keeping the Sabbath, being circumcised, and only eating certain foods. These particular ways of life were activities that the Jewish people held onto as given to them by God and to separate them from others around them.
But here Peter is challenged through the vision that he experiences to change his way of life, his way of thinking and eat whatever it may be that God places before him. And then, to push the challenge event further, the men sent by Cornelius, a Roman Gentile, arrive seeking Peter and asking him to come to Cornelius house.
This is a long reading that challenges us all I believe. In a world where the boundaries and expectations of who is in and who is out, what “normal” may be, how we behave, and just what should our lives look like as Christ followers seems to be moving and adjusting all the time. We just get used to one way of seeing things when another is presented to us, and we need to change our thinking.
Change is never easy. It is really hard to change something that we’ve been doing or thinking for years and years. But the world today insists on change continually happening. New things come along, new expressions, new thoughts and practices. New voices are heard and respected and so we much think anew. This has almost become the “normal” state of events.
But because change is never easy it can sometimes take time for change to happen. It can also hurt and distance us from others. But Jesus came to live this life with us to show us the changes that need to happen as the Kingdom of Heaven comes closer. This time after Easter is the time for action, and so we spend some of it in the book of Acts reading about the actions the disciples took.
Hopefully what you hear from this reading is that it is so much more than just about food. Peter quickly recognised that. It was about humanity itself. Peter learned that in Jesus Christ the partialities of the world were broken down. We might say Christ’s death for all of humanity was a consecration. God does not see a person of dark skin, or a person of poverty, or a person of gender, or a person of particular sexual orientation, or a person of specific religious group or denomination. God sees that individual, only as one of God’s children, as a person who God loves with all God’s heart.