5/10/2015 12:51:12 PM
A reflection on Acts 10:44-48
Today's first reading from Acts is the climax of a much longer story. A roman soldier named Cornelius receives a vision from God to invite Peter into his home. Cornelius represents a kind of spirituality prevalent in Jesus' time: the God-fearers. God-fearers were Gentiles (non-Jews) who believed and worshiped God but they were not full converts. They had not fully joined the Jewish community. So an angel of God tells Cornelius to invite Peter into his home so that Cornelius can hear more about Jesus.
So, in response, Cornelius sends a few people to find Peter. Before they arrive, however, Peter has a strange dream where a picnic blanket falls from the sky that's full of foods he shouldn't eat. Peter's a practicing Jew who believes Jesus is the messiah so he follows the food laws. He knows what God has told him not to eat. But God tells Peter to eat what's considered "unclean" because God has cleansed it. When Peter wakes up, he's confused by what's happened but before he can think about it too much, the visitors arrive. Peter greets them and offers them food and housing for the night. Refreshed, all return to Cornelius the next day. And as Peter and Cornelius talks, Peter finally gets what God is telling him.
God is doing something new in Jesus. The traditional understanding of who is part of God's family and who isn't is broken down. God is opening the faith community to those who aren't Jewish. God is inviting unexpected people into God's family and Peter is called to recognize that. Peter isn't causing new people to join the Christian community; he's recognizing how God is doing that and he's just welcoming them in.
Today's text is funny because it occurs when Peter is preaching. The Holy Spirit interrupts him so Peter stops and sees God at work around him. Peter recognizes God operating in people who are not like him. And the only thing he can do is to baptize them and include them more fully into Christ's body. We're invited to be like Peter, to see God at work in unexpected people and in unexpected places. God is busy making the Christ known in amazing ways. It's our job to find where it's happening and walk with God there.