5/20/2019 11:42:29 AM
Reflection: You Are Who You Eat With
What was the last thing God revealed to you that you struggled with?
In today’s reading from the book of Acts 11:1-18, Peter recalled a moment in his life when he did not understand what God was telling him. Peter, after he saw God at work in people who were not Jewish, began to include them in his ministry. He entered into their homes to teach, baptize, and eat with them. At the time, the early church was debating about what to do with non-Jews (or Jews who were also Greek) who believed in Jesus. These new converts to the faith did not share Jesus’ faith tradition or follow all of his cultural practices. They did not keep kosher (i.e. follow food laws) or participate in the every rite that defined the Jewish community as Jewish. As more and more Gentiles began to follow Jesus, the church wasn’t sure how to (or if they even should) include them. At first, they established new ministries (aka deacons) to oversee the faith life of Jewish people with a Greek ethnic background. But then came the moment when the Holy Spirit told the church to include all who follow the Jesus. While at a meeting with the church community in Jerusalem, Peter’s practice of eating with non-Jews was questioned. He responded by sharing with the other apostles what the Spirit had showed him.
What struck me about Peter’s vision how honest he was about how long it took him to understand what God was doing. The Spirit gave Peter a vision of a divine banquet where ritually uncleaned animals were being served. Peter, who kept kosher, knew be couldn’t eat these animals. But a voice kept inviting Peter to eat. Peter, at first, said no but the voice was persistent. After being prodded by the Spirit three times, Peter finally understood what God was telling him. God was already at work with those who were not keeping kosher and the Spirit was already making them followers of Christ. Peter’s job was to help the church become more inclusive by including those God had already made God’s own.
If we’re honest, we know it sometimes takes two, three, or a dozen messages from God before we finally understand what God is telling us. When we look back at our life, we find moments when God was at work and we did not know it. That does not mean we were failures. Rather we, like Peter, needed time to embrace what God was already doing. In Paul’s version of today’s story, even Peter occasionally reverted to not being as inclusive as God wanted him to be. One of our responsibilities as Christians is to admit when we do not understand what God is doing. We are called to share every part of our story. Because when finally we see what God is already up to, we can then meet Jesus where he already is.