S (Scripture): Acts 10:5 [Peter said,] “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’…”
O (Observation): Peter comes before the Jewish Christians, who are unhappy with Peter for speaking with and dining with the Gentiles. The Jewish Christians are those who were Jews who followed Jewish customs, but who now believe that God has been revealed through the person of Jesus Christ. So, they have carried over customs from their Jewish heritage and are keeping most of those customs as Christians. So…they think all Christians should pay more attention to God’s revelations of the Law.
Peter, however, explains what has happened in the vision revealed to him: Gentiles are part of God’s creation and cannot – be default – be rendered unclean (or outside of salvation).
This is certainly a change in policy for the Jewish Christians. And Peter is the one who spends most of his ministry ministering to the Jewish Christians, and reforming their understanding of the Gospel.
A (Application): 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther and others with and before him laid the foundation for major shifts to take place within the Church universal.
While the Reformation was mainly about shifting the focus towards The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the outcome was that many long-held traditions were challenged and changed. Many people were upset (especially the pope and the leadership within the Church of that day). Yet, what happened was that God empowered (once again) everyday, ordinary disciples like you and me to remember that we have access to God through Christ, by way of faith instilled in us by the Holy Spirit.
All of us have direct access to God, but are encouraged to communicate with God in community – praising God, worshipping, serving our neighbor, etc.
Sometimes, when we look around the sanctuary and see those with whom we are worshipping, we can get judgmental and downright upset at those others worshipping with us. Or maybe we hear of those who are becoming pastors or getting married or divorced and start to write them off as no longer being fit for “God’s church.”
Peter came to remind folks that nothing God made is unclean by default. Are we all tainted? Yes. Do we all need to repent? Absoulutely.
But do we write folks off simply by our custom or tradition? I certainly hope not.
P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that everyone is worthy of an opportunity for redemption. Amen.