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Matt’s Musing

May 13, 2022

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Dear St. Paul’s Friends and Family,

“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 11:9b)

We cannot underestimate the historical significance of the Apostle Peter’s vision in the eleventh chapter of the book of Acts.  Peter is deep in prayer when he sees a sheet with all sorts of animals on it being lowered from heaven.  A voice commands him to get up, kill and eat.  Peter, an observant Jew, initially refuses, because to kill and eat without regard to the type of animal would make it unclean to eat according to Jewish law.  Peter’s protests regarding clean and unclean are met with the admonishment that God does not create anything that is profane.

This vision is not only about observing religious dietary restrictions, but the broadening of God’s family to include non-Jews.  Up until this point, the followers of Jesus were all Jews who observed traditional Jewish religious laws and norms.  The church as we know it was not yet formed and synagogues remained the central place of worship for Jesus’ followers.  Peter is transformed by this vision and begins to welcome Gentiles (non-Jews) into Jesus’ fold.  This move was hugely controversial because welcoming Gentiles into Jewish religious life and community was seen by many in the newly forming church as profane.  Yet, had it not been for this vision and for Peter’s courage, many of us modern-day Christians would not be included in the church.  Peter’s vision at Joppa vastly expanded the reach and scope of God’s saving work.  

I’ve always found it both interesting and disappointing how the church with its various traditions throughout history have excluded people from their communities.  The dietary restrictions and religious exclusivism of Peter’s day have played out numerous times over the millennia up to the present moment.  The characters and debated topics change, but the ways in which we exclude people because of who they are impediments to Christ’s life-giving work.  Furthermore, in excluding others who are not like us, we limit the depth, vision, and reach of the church, the Body of Christ.  May we be generous and courageous like Peter as we seek to include and affirm the personhood of others within our wider community.  In doing so, we will extend the same healing and life-saving benefits that were extended to us by Peter’s vision.  Let us affirm the blessedness that is in all God’s children no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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