Scripture: Acts 10:1-16
Key verses: (14-15) But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
Reflection: In the world of the New Testament, there was a cultural distinction between Gentiles and Jews, mostly involving behaviors and customs. It would have been difficult to distinguish between the two by looks alone. The greatest distinction was circumcision which the Jews considered to be a mark of Jewish piety.
Our reading for today picks up on a man named Cornelius, who is an officer in the Roman Army. We are told he is a devout man with a fear of God, which is the writers way of telling us that he worshiped God but had not yet adapted all of the practices of the Jewish religion (as in he was not yet circumcised). Even so, Cornelius sees a vision and is told to call on Peter. Cornelius does as he is told. Meanwhile, Peter receives a vision of a picnic full of meat that Jews are not supposed to eat. Peter does his best to follow the Jewish customs and refuses to eat. Peter thinks he is being devout by saying “by no means Lord.” God’s response is surprising, reminding Peter who is the leader (God) and who is the disciple (Peter).
What I love about this story is that we see Peter wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus. Peter thought following God meant he needed to follow certain rules, and then Jesus comes along and shows an alternative way of being faithful. Everything Peter thinks he knows about devotion to God is upended and he has to reorient himself to this new way of being.
I tend to be the type of person who likes rules. I like to know what is expected of me and how to orient myself to be “right” in the eyes of God and others. But this story reminds me that God’s active work in the world is radical and unexpected. I find myself challenged to open my eyes to see the active presence of the Spirit in our world. We don’t always know what God makes “clean” and that’s okay. We need to be like Peter and allow ourselves to wrestle with what it means to be a disciple. It’s hard work but it’s what we are called to do.
Prayer: Gracious God, we give you thanks for the ways that you guide us in our everyday lives. Help us to be open to your desires that we might walk in your ways. In your holy name. Amen.
Author: Savannah Demuynck
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].