I noticed in Acts Peter isn't just presented with this vision and expected to 'open up' right away. He is led to this point gradually as he moves outward from Jerusalem. Sometimes we read the text too quickly and miss the eye-opening challenges he faced. He had to work with Gentiles who were "God-fearing". Yes they now followed Jewish custom but it had to take some adjusting to get used to these strangers in the midst of Jewish worship. Then Peter is presented with a WOMAN disciple (of all things!). This also had to be a challenge which he meets with the power of the resurrection. The vision of unclean animals is next and then on to the home of a Gentile and the powerful realization that God sends the Holy Spirit on whomever God wants. Wow! Eye-opening. I wrote this last week.
I wish it were easier to have our eyes opened. It sounds wonderful, at least from the other side, but it is often hard. The Christian church is behind the rest of the world that is already opening eyes to human; gender and sexual orientation, difference. I recently read a blog or article (Forgive me, if I was sure where it was, I'd link it.) saying that the church is behind the times. I noticed this truth at our Annual Conference last year when the youth stood to read a paper on inclusiveness and in nice terms said, "Get over it, its not an issue for our generation." I'm glad they said it nicer than that, but still, this is the truth.
The Holy Spirit’s leading and the pattern of Peter's discipleship will change dramatically. The quilt of the early church accepts a major color change when Gentiles enter the church and it is due to those eye-opening experiences that we are here today.
Today, Christ’s church is again being challenged to welcome people into our current pattern that could redesign the quilt of which we are a part.
The Church of the Brethren is but one denomination trying to listen for God’s continuing revelation. As we, the current church, listen to people share the experiences of different sexual orientation and new patterns of parenting and living that are different from the ‘old patterns’ we’re used to, we need to follow Peter’s lead.
Encounters with the Holy Spirit are always eye-opening and the BEAUTIFUL new designs that come from changed perspectives can only be seen as we form and grow into the likeness of Christ.
God had to use a vision full of strange animals to tell Peter to "Get over it. Get with MY program." How much longer can we, the Christian church, keep our eyes squeezed closed?
Peter: Apostle for the Whole Church (Personalities of the New Testament)