Monday, April 29, 2013

Disturbing Visions or Pigs In A Blanket

Based on Acts 11:1-18

Have you ever been ‘called on the carpet’?
    (care to tell us about it?)
Me: I was once stopped in the hall in HS. Back in the day when we GIRLS - were 1st allowed to wear pants to school. The VP stopped me, “Nancy, are those JEANS you are wearing?”
    (Jeans were NOT allowed) this was a pair of denim slacks, “Technically” NOT Jeans... So I defended myself by pointing out the facts, “Look, no outside double seams! See, these are NOT jeans, Sir.” . .
Defense - Peter had to think fast. He defended his actions by a detailed personal account of what had happened.

Peter has a vision; remember Peter is a Jew, one of the head leaders of the Jesus’ movement among Jerusalem’s Jews. He and James follow the feet of Jesus himself.
His vision is about eating. But includes non-Kosher animals.   Animals that no devout religious person would ever consider eating are lowed to him in a blanket. He is told to, “GET UP, Peter, KILL & EAT”
Domenico Fetti.

Even in his dream he declines. But the message is repeated. THREE times he hears, VOICE: “What god has made clean, you must not call profane.”    Making the Subtitle: “Pigs in a blanket”1

Then Cornelius (the devout but GENTILE follower of God) sends messengers who arrive AT THE GATE, & ask for Peter.
(Important for Gentiles to stay at the gate, if they enter a Jewish home, the house and everyone in it becomes unclean.!!!!!)
God’s Spirit moves Peter, he realizes, “These men came for him and he is to go with them without hesitation. SENT BY GOD.
He goes and spends time in the HOME of GENTILES and has another incredible experience.
It is while he is with the Gentiles, preaching that the Holy Spirit FALLS on them and Peter realizes they have already been included by he’d better get with the plan and gets them baptized with water. (The reverse of the normal order.)

We call this kind of experience a ‘conversion’.
    Whose conversion usually get’s the most publicity in Acts?
    (What do you remember about it?)

(Right!) or Note, previous in Acts, you will find the story of Paul’s conversion from persecuting Jews who follow ‘The Way’ to believing in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and following the Way, himself.

Then Paul is Sent, by God with the (somewhat reluctant) approval of the church, to the Gentiles. But the Jerusalem church is not completely on-board. (Sending Paul solved one problem and ended up causing them another one.)  When Peter comes to Jerusalem, they do not even ask about the Gentiles. They question Peter’s actions: “So you ate a meal together with Gentiles, hmmm?” The indictment is clear. They were concerned with making sure that Peter was acting as a proper Jew, maintaining his identity as one of God’s holy people.2

So the ‘Jesus Jews’ are a bit reluctant to welcome EVERYONE and there is an underlying assumption that ‘those people’ have to become like us; Jewish, before they can be included.
It was possible to become a Jew..proselyte. “Becoming a proselyte meant circumcision and placing oneself under the Law of Moses. Gentiles were only accepted and acceptable to Jews as Jews, but never as Gentiles.”3
Paul believes this is not necessary and NOT what God demands for acceptance.
Now it’s Peter’s turn to be  fully ‘ENLIGHTENED’. 1st by a vision, then by the reality of his visit.

But the ‘church’ back home doesn’t have either of these mens experiences. They are good devout Jews and are OUTRAGED at Peter’s behavior.
Bob Deffinbaugh writes, “The apostles seem to be angry that Peter acted independently from them and their approval, and that he did what they would not have allowed, if consulted.
Peter was an apostle, and thus his actions set a precedent, one which the “circumcised saints” did not like. Peter committed them to a course of action they thought was wrong.”4

(so) Peter is confronted.
Are you surprised at the Jerusalem followers reaction?(why/not)

When Peter is confronted, he processes out loud. Recalling all of God’s faithfulness like he did while he was with Cornelius and was ‘confronted’ by the action of the Holy Spirit.
Can you image this kind of confrontation happening today?

Name times when ACoB has been ahead of the curve, out in front on issues where there was some disagreement by others?
    How did people react?
. . .

Some commentators, especially Lewis Mudge, said the folks back home were more repulsed by what they thought Peter was eating than by the people he was staying with.
There was some kind of ‘gut’ reaction that doesn’t respond to theological argument.”5

Care to name some modern problems that cause this revulsion within the church?
. . .

***Can you recognize what helped Peter gain acceptance, where other movements did not?***

Peter’s defense was based, in the final analysis, on what God had done and on the way God perceived the Gentiles.201
‘God’s salvation was to come both to the Jews and through the Jews.
Deffenbaugh again says, “In assuming ownership of God’s blessings, rather than stewardship of them, Israelites (even Jesus’ Jews) tended to think that salvation was for Jews alone, rather than “to the Jews first.” Bob Deffinbaugh points out. “What a difference, he says, “between God’s way and Israel’s way in this matter of salvation.’”6
I hear an echo of this possessiveness when some Christians talk about whom will be saved.
. . .
The perceived authorities [in the church], end up playing catch-up with God’s work.7
Where is this happening today?(where do you see God accepting and Christians reluctant to come along)

A different feeling or reaction results depending on WHERE the change begins. (the acceptance) 
“Had the recent conversion originated within the Gentile mission field, [inclusion] would likely have been long if ever, accepted by the Jerusalem Church.8 Lewis Mudge makes the point.
But the ‘conversion’ happened to Peter, not someone out among the Gentiles, but to Peter, a leader of the INSIDERS. . . and so people listened. They believed him when he said, ‘the Holy Spirit came on these people.’ And ‘God’s showed me.’
It makes a difference, doesn’t it?
    ? Why does it make such a difference that it was Peter?

A unique combination of authenticity, respect, and experience occur to help a congregation or church accept someone else’s conversion and begin to open themselves to God’s power - that enlightens us to new ways.

What is Arlington’s Experience that tells us that changes are often from God?What in our history has happened to help us SEE differently?
        Co-Pastors, one a woman, when no that common
        Immigrant Family assistance, live-in, when not so accepted
        Last spring/summer welcome of homeless man

Whom (what voices) do we respect enough to listen to their ideas?
    Where do we go to listen for God?   
 What are the stories of God’s faithfulness HERE, that we recall to reassure ourselves that we ARE listening to God?

When Peter was confronted FIRST by God, [he] “concluded that he had to change his own point of view TO God’s point of view, and to bring his own actions into alignment with God’s actions.
He was compelled to see that God thought and acted differently than he, and it was he who must change, so as to bring himself into alignment with God.9

Let us keep asking God to remind us of those stories of God’s faithfulness right HERE, so we will keep listening for God’s latest revelation that we may be in alignment with God.

. . And then find ways to share it authentically with others.

1 Kit on RevGalBlogPals
2 Kyle Fever Working April 28, 2013 1st Reading
3 Bob Deffinbaugh, Also
5 Lewis Mudge, Feasting on the Word - theological (Louisville:WJK,2009)452 6
7 Kyle Fever Working April 28, 2013 1st Reading
8 Lewis Mudge, Feasting on the Word - theological (Louisville:WJK,2009)450
9 Bob Deffinbaugh (Also ref same as below)

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