Palimpsest 5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 11:1-18

When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them. Then, in fact, the distinction between host and guest proves to be artificial and evaporates in the recognition of the new found unity. Thus the biblical stories help us to realize not just that hospitality is an important virtue, but even more that in the context of hospitality guest and host can reveal their most precious gifts and bring new life to each other. – Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

Observance of the dietary laws was not just a matter of obedience to law, it was a matter of religious identity, a symbol of who Jews were as people of God. I once asked a Reformed Jewish rabbi if he kept kashrut, the dietary regulations. I was not surprised that he responded yes, but I was unprepared for his reason. He said that he could eat pork if he wanted, that there was nothing sinful or wrong with eating pork; it was not a matter of law. However, he went on, he had chosen not to eat pork and to observe the other kosher restrictions as a way to honor those before him who had risked and given their lives that he might have the freedom to make that choice, to be Jewish. For him, it was a matter of who he was as part of that community...And yet, the heart of the issue here for the early church is not really about unclean food. The real issue is about what such regulations about clean and unclean food, regulations that divide the world up into insiders and outsiders based on conformity to certain rules or regulations, does to other people and community. ---www.cresourcei.org/lectionary/YearC/Ceaster5ac.html

There is a sense in which this text generates a certain kind of terror in the heart of the reader, for it makes clear the fact that it is the nature of the Spirit to remain free, bringing to bear the intention of God in the most unlooked for ways. If those early disciples who stood much nearer the Christ-event than we were not prepared for the Spirit’s fresh initiatives, how much less prepared are we? If Peter’s generation of Christians could be astounded, what might the Spirit have in store for us? – Texts for Preaching

A first step in resisting top-down perspectives is to realize that others are always already part of who we are, whether we realize this or not. Our identities are shaped in relation to others, whether positively through the guidance of our parents, teachers, and friends, or negatively through repressions in which we identify ourselves negatively as being unlike poor people, ethnic minorities, or people of other sexual orientations. – Joerg Rieger, Grace Under Pressure: Negotiating the Heart of the Methodist Tradition 

  • What do you think might have happened if Jesus’ message hadn’t been shared with the Gentiles? Would you be a Christian today?
  • What groups might be represented by the Gentile and Jew dichotomy in our culture? What strangers might become beloved guests, and community?

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