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Thursday, May 03, 2007
The Spirit breaks open the community of Christ to move in new ways. How and where we set boundaries in Christian community is always subject to the gracious nature of God’s love. The texts this week witness to a new vision for God’s people and of all creation. Where the Spirit leads, the church is called to follow in love. Acts 11:1–18 The story of Acts has steadily moved in the direction of the church becoming more inclusive. The crowds gathered on Pentecost have been a prelude to the welcome of Samaritan believers, the Ethiopian official, and now the “God-fearing,” gentile Cornelius and his household. Peter reports to the Jerusalem elders that this is the work of the Spirit. Criticism of Peter gives way to praise of God. The dietary codes set out in Leviticus 14 had defined what could and could not be eaten by followers of Judaism. In verse 6, Peter describes the animals he saw in his vision, coupled with the command to “kill and eat.” The animals listed by Peter are not all “unclean.” The point of the vision is that there is no distinction made between those that are “clean” and those that are not. Peter’s naming of these animals parallels lists in Genesis 1:24 and 1:26. Those summaries of God’s creatures are followed closely by the declaration of God’s assessing all that had been made as “very good.” That goodness of all creation is also a key element of this passage in Acts. “Profane” is the centrepiece of Peter’s initial objection to the vision. It is a word of various meanings. Peter uses it in the sense of something that is not holy. The more general meaning of the Greek word used here, koinos, is “common.” This same word is the root for koinonia. Koinonia, as it is used in Acts and the epistles, serves as a synonym for Christian community. Koinonia refers to the “common life,” shared by those who follow the way of Jesus. Peter thought there was something wrong with things that are “common,” yet our life within the Body of Christ is “common.” Peter here appears before the Jerusalem believers, some of whom have taken exception to the mission to the Gentiles. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that witnesses to Jesus find themselves questioned. Earlier, it had been by the Sanhedrin. Here and in Acts 15, it is by a council of Christian leaders. Later, it will be by local magistrates and Roman officials. Whatever the context, one central issue remains the same. How will those in authority balance commitment to tradition with openness to hearing a new word? Psalm 148 and Revelation 21:1–6 share the theme of new ways of seeing and praising God. In the psalm, all creation has a part in God’s praise. Even unclean things, as in Peter’s vision, are given voice and place. The author of Revelation celebrates God’s working of a new creation. New heaven and new earth invite fresh perspective and bring hope. Love as the touchstone of God’s nature and activity stands at the core of John 13:31–35. God has embraced us in such love through Christ. As a result, we find ourselves commanded to love others. Revelation 21:4 gives witness to such love. In tenderness, God’s love wipes away our tears. In power, God’s love destroys death. Such love returns us to Acts, where all find a place in community by the grace of God’s love. God has done, and still does, new things in our midst. God seeks individuals and communities willing to risk new ways of seeing and receiving. How can we open ourselves to welcome the still emerging and unfolding story of God’s gracious actions in our time? In what new ways might Jesus’ command to love take shape for us at Kairos?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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