The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached in Maroubra on Sunday 24th April by Br. Andrew Efo
Fifth Sunday of Easter year C
Much of the notion of the comfort/discomfort of an activity comes from the connotation we put on it—”I like/hate this.” “I’m good/horrible at this” “this is boring/fun.”
Training should be more than just a mindless acquisition of skill; it should be a conscious deprogramming of that which keeps us inept. ( Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha)
We must all remember Lucky -dips, either we have dipped into them ourselves or have made them for our children. There was not a great variety of small objects that fitted into a bucket or bag. For our small money; we always hoped for something we would like; to dip and pull out something we didn’t like would have been upsetting and a waste of the money we had wheedled out of dad or mom.
“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Acts 11:9
Peter’s rooftop vision is famous, sometimes more for its misinformation than its intention because the vision is not about food or about eating it is about the existence of discrimination in the early church and about the equality of all humanity. Saint Paul said in his epistle to the Galatians 3;28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” This was Peter’s lesson and it is still the lesson for today’s church.
All of us here this morning is here because someone decided we were too much ‘other’, to be included, accepted have called us profane when we have been made clean.
Seeing only the vile and forbidden beasts crawling in the sheet Peter thought only of the Law which never changes and as Peter always did, was very prompt to pronounce innocence, I have never eaten anything unclean or prohibited. To take and kill and eat, was something new and abominable for Peter to have to do and he refused.
And three times the voice from heaven told him that what God has made clean he must not call profane.
We need to make a margin note here, Peter was staying at the house of Simon the Tanner, and the Trade of the Tanner was considered unclean by the Pharisees since it involved coming into contact with dead animals and other obnoxious practises and thus kept one permanently impure. Like Jesus himself, Peter had begun to associate with the outcasts in Jewish society, was letting go of some of his scruples.
How are these things, so vile now clean, what does it mean? Peter knew it couldn’t refer to eating since God does not change His mind about a law Peter’s thoughts were interrupted by the visit of the three Gentiles who came on behalf of Cornelius from Caesarea. The Holy Spirit enlightens Peter that the creatures in the sheet represent the Gentiles of the world who are ‘made clean’ equal to Jews. There must no longer be prejudice/ discrimination against Gentiles as far as the Word of God is concerned Jesus did say to the Jews first but also the Gentiles.
Before leaving for Caesarea Peter invites the men in for lunch.
Do you remember being asked to report to the headmaster’s office when you weren’t quite sure what it was you had done?
Peter, the chief of the Apostles was given the third degree by the other Apostles in Jerusalem because of that lunch.
Discrimination against Gentiles was rife in the early church, so much so that Luke refers to the Apostles here as the Circumcised Believers revealing to us what would be the chief issue with which the church would deal with the upcoming influx of non-Jews into Christianity. Somehow there was the ingrained belief that only people “like us” could enter the kingdom – despite all the Gentiles Jesus had interacted with during his ministry. They had forgotten who their neighbour was!
And so Peter shares his witness with the Circumcised believers concerning what had happened in Caesarea.
Peter had begun to speak the gospel to them when the Holy Spirit had come down upon them in Baptism just as it had come down upon us in the beginning so how could he refuse to baptise them in water as Jesus had told them to. Peter told them that he remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Peter told the others that how could he refuse them baptism since God had given them the same gifts they had received themselves.
The Circumcised Believers praised God but their language betrays their lack of understanding of the equality of all peoples in the Lord with the ‘even’
The reading finishing as it does leaves us the impression that the Apostles only grudgingly accepted that these Gentiles had entered the Kingdom at the hands of God. Sort of coming in through the back door, like married Anglican priests into the Catholic Church.
Remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan- Samaria was in the sheet with every other tribe and nation and language on earth.
We are all neighbours
When we sing our final hymn let’s remember whom we love – the Apostles may have thought Jesus intended each other.
We know everyone is our neighbour – even those we like least.
How can we as a Community promote the end to Theological and Socio-religious discrimination within the wider church?