-- Ginger Ambler
With apologies for being late in my blogging, I was reading and praying over Acts Chapter 10 the week immediately following General Convention. As I followed local and national discussions about transformational actions taken at Council – particularly the decision to allow bishops to use approved liturgies for the blessing of same-sex covenant relationships – I returned several times to Peter’s transformational experience in this chapter.
While praying, Peter hears God’s voice telling him to “kill and eat” a large collection of four-footed creatures and reptiles that appear before him in a vision. Peter is taken aback, claiming he had never in his life “eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Peter had lived with devotion to what he understood to be allowed and not-allowed according to God’s law. But three times God responds to Peter, saying “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Through the Holy Spirit, Peter comes to a new understanding – through his prayer and listening to God’s voice, Peter is led to see differently what is “allowed” for him in his life as an apostle, and in the lives of others who yearn to be a part of the Body of Christ. As a result, when Gentiles later come to see Peter, he sits down to talk with them and share the gospel even though “it [was] unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile.” Peter affirms that God showed him that he “should not call anyone profane or unclean.” “I truly understand,” he says, “that God shows no partiality.”
It was not easy for Peter to move beyond his long-held understandings and practices of what was “the law.” He wanted to be obedient to what he understood to be right and good. Apparently, it took God three times to finally convey his message to Peter that he should not call profane, what God had made clean. I am grateful for this scripture for reminding us that the Holy Spirit is ever at work in the hearts and minds of God’s people – and that transformation is central to the spiritual journey. I am grateful for the lesson we can learn from Peter in this story – a devoted, faithful disciple whose heart was opened to new understandings and to the practice of radical hospitality in Jesus’ name.