Meals Begin Mission
Peter belonged to a cultural group which had very strict laws of association and of food. He could only eat that which was ‘clean’ and only enter the home of and associate with other people who were like him. People from the same culture and traditions.
Sometimes our cultural limitations can be a barrier to serving God and living the full live to which he calls us. God knew that Peter, once he has learned something, would find it hard to unlearn it. He has been leading Peter on a series of learning. He learns that he is indeed living the same ministry that Jesus lived - of bringing the Kingdom of God near to people and offering God’s salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In Chapter 9, he commands the lame to walk - Aeneas.
He raises the dead - reminding us that the power he has comes from Jesus - the one who IS the Resurrection and the Life.
It is interesting that Peter finds it easier - or at least more straightforward- to call someone back to life than he will to eat ‘unclean’ food and to sit down and share a meal with a person who doesn’t share his cultural heritage.
Even as we approach Acts 10:9-29, we are challenged by the enormity of what God is doing in Peter. He is demolishing Peter’s identity and rebuilding it in an eternal and resurrected way. The old has gone and a new era of life and opportunity in the service of the Kingdom of God is coming in.
Peter is learning to trust God to determine WHO he is and WHAT is important …
I was going to bring some things along to demonstrate the blockages we have to get over in order to be properly effective in the work that God has for us. I wondered about bringing some alcohol onto Methodist premises, but haven’t, because it’s against the law and is a terrible idea anyway… but it would have been a symbol of the huge nature of what Peter had to get over…
So then, MINCE PIES in OCTOBER!! How wrong is that?? It is like having a Christmas Lights Switch - On in September - or having a Cadbury’s Creme Egg in your Christmas Stocking… We know, deep down that it’s wrong. Just wrong and shouldn’t be done!!
Anyway, if you’re coming late to this - please note that I didn’t nor would ever take alcohol onto Methodist property and in order to get mince pies with which to torment people, I would have to get over my Sunday Shopping taboo…
The point is that we all have some cultural hurdles to negotiate in order to properly live as resurrected people and to not raise up old issues which Jesus died for.
Peter, in order to be an effective apostle, must stop saying and stop believing himself to ‘be too Jewish to do that’. He must be able to kill and eat that which God has pronounced good. He must sit down and eat with those whom he had previously judged unclean, he must be reminded that God’s love is one which is properly inclusive.
His mission of salvation is to all the world and all, like Peter can find their identity not in the culture or pre-Jesus life and lifestyle - all can find their identity in Christ Jesus.
This is where our hope lies.
This is about Biblical Hospitality - the meals that begin mission. Meals that unify us as we display trust in hospitality and sharing from the same pot. Biblical Hospitality reminds us that the pot of tea is poured into cups and is good for everyone. Some people won’t understand just how good it is and may reject it, but we trust it. We trust that when we are offered food and drink, it will be good. We receive it gladly.
Peter invites Cornelius’ men into his home. He offers hospitality to those whom he would not have previously entertained. He is able to do this because his trust in God is greater than his trust in the learning of his previous life. This enables him to share meals as part of ministry - to enter Cornelius’ home and understand that people are not unclean either.
God removes our barriers and releases us to do his kingdom work.
Often that will involve sharing meals with people. It will mean inviting them into our homes, and suffering the crumbs and mess that follow. There will be broken teacups, there will be a rejection of our offerings, there will be financial outlay.
It will also mean establishing friendship, offering love, extending our boundaries to include those we wouldn’t usually entertain.
Jesus, came eating and drinking. He shared meals with those whom he disagreed with politically and religiously.
He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He enjoyed meals in fellowship with his disciples. He received hospitality as well as presiding over the meal. He gives us the pattern - one which we must learn for the good of God’s kingdom. Peter is released into good and effective church building ministry when he allows God to set his identity and boundaries. Paul will share the hospitality of men and women as he goes out in mission.
We, who live in mini-castles, our personal defended homes which only those who make an appointment may enter are called to extend our boundaries. To understand that time around the table with people is where the work of gospel-sharing is done and true fellowship is shared