The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In the beginning of Acts chapter 10 we find Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who is apparently a God-fearing man. In a vision during the afternoon, he is told to send to Joppa to find Simon Peter, who would tell him something important. Cornelius. He sends to Joppa immediately.
Shortly before the servants of Cornelius would arrive in Joppa, Peter has been in prayer. He sees a vision of all sorts of food, delivered from heaven. The oddity in this vision is that the food consists of animals which would be considered unclean. Peter cannot eat them. He then hears a voice from heaven, telling him to kill and eat. Peter’s initial reaction is revulsion. He has always kept the dietary law. Yet God chastises him. What God has proclaimed clean is not to be considered common.
While we might sometimes see in this incident a warrant for the overthrow of the Jewish dietary laws, and while that may be appropriate, it makes more sense in the context Luke gives us to find God preparing Peter for his Gentile visitors. up until this time, with the exception of some Jews who had converted to Judaism, the Gospel has gone almost exclusively to Israelites. Now, a household from Rome is being introduced.
Peter has to cross a serious cultural barrier. He was not comfortable even departing from the dietary law. However, by the time the vision has been repeated to him three times, he is ready to accept the visitors who will ask him to go to a Roman household.
As God moves our borders, making them follow his priorities, his boundaries, we are often ill prepared. Yet through divine encouragement we can normally move into caring ministry for people who are quite different from us. All this does not mean that there are no borders. Yet often our borders need to be adjusted so they coincide with God’s boundaries. Though this requires trust, patience, and discernment, we can be confident that the Lord will guide us in all.
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