How Much Food Should A 2 Year Old Boxer Eat Dreaming and Killing! (A Sermon on Acts 11:1-18)

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Dreaming and Killing! (A Sermon on Acts 11:1-18)

Sometimes it’s a very natural way to read the Bible, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden”…hey, it’s me!

Some passages feel like a direct personal word from the Almighty, but others do not, and today’s reading from Acts chapter eleven is surely one of those “no” passages.

Thus, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You entered the house of the uncircumcised and ate with them.”

Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a great sheet coming down from heaven by its four corners , and I went down where I was. I looked there and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things and birds. Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat” .” I answered, “Certainly not, Lord! Nothing impure or impure has ever entered my mouth.” The voice spoke from heaven a second time: “Do not call unclean what God has purified.” (Acts 11:2-9)

Now I’m cutting the reading off there because the full story of Peter is a long story, and the story told in chapter eleven is actually a retelling of the story in chapter ten. Still, at the heart of both stories is this dream, and as for the Bible being a personal message to me, it must be said that this is not the kind of dream I can remotely identify with!

Peter dreams of all sorts of animals descending on some sort of giant picnic mat and being told to “kill and eat”. Even though I love to eat, I can’t imagine having to personally kill the things I eat. Also, I have no problem with pork, and that’s the real issue here!

“Kill and eat,” says the voice, to which Peter replies, “No, Lord! Nothing impure has entered my mouth!” That is, “Lord, I do not eat pork” (neither crustaceans nor raptors nor other animals with unbroken hooves, etc., etc.)

If this is supposed to be God’s personal word to me for today, I have to say, “Lord, that’s not my problem!” I already eat pork, I always have and most people I know eat it without reservations too!

Now I’m not saying that I don’t find this passage interesting and I’m not even suggesting that there aren’t aspects of this story that I don’t find confronting, but what does lifting the ban on pork have to do with it? do with me

Of course, I appreciate that there are people in our church community who abstain from eating pork, but I don’t think it’s for particularly religious reasons.

I know, for example, that Ange (my wife) is concerned about the inhumane treatment of farm animals that are used for meat, and I know that she has many discussions on Facebook about it. He tells me that there is a degree of hostility on Facebook between some of his vegan friends and the evangelical Christians he has “friended”.

Ange showed me a photo of a dog and a pig side by side that one of her vegan friends had recently posted. The caption below read “what’s the difference?” In other words, ‘why do we kill and eat one and not the other?’

Ange says he didn’t appreciate it when a well-known evangelical clergyman said “but the dog isn’t full of tasty bacon!” (or something) as she felt it trivialized the issue, as indeed it does.

I appreciate that there are genuine issues with animal cruelty, but I also recognize that this is a completely different issue than what bothered Peter and the other apostles. Peter didn’t care about killing pigs because he was cruel. I didn’t want to touch them because they were “unclean” creatures and therefore forbidden!

Of course, the real problem seen in Acts chapter eleven is not about food but about people. The breaking down of food barriers is only the vanguard of a much more complete breaking down of barriers between people of different racial and religious backgrounds who eat these different foods, but even then, accepting the Gentiles among us is not the my problem neither!

For who are “the Gentiles” seen in Acts eleven—the people whom the twelve apostles feared would contaminate their religious community? They are us!

This is one of the puzzling things I was stuck with when I re-read this story this year.

I always tend to think that the apostles (especially Peter, James and John perhaps) are my types! I had always imagined that if I could transport myself to the first century I would get along very well with those guys. Reading this passage again made me realize that if I was walking towards Jesus’ disciples on the road, they would most likely cross to the other side of the street to avoid being defiled by me!

This is hard for a middle-class white guy like me to accept, of course. We white middle class people are used to being the ones showing the prejudices, not the receivers!

Of course good churchgoers don’t, do we, and certainly not progressive Australians who go to church? We would never show prejudice towards people because of their skin color or country of origin, if… unless they are refugees, of course, or Arabs (Muslim Arabs, anyway), or maybe Chechens!

I don’t know if you’ve been following the propaganda closely lately, but I have a feeling that Chechens are the new group of people we’re supposed to hate now!

The “Boston bombers” were Chechens, we’ve been told, and suddenly I’m hearing about Chechens in Syria, and I feel like the way is being paved for violent targeting of many Chechens. people

Or maybe we’re just supposed to hate them because they’re Muslim? I’m not sure, but I have to say, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with where you’re supposed to focus your prejudices!

I know that in Australia we often like to think of ourselves as a model of tolerance and harmonious multiculturalism, but in many ways we have one of the worst records in the world!

Let’s take a quick quiz here:

* When was enslavement of Africans banned in Britain? William Wilberforce and his friends saw the slave trade become illegal in 1807 and went on to pass the “Slavery Abolition Act” in 1833.

* When was slavery abolished in the United States? December 1865 with the approval of the ‘Thirteenth Amendment’.

* When did Australia officially recognize its indigenous peoples as genuine human beings? 27 May 1967 Prior to this, Australian Aborigines were dealt with under the ‘flora and fauna act’!

1967 wasn’t that long ago! Surely he was alive then! I was five years old. I don’t remember that day anymore, but I’d bet some of the indigenous children who were my kindergarten playmates at the time still remember it!

I remember the Irish comedian Dave Allen talking about his experience of our country. He said that the Australian people he had met were some of the most generous and open-hearted people he had met anywhere in the world and that it was only the white bastards he couldn’t stand!

It is confronting, this passage, as it is about changing prejudices, but, in reality, what I seem to confront most in this passage is not the change that the disciples had to make in their thinking, but the way they got there!

What baffles me about this story is that these people changed their minds about what God required of them in terms of what they should eat and who they should mingle with based on what?…

* A passage of Scripture they had never read before?

* An ex-cathedra declaration of a first Pope (or its equivalent)?

* A direct word from Jesus himself?

They changed their entire understanding of their faith based on a dream Peter had and their intuitions about what the Holy Spirit was telling them! This is really strange as these people were overturning things that were written in the scriptures that were completely unequivocal.

In the book of Leviticus, chapter eleven, it is written: do not eat pork!

“The pig, though it has a split hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean to you. You shall not eat its flesh or touch its dead bodies; they are unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11:7-8)

Here it is, in black and white! You can’t argue with that, can you?

On the one hand you have the Word of God in all its unequivocalness. On the other hand, you have Peter’s last dream. Which would you consider authorized? The disciples go with the dream!

This does not feel comfortable to me! As a good evangelical with a great love for the scriptures, I know how you argue for something new and innovative. Do what Keith does in his latest article on gay marriage (found at http://www.arestlessfaith.com.au).

* You do a deep exegetical analysis of the wording of the law in question

* Compare this biblical law with other biblical laws.

* See how the Bible writers themselves could have adapted laws similar to this?

Peter and the other apostles of Jesus do absolutely none of these things. They accept Peter’s dream and seemingly disregard everything else!

This is painful, as it is actually this method of biblical scholarship that allows us evangelical Christians to draw our line on who are legitimate interpreters of God’s word and who are not!

This is how we judge who can be taken seriously as a spiritual teacher. We seek out this kind of scholarship and listen to those who play it and engage in intelligent conversation by the rules of this game, and those who don’t play this game (like the ones who wake up and want to tell us everything). the things God has taught them while they sleep) are discarded!

But we cannot erase the Apostles, nor can we erase this dream, since we know that this dream came from God. And I don’t know why God couldn’t have revealed all of this to the apostles in a Bible study, but He didn’t!

And where are we going with this? What principles for biblical interpretation can we draw from it? What divine communication template can we put in place based on this story? How can we use this experience to better predict God’s will and activities in the future? As far as I can see, there are no satisfactory answers to any of these questions!

What we evangelicals tend to forget is that God is God and that God will do whatever God wants to do. God will communicate with us in whatever way He sees fit, and in the end, there is no way to predict what God will do next.

And all this is very difficult to take! I have enough trouble trying to find room in my heart for the homeless and refugees without having to make room at the top for a God whose moves I cannot anticipate and whose mind and being I will never truly understand!

And then maybe there is a personal message in this passage for me after all? The personal word for me today seems to be this: expect the unexpected, let God be God, and dream the dreams He gives you!

May God add His blessing (and His personal message) to the reading of His word.

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