Acts 11: 1-18; John 13: 31-35
Being interrupted about what we have settled is not fun at all. However, we are told in the Scripture that little Easter always happened when they were interrupted—even by the stranger on the road to Emmaus and on the shore. And we are still interrupted by various new learning, by a fresh reading of a book, by a casual comment of a friend, by the observation of a teacher, by the insight of a therapist, by a dream, by a nightmare, or even by Covid-19.
Then, Peter, in today’s passage, was interrupted. Do you think that is a sweet dream for Peter? It is a nightmare—a weird commanding voice forcing Peter to go against his mother’s law and the book of Leviticus and against everything he knew to be true. He was to violate his code of disgust.
But then, as always, the dream turns out to have meanings beyond the obvious. The dream is not really about clean and unclean animals. Just as soon as the dream ends, Peter is visited by “three men from Caesarea another unexpected interruption. They are Gentiles who do not keep the Jewish law Torah, and who do not share settled distinctions, and who are, in fact, “unclean” people by the regulation, Peter was taught.
However, the Spirit, intruding into all of our settlements and certitudes, tells Peter to go with these three men, saying—“Do not make a distinction between us and them.” So, the new Easter message Peter is said is that these Gentiles are also invited into God’s new life. God has made a way out of no way when they could not come to new life.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus gives a new commandment of love that reaches beyond our own kind, that we love one another. The reach of that gospel love is not contained in our preferred entitlement. It was done by the Spirit who keeps going, in the book of Acts, beyond tribe, slogan, fear, and exclusion.
Maybe we still categorize people into political and economical; good and bad; Republican and Democrat; pro and anti; rich and poor; haves and have-nots. We may live in a time of interruption.
Because of Jesus, who interrupts and challenges all distinctions, we are called to build a bridge and a larger table with courage and freedom to cross all lines of resentments and exclusions. We are called to reach out to those in need and excluded with acts of love and justice initiatives.
Yes, this is our calling to imagine that such “unclean folks” are included in Jesus’s commandment to love each other, striving to be brothers and sisters alongside us—black and white; Jew and Gentile; Red and Blue; rich and poor; haves and have-nots. Yes, our calling is to build a bridge that’s a little bit longer and a wider and broader table where all people meet together with a new identity in the name of Christ.
Thanks be to God.