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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Today’s Reading | Acts 10:1–16

In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. (NRSV)

Reading this passage, I am struck by the juxtaposition of how Cornelius and Peter each reacted to their very different visions from God.

Cornelius, the devout centurion, immediately accepted his vision of an angel of God and the angel’s message to send for Peter, instructing his men accordingly. Meanwhile, Peter, always loyal yet always human, resisted his vision and God’s exhortation three times until the vision vanished.

I can so relate to Peter and his refusal to do as God commanded. “Kill and eat . . . four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air” would have meant breaking what for Peter, the good Jew, were sacred laws, to not eat anything that is “profane or unclean.” Rather than just accepting God’s message, I can see myself resisting and asking, “Why?”

The good news for Peter, and for us, is that Peter finally discerned the larger purpose of God’s message when Cornelius’ men came for him. As he tells the Gentiles who gather at Cornelius’s home, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” And, later, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.” An amazing message indeed. And a message that I, and I believe most Christians, continue to need reinforced to this very day.

Dear Creator God, thank you. For your incredible patience with us. For your willingness to forgive us time and time again. Please help us to be open to the messages you send our way whether we understand them fully at the time. And please help us to live out the good news you shared with Peter long ago, that all of us who love and obey you are acceptable to you. What amazing grace! Amen.

Written by Ed Miller, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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