At God’s Picnic There Are Always Surprise Guests

Preparing for Worship  4-28-13

Acts 11:1-18

Recently I went picnicking with my family at a local park. We spread out a quilt on the ground and unfurled a feast of sliced turkey, bread, chips and fruits. I was at peace.

It’s hard to imagine that the surreal picnic in the reading from Acts was peaceful at all (especially considering its menu). In this re-telling of Peter’s rooftop vision, he is attempting to respond to critics who were ticked that Gentiles were being included in the Christian movement. Many of the traditions these early Christians inherited from Judaism concerned purity and distinctiveness. The idea that God was inviting those who were “unclean” or “profane” to the picnic was earthshaking.

This picnic unsettles us still. Although today we take for granted that you don’t have to be Jewish to be Christian, we often fail to see where God has given the Holy Spirit and, instead, get in the risky business of prescribing where, in what conditions, and to whom the Spirit is manifest. Today we’re given an alternative pattern to such legalism and boundary drawing: discernment.

Perhaps our picnics will be more peaceful once we learn, like Peter, to see in those different from ourselves through the gift of the Spirit and respond in kind: Who am I that I can hinder God?

O God, open our eyes to see your Spirit in those different from ourselves, that we may never hinder you. Amen.

Lutheran Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Neb.
Doctor of Ministry, 2011

(taken from “God Pause” an email publication of Luther Seminary.)

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