David Bauch, my New Testament professor in Seminary, always reminded my class about a tension in the early church between the Jewish followers of Christ and the Gentile converts. Now the Gentiles were uncircumcised, pork eating pagans and that was about as different from the Jewish people as you could be. But, in our Acts 11 text today, Peter has a conversion experience.
A voice comes down from Heaven and tells him (Peter) “do not call unclean that which I have cleansed and do not make a distinction between them and you”. When you couple this with our John 13 text today, the text were that Christ gives us a new commandment to love one another as Christ first loved us and it is by this love that the world will know that we are Christ’s followers.
Now God made us different and that is beautiful and that is great, but us humans have perverted that. We’ve made it into boxes that have permitted stereotyping, which has lead to further division and honestly has just let hateful things become a norm and hatred to exist in our world. Quite the opposite of our commandment to love one another. Now there is a little picture on Facebook of Christ preaching to his disciples and it says “Love one another” and their coming back with “but what if they are… [blank]”. And Jesus says “Did I stutter?”
We are the ones that have made these distinctions, whether it is gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, democrat or republican, baby boomer, gen X, [or] millennial. These are distinctions that exist because us, humans, let them exist. They cause conflict and tension because we, humans, let them cause conflict and tension. The Holy Spirit already broke down those barriers. The Holy Spirit continues to work in, among, with, and yes even despite us to make that kingdom a reality in our world.
That is the power of our sermon today.
I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to work in, among, with, and yes even despite us so that we can live into [the kingdom] and might even be able to say that we love the other. Even if, they are uncircumcised, pork eating pagans.
Scriptures: Acts 11: 1-18 and John 13: 31-35
Originally Preached on 24 April 2016