June 21 (Acts 10)Over one lunch hour the Apostle Peter went up to a rooftop and prayed. With theheat of the Middle-East’s noonday sun and the time of day we are told understandablythat Peter became hungry but as the food was being prepared he was visited by what musthave seemed the most cruel of visions. Before him heaven was opened and whatdescended? Not a dove. Not fire. But a sheet, a tablecloth, filled with all manner of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds of the air mixed and intermingled together. Andthen as his stomach rumbled the voice came to him saying, “Okay Peter get up. Kill andeat.” Not to waver in his faith Peter stood firm, “No way! I have been formed in faith byyour word all my life Lord and never have I eaten anything unclean.” The voice cameagain, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”It says that this dialogue was repeated three more times and then suddenly thetablecloth was pulled and the vision was gone. And Peter remained hot and hungry pondering this vision when the Spirit told him that three men, Gentiles, were waiting for him downstairs. And so began a miraculous moment in the story of the church. Peter notonly invited the men to eat with him but traveled with them to eat in their house, whichwould no doubt render him unclean by their religious law. Peter, however, had graspedthe vision and we have recorded in our Bible these most tremendous words.
God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean
. And then came hisconfession,
I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation who honour him and do what is right
. Then after telling themof Jesus’ life, death and resurrection it says, “while Peter was still speaking these words,the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.”To be honest, it gave me shivers when I wrote these words down in preparationfor this morning. Peter was by no means perfected in his faith. Peter had asked Jesus tohelp him on walk on water and he sank from fear. Peter was often quick and rash in hisstatements often missing the point of Jesus’ words. Peter wanted to deny the opportunityfor Jesus to wash Peter’s feet. Peter denied he even knew Jesus three times for fear of hisown well being. Peter was challenged it seemed at many times about how he wouldrespond in faith to this person Jesus. But in all this Peter continued to follow despitestumbles and even after backpedaling. We are wise to remember earlier in John’s gospelthat when others did begin to fall away from Jesus Peter affirmed, “To whom shall wego? You alone have the words of life.” And when Jesus asked the disciples who he wasPeter confessed, “You are the Messiah.” It is this same, all too human, Peter that weencounter in the book of Acts seeking the Lord in prayer. Here Jesus again calls on himto understand that a shift has occurred. Not a shift
from what God has been doing.This is not truly a new thing. From Genesis through to the prophets and into Psalms Godhas always been calling the nations. This shift is away from those things that at one timeserved their purpose but now hindered the blood, the Spirit, flowing from the heart of God. Peter was called to bypass hardened arteries so that the Spirit of God could be poured out on all flesh. This 2000 year old story continues . . .We have heard this morning that Hillcrest too is a part of this story. We haveheard deliberate and bold steps taken. We have heard of tentative and unsure steps. Andif they were steps of faith you can almost be certain they came with some tension and