- Published: 20 June 2020
In choosing love, we ground ourselves in our sacred stories. The scripture story is one that I alluded to last week. As the Spirit of Life took a hold of Peter, he began a journey of proclaiming the Christ way, a way of justice and inclusion. Peter's words got heard by important people, like Cornelius a Roman centurion of the Italica cohort stationed in Ceasarea. Cornelius asked to have an audience with Peter.
Now Cornelius was of a different nation, a different culture, a different race. Peter agreed to go, but the sacred story tells us that on the way, God’s spirit confronted both conscious and unconscious bias in Peter.
Just before lunch, while he was hungry, Peter went to the rooftop to be still for a moment, to be quiet, to pray. In that moment of stillness, Peter had a vision. A sheet filled with animals came down from the heavens, animals that Peter immediately recognized, some animals he recognized as clean and some as profane, and he had been taught. It is a stark picture with stark language.
The voice of the spirit tells Peter to eat. Peter refuses because woven into his very being were teachings that he was to resist visiting in the company of those who eat what was designated as profane. The Holy voice retorted, “What God has made clean you have no right to call profane”. The language is direct and blunt, challenging the life-long pattern woven into Peter’s being.
Three times the message is repeated, three times embodying the Ojibway wisdom of the Old Woman in Richard Wagamese’s reflections in Embers where the Old Woman repeats important things three times.
The first time is for listening, for the head to become aware. The second time is for hearing, for the heart to be awakened. The third time is for feeling, for the wisdom to become a part of one’s being.
Peter was going to the house of Cornelius with both conscious and unconscious bias that Cornelius was lesser because he eats the profane. This vision from God says no. This vision from God challenges by first converting in the head, then the heart, then the whole being. Three times.
As Peter prepared to finish the journey, he worries over the meaning of the vision. The worry was less about understanding the vision, Peter had walked with Jesus who had proclaimed an inclusionary vision. The meaning was understandable, but the worry centered around the implications of living the vision. This vision put him on a pathway of confrontation and controversy, a pathway of criticism and conflict.
Peter, however, let the Holy voice go through him so that he would do what is right. Our sacred stories are not something we hold in the hand, our sacred stories transform our way of being and acting. In the Hasidic tradition of Judaism, a disciple approaches a teacher and said, “I have gone completely through the holy text, the Torah. What must I do now? The teacher replied, “The question is not, have you gone through the Torah but has the Torah gone through you? Has the Torah changed you.?
In the Christian tradition, we are taught that our lives are to be a letter from Christ that everyone can read and understand, a letter written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, a spirit that draws all people together.
Black lives matters invites, individuals like myself, White and privileged, to confront both conscious and unconscious bias in order to authentically be letters of anti-black racism, and anti-indigenous racism, and anti-Asian racism and on it goes.
It is not hard to understand the meaning, but sometimes we worry about the implications. So we hold back, we become silent. This was the choice Peter faced, but Peter found a voice, challenging any teachings that define some in our world as less than. T
That is not the God way. The vision of God is on the side of equality and dignity of all peoples. This is the call to all of us. May God’s spirit send us power to live love and grace, an important necessity to live justice in these critical times facing our world.