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April 24, 2016

What God Has Made

Passage: Acts 11:1-18

Peter knew. Yes, he knew he was - for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it – he knew he was in deep deep doo doo.

Although he wasn’t summoned to Jerusalem, he went there to calm a kerfuffle that had broken out when word had spread that he had been eating with, get this, the uncircumcised. 

So Peter arrives in Jerusalem and meets face-to-face with his detractors. They’re circumcised Jews who thought it improper for him to be galavanting about as he was with uncircumcised Gentiles. 

Rather than craft a grand defense for himself, Peter simply shares with them a vision he had had and his experience of the Gentiles’ conversion. 

Now, Peter’s vision was fairly spectacular: in it he saw something like a sheet descending from heaven, held up by its four corners. As it neared him he saw standing in it all sorts of different animals, including those considered unclean by Jewish law. 

Along with this vision came the voice of God voice saying, Get up, Peter; kill and eat.

But Peter refuses, saying:
By no means, Lord. I’ve never let anything unclean enter into my mouth.

But God is having none of it, and fires back:
What God has made clean, you must not call profane. 

What God has made clean, you must not call profane. 

Put another way:

What God has made clean, you must not call unclean. 

What God has made good, you must not call bad.

This is a big, big moment in the history of Christianity. 

Not only is this the moment we Christians point to and say that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament’s various dietary restrictions – this is where it becomes okay for us to eat lobster and bacon, thanks be to God –

But this is also the moment that non-Jews are declared ritually clean and are welcomed into the Christian community for the first time. 

All of a sudden Christianity stops being just a Jewish movement and starts being the church as we know it. A church where all people, of all nations, languages, and ethnicities are welcomed in.

What God has made clean, you must not call profane. 

As this lesson is applied by Peter in today’s passage and as it’s most often talked about, it's an outward-focused thing. It's an other-focused thing. It encourages us to tear down those walls that separate us from our neighbors. 

In these words, though, there is also something deeply important about our relationship with ourselves. 

How many of us, I wonder, suffer from a sense of shame about some aspect of our lives? 

How many of us, I wonder, are among the 1 in 5 people who struggle with our mental health but don't seek treatment because we feel shame about seeing a therapist.

How many of us, I wonder, are among the 1 in 3 Americans overburdened with debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and feel shame about our inability to handle our personal finances?

How many of us, I wonder, are among the 1 in 2 Americans who have lied to our doctor or avoid going to the doctor altogether because we feel some sense of shame about our bodies?

If you count yourself in of any these three categories or carry with you a sense of shame about something else in your life, I invite you to again listen to these words:

What God has made clean, you must not call profane. What God has made good, you must not call bad.

No we're not perfect. No we don't always get everything right. In fact, quite often, we do all the wrong things for all the wrongs reasons.

But, nevertheless, never the less, God has made us clean. God has made us good.

Each and every one of us has the capacity to do better, to love more, to change our hearts, and to live transformed lives. 

What God has made clean, you must not call profane. 

Friends, I hope you will personally pray and work and struggle and fight to believe that this is actually true. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of your neighbor, because we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. And if we don’t recognize our own goodness, it’s hard, if not impossible, to recognize the goodness of others.

May the Spirit seal this truth on your heart even this morning.

May you not feel shame about what God has made good.

May you not call profane, what God has made clean. Amen.