Each week, I take some time to reflect on one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday. This week for the sixth Sunday of Easter, we're going to look at Acts 10:44-48.
Right now, I am sitting in a bookstore and my brain is just sputtering. I have had a full on case of writer's block for several days. I cannot for the life of me get coherent thoughts on the page. Maybe that state is suitable for this week's passage. Or maybe I'm grasping at straws. It's probably the latter.
This week's passage is a Spiritual sequel (Holy Spirit pun!) to last week's passage in which the Ethiopian eunuch unexpectedly came to follow the way of Jesus. Now the kicking down of the doors is becoming more public: going from a dusty wilderness road to a crowded house. Peter experiences a vision in which God gives the all clear for eating bacon and, more importantly, is the foundation for the realization that the gospel is for everybody. The disciple formerly known as Simon then accepts an invitation to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius.
In Acts 10:44-48, we witness the aftermath, or perhaps more appropriately the middlemath: while Peter is still preaching, the Holy Spirit comes upon these Gentiles. The circumcised Jesus followers with Peter, we'll call them the Circumvengers, are astounded that this is happening. This is not supposed to happen. Sure, maybe the Holy Spirit could come upon Gentiles, but first these people are supposed to submit to a set of rules, walk down an aisle, become Circumvengers themselves. The brains of Peter's travel companions probably sputtered just like mine.
How could...but...that doesn't even make...I mean, I thought...wait a second...but didn't Moses...how are we supposed to...what if people think...what exactly is going on here?
I am hesitant to draw a line from Peter's story to our present day because I don't like the idea of marginalizing a person (but I'm apparently going to do it anyway). So let's just imagine that, for some crazy reason you are in the presence of a murderous ISIS terrorist and someone tells them about Jesus. In the middle of it, this terrorist just transforms. It clicks. For some reason, and you can't put your finger on why, you feel like the Holy Spirit has come over that person. Wouldn't that freak you out? Doesn't that seem kind of wrong? Are you excited? Terrified? Confused?
That's an extreme example. Cornelius would not have been the equivalent of a murderer (though given the Jewish people's history with Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, and the like, you could understand someone viewing a Gentile individual with that set of lens). But the point is that God moves in ways that makes our collective heads explode sometimes. God does not always play by the rules; not even the rules that we think God must play by. It is astounding. It will cause your brain to sputter and experience cognitive dissonance. It will sometimes unsettle us profoundly.
Peter had a bit more prep for this amazing turn of events (divine visions will do that) and so his response is to simple: "What's to stop these people from joining with us?" Let's go. They are part of the family now. There are complications when God throws such vastly different people together, but Peter does not hesitate to welcome them with open arms. That's not a prevalent attitude.
All of it's pretty astounding.