Sunday, 28 April 2013

A church of two halves

The words of Ecclesiastes 1. 9, 'What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,' ring true today as we turn our attention to Peter's encounter with a bunch of circumcised believers in Jerusalem.

Here we have a church of two halves: the circumcised (Jewish) believers and the uncircumcised (Gentile) believers.

We also have a great deal of righteous anger and loads of passion (funny how prejudice does that isn't it?) along with it.

Now considering that working back from the current Pope the line (albeit just a little fuzzy in places) tracks back to the man himself: Peter! So what we have here is 'the man' being taken on by the Jewish believers ( of course this won't be the last time the 'Judaizers' find themselves in the spotlight - Paul encounters them in Galatians); not the leaders but the influential, Jewish, believers are taking him to town. What is interesting it that it must have worked for, despite his own words in the Acts 11 account, we later find Paul giving him some real stick over his 'encouraging Gentile believers to not only follow Christ but adopt Jewish practices).

What today's readings teach us is that we have a new commandment to live up to - we make love our priority and our rule of life; we don't put stumbling blocks in the way of new believers, neither do we impose ritual or worship style, liturgical tastes or our own personal fads, habits and desires. What we do is bless that what God is already blessing and help those outside the kingdom to recognise the voice and hand of God in their lives.

What we must do is to seek to recognise the image of the invisible God made visible by the presence of the person before us and celebrate the fact that nothing (and no one?) God has made 'clean' is unclean. Regardless of where we have been, what we have seen or done - there are no definitive sins (outside that one 'unforgivable' sin against the Holy Spirit in Matt 12//mark 3) - all are equal and carry the same weight whether there's one or dozens of them.

High, low, charismatic, traditional - fundamental, liberal or confused: We need to celebrate the fact that people come to God through Christ and refrain from putting our yokes on them.

He whom the Son sets free is free indeed - so let's not put our burdens on they and break their backs with our personal likes, dislikes and arrogance, eh?

No comments: