For a couple weeks now, with the exception of a book launch announcement (woohoo!), I’ve been sharing parts of a sermon I got to preach recently on Acts 10:1-23. The first part is here, and it’s about being open to growth and learning, even after we’ve been on a journey for a while and think we know some things; the second part is here, and it’s about how it’s okay to be baffled. Here’s the third and final part!
It feels important, to me, to note all the different ways God meets Peter, again and again, in all of the confusing interactions that happen around his vision of the sheet descending from heaven. God keeps meeting Peter on his journey of transformation, challenging Peter to be open to continued growth and change.
I want to note this because I think we too may find ourselves on a journey of transformation. We find ourselves changing, and being changed.
And I wonder if sometimes, in the midst of all this, we might find ourselves taking a step back and asking: Are we changing in ways that are good?
We might want some reassurance that we’re moving in the right direction. Not all change is good, after all. How do we know we’re on a good path?
In Acts 10:1-23, as God has been doing in different ways throughout the book of Acts, God is expanding Peter’s vision of what it looks like for God’s Spirit to be poured out on all flesh. We see God challenging Peter’s ideas of who is “in” and who is “out.”
And I think this is the kind of thing God is always doing. These are the directions God is always moving in, the directions God is always moving us in: Do not call profane what God has made clean.
The movement of God always goes from considering people unclean to considering them clean. From judging what we might not know or understand, to seeing the sacredness, the value, the worth in every human.
I think of Ben McBride, who speaks in his new book Troubling the Waters about widening the circle of human concern. Widening the circle of belonging. That’s what God is always doing. God is always widening our circles of concern. God is always challenging our notions about who’s in and who’s out—and whether anyone is “out” at all.
This might look all sorts of different ways. Currently, for example, we might sense God inviting us to widen our circle of belonging to include the people of Palestine. To include people who are experiencing war, violence, and oppression all around the world. To include people who are unhoused here in our own cities.
God is moving, knitting us together in community with people we learn to see as our siblings.
God is building relationships, where dividing lines like race, class, sexuality, or ability would normally separate us.
God is teaching us to belong to one another.
God is inviting us not to exclude but to include.
If we’re moving in these directions, we’re moving in a direction that’s good.
I think our work, as individuals and as a community, is to keep being open to the unexpected ways God might keep challenging us. To stay open to the journey. To not think we’ve arrived. To be humble enough to keep learning. To keep pressing into unexpected friendships with people we perceive as different from us. To see the worthiness, the sacredness, the holiness in one another.
So let’s look for the ways God is still pouring out God’s Spirit on all flesh, no exceptions. Let’s ask one another and ourselves: What are you learning currently? Let’s affirm for one another that it’s okay to wonder, to question, to be baffled. Let’s look for the ways God is meeting us in our bafflement. And let’s move with God, always, from calling people unclean to embracing them as sacred.
Peace to you on this lifelong journey.