By Pastor David M. Choi
Peter and Cornelius are the most unlikeliest of companions, because one is a Jew and the other a Gentile. In Acts 10:1-8, we saw the Gentile moving towards life with the Jews. Now, in this passage, we see the Jew moving towards life with the Gentiles. But how is it that these two people, who are polar opposites in almost every way, should now come together, offering to the other acceptance and belonging?
“The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray” (Acts 10:9). Contrary to the Peter we saw earlier in the gospels, here we see Peter has learned how to pray. No longer will Peter move unless the Spirit of God moves. He will only go to wherever the wind of God’s Spirit blows. So, he waits and prays. Yet, while he is praying, we see he also grows hungry, wanting something to eat (Acts 10:10). The desire for food, Peter will realize, is not a distraction from prayer. Rather, it is the desire through which Peter will seek God, and it is the desire through which God will speak back. God will meet Peter in the space of his hunger in order to make way for true community.
Peter falls into a trance, receiving from God a vision. He sees the heavens opening up, and from it a great sheet descending upon the earth. The sheet encompasses the whole earth to signify the range and reach of God’s kingdom revolution. God is turning the world upside down by turning it right side up. The sheet, though, is not empty. What it contains reveals the nature of God’s revolution. It contains all kinds of animals and birds of the air; that is, it contains all kinds of culinary tastes and preferences. The Lord tells the hungry Peter to rise and eat. Perhaps thinking this is some sort of test, Peter replies, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” The Lord responds, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
Whenever we think of food, we think of the types of food that are out there. And whenever we think of their types, we must think of the people who are connected to these foods. Italian, French, Mexican, Chinese, Korean (BBQ!), Indian, etc., the offerings are endless, and there is so much culinary creativity to admire and appreciate. By eating food we normally don’t eat, what we are doing is we are embracing other people and their culture, and by offering us their food they are inviting us to experience their ways of relating to God’s creation. In so many ways, food is an extension of who we are, and thus we are connected to the plants, animals, and people that make food and our life possible.
The Jews, however, were prohibited from eating things that were considered unclean. For them, there were clear boundaries between clean and unclean, desirable and despised, appropriate and inappropriate, holy and unholy. In other words, there were boundaries between the Jews and the outside world. But now, the Lord commands Peter to cross this boundary, and he obeys. Peter moves in the Spirit’s flight into a world where boundaries are now being dismantled. God is now expanding the borders of Israel to include people of all colors, nationalities, and even cuisines.
“Kill and eat” is not so much a command directed towards our hunger. Rather, it is God directing our hunger towards the desire of his command that we embrace, love, accept, and listen to all people, just as Peter will do with Cornelius and those of his household. So, how is God commanding you to “kill and eat” this morning? What boundaries keep you from loving and accepting other people? If you’re unsure, pray to God, and ask him to reveal these things to you. Ask the Lord to show you how he is calling you to form new relationships and deepen old ones, as you join in the Spirit’s flight of transgressing the dividing walls of our time.