Archives April 2013

The Five Marks of Mission for Children – and Your School

I underwent some really good training last week on the RE Curriculum, and was really struck by this, although I am not sure of the source, I want to share it:

The worldwide Anglican communion has adopted what is known as the Five Marks of Mission, as a summary of how it sees its role in the world and the role of all those who are members of its churches.

The Five Marks are as follows:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

As part of the Anglican Church, Church of England schools may find it useful to think through the Marks of Mission and use them as one of the ways to structure their own call to be a ‘distinctive’ part of the English national education system.

The Marks of Mission may be summarized using five words beginning with ‘T’: Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform and Treasure. These words are used below, and in some possible statements to use with children.

How can church schools use the ‘Marks of Mission’ to become more distinctive Christian communities?

Tell

Tell stories of Jesus systematically in Collective Worship, but also think about the things Jesus taught and talk about these
Help children to lead worship themselves, including telling stories and offering ideas about meaning
Celebrate key Christian festivals, linking these to Christian beliefs and share the celebrations the wider community

Teach

Teach key Christian concepts: reconciliation, hope, incarnation, salvation, Kingdom of God, and Christian perspectives on shared beliefs
Aim for Biblical literacy – a rich diet of stories from the Bible, well-told, read, discussed, applied
Excel in the area of RE – resource and teach it well, offer time to question beliefs and meet active members of different faiths

Tend

Encourage and reward caring and sharing in practical and measurable ways from Reception onwards in each class.
Learn about the needs of others, find out how to help and do something.
Meet those, including those in the Christian community who ‘tend’ those in need. Find out why they do this work.

Transform

Remind each child and adult they can make a difference with their lives and their choices.
Dream of making a difference and then work for justice, peace and equality in practical ways.
Become a UNICEF Rights Respecting School and celebrate both rights and responsibilities.

Treasure

Look hard at natural beauty, film it, paint it, sing it, sit amongst it, walk through it and worship in it.
Visit beautiful places and link with the idea of creation and the creator.
Look after your environment in school, become an Eco-school and encourage the local church to follow your example.

Can children understand the ‘Marks of Mission’?

The Marks of Mission can be understood, and acted on by children if presented in the context of their own lives. The following version phrased as ‘I can’ statements may be helpful but they are not meant to suggest that teachers should assess them!

  • We can tell others about Jesus and why he is important to Christians.
  • We can teach others about God and pass on the stories of the bible.
  • We can tend those in need and look after ourselves and others.
  • We can transform the world for one person and make a difference.
  • We can treasure the world we live in and preserve it for others.

Bubbles at the Elevation (from the Walsingham Taster)

[vimeo 65010885

The Diocese of Exeter held a “taster” for the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, which included a Mass celebrated by Bishop John Ford of Plymouth. Having used bubbles earlier to consider their beauty, uniqueness and specialness – just like us – filled with breath which ultimately goes right back to God, we were encouraged to blow bubbles as the holy elements are raised, and fill the sacred space with light, airy prayer-filled bubbles…


Walsingham Taster Gathering in Exeter: Youth Liturgy

Gathering

Video:  God is here

Song:  Here in this time (CJM)

Here in this time, here in this place,
here we are standing face to face.
Here in our hearts, here in our lives,
our God is here.

Here for the broken, here for the strong,
here in this temple we belong.
Here in our hearts, here in our lives,
our God is here.
And we cry:

“Holy! Holy! Holy are you!”
We cry: “Holy! Holy! Holy and true!”
Amen, we do believe our God is here.
Our God is here.

Here in the Word, God is revealed,
here where the wounded can be healed.
Here in our hearts, here in our lives,
our God is here.

Here we become what we receive,
here in this Eucharistic feast.
We are his body, living as one;
our God is here.
And we cry:

“Holy! Holy! Holy are you!”
We cry: “Holy! Holy! Holy and true!”
Amen, we do believe our God is here.
Our God is here. 

 

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Amen

 

The Lord be with you
And also with you

Words of introduction from the celebrant

Penitential Rite

Video:
https://www.vimeo.com/53586957

Equipment: Flash Paper, Felt Pens

Text:

There are many things which we feel are not worthy of us
And need to be put aside

Write down something you want deeply to throw away

A behaviour
An action
A word said in haste
A relationship gone bad
A deed undone
An obligation unfulfilled

And give it over to God.

You can pour out your heart to God on the mountaintop
You can painfully trace each step in the darkness of the confessional
You can say the words we know so well without thinking
But have you written him a love letter?
Have you given what you want to throw away to God
Let God deal with your deepest fears and shame.

Write down something you want deeply to throw away
A behaviour
An action
A word said in haste
A relationship gone bad
A deed undone
An obligation unfulfilled

And give it over to God.

There are many things that we would like to discard
To throw away and have nothing more to do with

There are many things which we feel are not worthy of us
And need to be put aside

Put them aside, and give them to God.

For God will transform,
and the shameful past becomes the bright future

Screen: You are forgiven

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you all your offences; and by his
authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: +In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit.

The Lord has put away all your sins, and of your charity, pray for me, a sinner also
Amen

Collect

Audio: Spooky Mysterious

Let us pray…

Lord God, in the mystery of the Incarnation
Mary conceived your Son in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb.
As we, your pilgrim people, rejoice in her patronage,
grant that we also may welcome Him into our hearts,
and so, like her, be made a holy house fit for His eternal dwelling.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Scripture

Video: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WavKkIesQpA”

Gospel:  Luke 14:15-24

=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyxG7pR7RCQ”

Talk about Walsingham

Videos of past events:  2011 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-zSrNcG6wA

Being eaten by a crocodile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPRKPKeWjJc

Everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecYO7alTEik

Chat with those who have been before

Response

Video:

=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhm7GrV80TI”

Blow these bubbles…
Watch them form…
See the way the light shines on them: reveals the rainbow within.

Each of them shares the same shape,
but each one is different, unique special
Just like you…

The bubbles remind us of God, infinite in variety, beautiful in shape, perfect in form.

God the Father, created of the bubbles and the universe and each and every one of us
Do you believe this? Yes!

God the Son, Saviour of us all, who breathed the same air as us on this earth, the same air with which you fill these bubbles lives today in our hearts.
Do you believe this? Yes!

God the Spirit, who powers these bubbles, and which fills this space with power from on high plays with us and strengthens us
Do you believe this? Yes!

Intercessions

Video:
=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_e67WuVyoI”

You got the Love

Led/Read by Young People

Peace

Christ is our peace,
he has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross.
We meet in his name and we share his peace.

The peace of the Lord be always be with you
And also with you

Let us offer one another the sign of peace

Offertory

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Pray, my brothers and sisters, that this our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.
May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his Church.

Prayer over the gifts

Lord,
make us worthy to bring you these gifts.
May this sacrifice
help to change our lives.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

The Lord be with you
and also with you

Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give thanks and praise

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks,
and to praise You for Your gifts as we contemplate Your saints in glory.

In celebrating the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
it is our special joy to echo her song of thanksgiving.
What wonders You have worked throughout the world!

All generations have shared the greatness of Your love.
When You looked on Mary Your lowly servant,
You raised her to be the mother of Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord, the Saviour of humanity.

Through Him the angels of heaven offer their prayer of adoration
as they rejoice in Your presence for ever.
May our voices be one with their triumphant hymn of praise:

Sanctus: Soli Mass

=”http://youtu.be/uXJdoXb-j4s”

Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy is the Lord, God Almighty
Heav’n and earth are full of his glory

Holy is the Lord!
Holy is the Lord!
Holy is the name of the Lord!

Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.

Blest is he who comes in the Lord’s name
Heav’n and earth are full of his glory

Blessed is the Lord! Blessed is the Lord!
Blessed is the name of the Lord!

Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna in the highest.

Father, on the night before he died,
Jesus shared a meal with his friends.

He took the bread, and thanked you.
He broke it, and gave it to them, saying:
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.
Do this to remember me.

After the meal, Jesus took the cup of wine.
He thanked you, and gave it to them, saying:
Drink this, all of you.
This is my blood,
the new promise of God’s unfailing love.
Do this to remember me.

Christ is the bread of life:
When we eat this bread and drink this cup
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory

Father, as we offer this bread and wine,
and remember his death and resurrection,
send your +Holy Spirit,
that we who share these gifts
may be fed by Christ’s body and his blood.

Pour your Spirit on us
that we may love one another,
work for the healing of the earth,
and share the good news of Jesus,
as we wait for his coming in glory.

For honour and praise belong to you, Father,
with Jesus your Son, and the Holy Spirit:
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen

Lord’s Prayer

Video:
[vimeo.com 41305949

Audio: Rimsky-Korsakoff Our Father from Mirfield.
The celebrant interrupts the praying of the prayer with these challenges….

Our Father in heaven.
Don’t say ‘Father’ if you do not behave like a son or daughter.
Don’t say ‘Our’ if you only think of your self.

Hallowed by your name
Don’t say ‘Hallowed’ if you do not honour that name.

Your Kingdom come
Don’t say ‘Your Kingdom come’ if you are weighed down with material goods

Your will be done On earth as in heaven
Don’t say ‘Thy will be done’ if you do not accept the hard bits
Don’t say ‘as it is in heaven’ if you only think about earthly matters

Give us this day our daily bread
Don’t say ’Our daily bread’ if you have no concern for the hungry or the homeless

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who against us
Don’t say ‘Forgive us our sins’ if you remain angry with someone

Lead us not into temptation
Don’t say ‘Lead us not into temptation’ if you intend to continue sinning

But deliver us from evil
Don’t say ‘Deliver us from evil if you are not willing to make a stand against injustice

For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen
Don’t say ‘AMEN’ without considering the words of your prayer!

Fraction

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ
Though we are many, we are one body
Because we all share in the one bread

Agnus Dei

https://www.vimeo.com/58473935

Invitation

Come not because you are strong,
but because you are weak.
Come not because any goodness of your own
but because you need mercy and help.
Come because you love the Lord a little
and would like to love him more.
Come because he loves you
and gave his life for you.

This is the lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.
Blesséd are those who are called to his supper
Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Communion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwUmaX5pgU4

Post Communion Prayer

Audio: Spooky Mysterious

Lord,
we give thanks for these holy mysteries
which bring to us here on earth
a share in the life to come,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing

The Lord be with you
And also with you

Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing…

God, who from the death of sin
raised you to new life in Christ,
keep you from falling and set you in the presence of his glory;
and the blessing of God Almighty
+Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you
And remain with you, this day and always
Amen

Dismissal

The mass is ended,
go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

=http://youtu.be/uUoaFMjY2lg

Your mercy taught us how to dance
To celebrate with all we have
And we’ll dance to thank You for mercy

Your glory taught us how to shout
To lift Your name in all the earth
And we’ll shout to the praise of Your glory

It’s the overflow
Of a forgiven soul
And now we’ve seen You, God
Our hearts cannot stay silent

And we’ll be a dancing generation
Dancing because of Your great mercy, Lord
Your great mercy, Lord
And we’ll be a shouting generation
Shouting because of Your great glory, Lord
Your great glory, Lord

END


i am the vicar, i am

DSC_0008

I am the vicar, I am.
I am the pastor, the carer, the listener
the one with the time to drop everything and
I also understand global politics and immigration and
I am the one who knows about Afghanistan
and cares about ‘our boys’
and I care about speed-humps
graffiti
litter
and the positioning of zebra crossings near schools.

I am passionate about school assemblies
council meetings
mums and toddlers and also
I am good at one-to-one and small groups and
I listen and empathise and at the same time
I am the one who plans and strategizes and
I am the one who understands budgets and decides if we can buy any staples
or replace the heating system.
I am the vicar, I am.

I am the quiet reflective prayer and
I am the speaker, the enthuser, the motivator, the learned teacher and
I can engage a room of 10, 50, 300 people with no problem because
I am the one who relates particularly well to children
older people
the middle-aged
the jobless
the employed
the doctors
teenagers and
I am the one who is always one step ahead and
I am the one who is endearingly disorganised.
I am the vicar, I am.

I care passionately about church politics
I care passionately about domestic abuse
I care passionately about the plight of Anglo Catholics
women priests
gay clergy
evangelicals and
I listen to the pope
the archbishop and
Rob Bell.

I am up-to-date with theological developments.
I understand the history of the reformation
the armed forces
the war
the government
the deanery
the Jewish background of Jesus and
I care about the excluded and
I manage my admin and
I know how to access children’s services.
I am the vicar, I am.

I am the one in whom trust is placed
I am the one in whom grumbles are placed
I am the one who is always talking to everyone else
I am the one who models worship
marriage
family
gardening
conversation
baking
prayer
listening
talking
planning.

I often get it wrong.
I am the one who has to keep my doubts under wraps and
I am also the one who is vulnerable and
dependable
stable
trustworthy.

I am the one who chairs meetings
I am the one who manages group discussions
I am the manager of an organisation that employs only me
I am the volunteer co-ordinator
the opinion co-ordinator
the trespasser on the territory of people who have been around a lot longer than me
and will be there after me.
I understand the heating system
the financial system
the rota system.

I love committees.

I drink tea with older people
And coffee with younger people
I listen to stories of bus routes and hospital visits and
I believe in transforming our community through the power of Jesus.

I am the one who is very tired.
I am the one who hates wearing dresses but still smiles
and would love to be muddy all the time.

I am the one who only works one day a week.

I am the one who loves this job.
I am the one who is making it up as I go along.
I am the one who would not swap this for anything.
I am the vicar, I am.

© 2009 Kevin Lewis

http://theblogofkevin.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/i-am-the-vicar-i-am/


Ministry to the edge: a meditation on Acts 8:26-40

With grateful thanks to Fr Gavin Tyte who brought this short meditation to my attention:

Acts 8:26-40. New International Version

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.29 The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked.

31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.’

34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?’ 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Reflect

Read this passage three times.

The first time, as you read it, stand as an observer outside the story. Bear in mind that a dark-skinned eunuch would not have been permitted to worship in Jerusalem – it was clearly forbidden in scripture (on both counts as not being Jewish and being a eunuch).

The second time you read it, imagine that you are the eunuch. Think upon the very passage that you are reading from Isaiah – “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?” Read those lines over and over. Let the weight of those lines hit you in the the context of your own body.

The third time you read it, imagine your are Philip. Think about that simple question that the Eunuch asks you, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” What can stand in the way? How will you respond?

 

Think about those whom this applies to. You can identify them (and sadly it is not just a single constituency of the body of Christ who is consistently mallaigned) : in the media, in arguments in General Synod and railed against from various pulpits. The God of Love shines through. The God of welcomes bids you come. You know what we all have to do…


He is here. Be strong.

Though we feel adrift
God will not let go

Though we see no light
God’s light always shines

Though we feel quite lost
God will show the way

Though we feel despair
God’s hope is still there

When we feel quite overwhelmed
God’s love will bring healing and peace


A GUI frontend for get_iplayer: getting the BBC Programmes your license fee has paid for

If this post is a little off topic for you, please bear with me, there will be another post about theology, mission and work with young people along in a bit…

If, like me, you sometimes need to get hold of recent news footage (in my case for Visual Intercessions – images of recent events are very useful), or just simply to archive the latest Dr Who episode (I believe I have everything from Dr Who on that backup hard disk of mine) or maybe watch Question Time later when you don’t have an internet connection, then get_iplayer is the business. It is a multiplatform series of tools to grab a given iPlayer file and save it to .mp4 or .mp3 files (if it is radio). You can get it from here. In the modern age, this is the equivalent of keeping video tapes: it’s for personal use only and anyway, my license fee has paid for this – I’m a part owner of it.

The toolkit is very techy, which doesn’t worry me, but it intimidates a lot of people, who just want a nice frontend in Windows.

So I started messing around with AutoIt – a very nice Visual Basic-like scripting language and constructed this:

get_iplayer_frontendAll you have to do is cut and paste the URL from iPlayer into the box, tick it if what you are wanting is a radio programme rather than the default telly and click the button. It does open up the program in a little box, but it just makes the downloading a bit smoother.

You can download the frontend as a ready-compiled little program from here. Note: Revised Link which now works directly. I also include the source code in there if you want to see how it is done: it’s not complex, it takes the content of what you paste in and writes it to a batch file and executes it (thus saves you the time of getting the ‘spell’ right). Download it, put it in a folder in your documents folder, right click on it and “pin to taskbar” or “pin to start” and then run it. It’s simple!

AVG Antivirus False Positive!

Our Office computer has AVG Antivirus on it and it has just thrown up a virus alert on my beautifully crafted (and virus free) program. I know it is virus free, and I wrote it on a machine running Avast and tested it on a machine running McAfee. Thankfully, I am not the only one to encounter this problem: AVG has a problem with false positives with AutoIT. Please see this thread here: http://help.lockergnome.com/security/AVG-problem-AutoIt-scripts-stop-AVG-false-positives–ftopict11559.html 

It does not have a virus in it.


Cash and Shellfish

The third book of Scripture, Leviticus, has some wonderful passages. The Jubilee laws outlined in chapter 25, for example, provide an inspiring vision of liberty and justice for all which are an inspiration for us all.  Unfortunately, these Jubilee laws and the ideals they embody, are nearly wholly neglected and forgotten. Much of Leviticus was written for a different time and a different context: a nomadic people seeking to settle into an already populated land which they claimed their God had chosen for them, seeking to ethnically clense it and establish clear differentiation between “us” and “them”. So perhaps it is right that they turn away from many of the things forbidden or advocated by Leviticus

With some notable exceptions: some teachings are still regarded as unwavering and binding.

One such passage is Leviticus 20:13, says  If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (ESV)

That passage is frequently cited by those who hold that the Church is no place for anyone LGBT, that orientation is a bar to Church participation. This is the Daily Mail at prayer. However, the book of Leviticus condemns a lot of things as “abominations.” The 11th chapter is overflowing with abominations. For example, from verses 10-12:

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

So it is claimed that Leviticus says that the LGBT are an unclean “abomination,” yet they have no problem eating Prawn Cocktail.  There is that image going round of someone (probably in the USA, of course) with a tattoo citing Leviticus 18:22 (see)

leviticus-tattoo

but ignoring Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

Since many observers have satirically noted this apparent inconsistency (see, for example, godhatesshrimp.com) I wonder why it is that so many contemporary Christians reject gays while embracing shellfish (and tattoos).

To understand why God is no longer considered a hater of shrimp you have to see the Acts of the Apostles, the account of the early days of the Christian church.

Acts chapter 10 finds the apostle Peter on a rooftop in Joppa, praying at noon before heading down to lunch.

The impulsive former fisherman has grown into a genuine leader in the early church. At Pentecost, he preached the gospel to people from every corner of the Roman Empire and he is slowly appreciating that this new community is supposed to transcend any ethnic or cultural boundaries. But the goyim still seem to still grate with him. Especially the Romans.

So God gives him a vision. Peter falls into a trance and sees a vision of a giant tablecloth descending from heaven. The tablecloth is covered with honeybaked hams, cheesesteaks, crab cakes, calamari and lobster.

“Eat up, Peter,” a voice tells him

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter says. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

“Don’t call anything unclean that God has made clean,” the voice says. “And try the angels on horseback, they’re like butter.”

This happens three times.

This is generally regarded as an instance in which a New Testament passage seems to set aside a prohibition from the Old Testament. And that’s why our friends on the religious right do not feel compelled to eat kosher and do not consider shellfish to be “an abomination.”

Fair enough, but there’s something else going on in this story. The main point of Peter’s rooftop epiphany has nothing to do with diet. The main point of this vision had to do with the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door.

Peter is about to meet Cornelius. Cornelius is a gentile. Worse than that, he is a Roman. Worse than that, he is a Roman centurion. Cornelius is about as kosher as a bacon double cheeseburger.

But give Peter credit — he understood the vision. “Don’t call anything unclean that God has made clean.” Don’t call anyone unclean that God has made clean.

Peter does not treat Cornelius as an unclean outsider. He travels to the centurion’s house, where he says, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”

Peter understands: in this new community that God is building, this church, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. No one is excluded as unclean. The church embraces Jews and gentiles, Roman soldiers and slaves, men and women, Africans, Greeks and even a token white European.

In our fondness for Easter Gammon, we Christians have fervently clung to the surface-level meaning of Peter’s vision. But we haven’t been as enthusiastic about embracing the larger, more important lesson God was teaching him there on the rooftop. When the “unclean” outsiders knock on our doors, we don’t like inviting them in.

That, in a nutshell, is why some Christians happily dismiss one “abomination” while still behaving abominably out of allegiance to another.

Oh, and what about Leviticus’ Jubilee laws? Those were never set aside by anything in the New Testament, but Christians no longer treat them as authoritative because, um …

Scripture is not a Haynes Manual which can be dipped into for a key solution, ignoring the context which results in that text. Neither should it be read from cover-to-cover like a novel; however, it is a document of our continuing walk with God, and it isn’t finished yet: those who limit their faith to that which is contained in the little book are falling foul of idolatory (and we can guess what Leviticus thinks about that! 19:4, look it up) and raising it up as an idol. Christ completes the Scriptures – look to him and see what God really intends for us all: Jew, Gentile, Straight, LGBT, White… the whole world

 

(with thanks to an original thought by Fred Clark)