Sunday, April 24, 2016

Keeping “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” in context

In this Sunday's reading from Acts 11:1-18, Peter explains why he ate with Gentiles. He claims that God presented a vision of forbidden foods along with a command to break with tradition. Three times God ordered Peter to abandon the dietary code of his upbringing and eat "unclean" creatures,
Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. (Acts 11:4-10)
How many times have Peter's vision and God's command been twisted and recast by revisionist preachers in order to turn homosexual acts into blessed relationships?  It is hard to see how a change in a dietary rule could be equated with a change in teaching on sexual morality. This is only possible by taking the vision out of context. The real context was the problem for the early Church on how to integrate Gentiles into the congregation and issues of circumcision, foods, and human sexuality were at the forefront. In Acts 15, at the Council of Jerusalem, the disciples decide on just exactly how the Church should handle Gentiles who are coming to Christ, and the limits they impose would certainly seem to exclude sexual sin which at the time included homosexual acts,

Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication (sometimes translated as "sexual immorality") and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.’ 
 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, with the following letter: ‘The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication (or sexual immorality). If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.’
And how did the people react to the new commandment?

They rejoiced!
So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. Acts 15:19-31 
How would people in today's Episcopal church react if they were read such a letter?

They would scoff!

The actions of General Convention 2015, and Presiding Bishop Curry's words rejecting the wisdom of the Anglican Primates are witness to that assertion.

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