There's just something about them, isn't there? I mean, I don't understand why we do it. Steph and I have a nice dining room table and chairs, just bought them this summer. The house is air conditioned, and relatively insect free, but there's something within us that causes us to load up a cooler and picnic basket, drag them out to the Explorer, drive for an hour or so, pack the cooler (which is way heavier now than it was in the kitchen for some reason) and spread all of our food out on a blanket on the ground.
I don't know what it is, but I have to say, I really enjoy doing it. We try to do that with our girls 4 or 5 times a year and they love it too. It's usually a day trip to the Land Between the Lakes or Shawnee National Forest. We usually go on a little hike or hit one of the attractions, but we all know that the most important thing is the picnic.
Did you know that scripture even mentions picnic blankets? Yep, right there in the Book of Acts. Peter is sitting on the roof of his house one morning and thinks, "Man, I'm hungry." And while his meal is being prepared he has a vision of this sheet being let down from heaven with all of this food on it, but there's a problem. Peter was a good Jew and all of the food on that blanket was food he had been taught all of his life that he couldn't eat.
Then he hears a voice, which he can only assume to be God, tell him that it's ok to eat because whatever God has made clean is good to go. This didn't just happen once, but three times. Evidently, someone really wanted him to get the message. But...there's a catch.
This picnic scene really wasn't about food. Peter probably didn't realize it at first, but he would in a couple days. You see, just as the picnic blanket was being pulled up for the last time, 3 men were being sent to fetch Peter for a man named Cornelius. Now, in case you missed it, Cornelius is not a Hebrew name...which meant he was a Gentile...which meant that Peter, being the good Jewish man that he was...couldn't associate with them. Er go, the importance of that little picnic scene.
God has told him, through something that was sure to get his attention...food (he was a guy, and everyone knows the best way to our hearts is through our stomachs), that it was okay for him to sit down with Cornelius, and even spend a few days with him...and he did! That is huge!
Think for a few minutes about the folks we feel are unclean, how different would our worlds be if God showed us that they weren't? How would it change their life, but just as important, how would it change ours? And we've all got those folks. For me, and I'm just being honest, it was the person living on the street...then God showed me that they were human too, and even allowed me to sit down and share a soup kitchen bologna sandwich with a new friend who just happened to be homeless. It absolutely changed my entire world. I think that all he wanted out of me was to be treated as equal, and I admit, at first it was tough. But sharing that sandwich changed everything. It was a holy moment for me.
So, look for ways this week to take that which you thought to be unclean and see it in a new light: the homeless person...the addict...the prisoner...the poor...the AIDS victim...whoever it might be for you...and follow Peter's lead. I'll bet it will be a life changing experience for everyone involved.