I had a friend say something to me the other day. I had written about the Eucharist, I think. He had made a comment about it and said this, "The gospel is dangerous." Let that soak in for just a second.
We talk of the Good News as something that brings peace and comfort into our wave tossed worlds, and that, I think is a good thing. But there's a catch...what brings peace to one soul might bring torment to another. Good news can be dangerous.
This morning's Life Journal text is from the Book of Acts, chapter 10. Saul has had his Damascus Road experience and now Peter is being called to go to Joppa. The story reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago while doing sermon research on death and resurrection (insert shameless plug for this Sunday's sermon "Crucified On the Inside" here...). Will Willimon was talking about "Letting Go Down Here" and some of the things we've had to die to so that we can be reborn. I'll never forget what he said while he was talking to a church in Mississippi...(Warning...not for the easily offended)
"'Has anyone here had to die in order to be a Christian?' Silence. Then they began to testify.
'I thought that I couldn't live in a world where black people were the same as white people. When segregation ended, I thought I would die. But I didn't. I was reborn. My next-door neighbor, my best friend, is black. Something old had to die in me for something new to be born.'" - Will Willimon "Letting Go Down Here"
We do a great job in the church with taking care of those like us. We welcome them in. We pat them on the back. We'll even invite them over to our house for supper...if they're like us. What about the others? God's kingdom has not come as long as there are "others." As long as we put conditions on who can come and who can't...who is welcome and who isn't...who belongs and who doesn't...God's kingdom has not come.
God hit Peter with this like a 2x4 across the forehead: "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Now, on the surface Peter was dealing with clean and unclean food, and table fellowship, but we all know that God speaks to us on deeper levels than just what's on the surface. We know in hindsight that God was preparing Peter for visitors who would come to him and ask him to come with them to Cornelius' house. Cornelius is not a Hebrew name, did you pick up on that? He was an "other." Peter almost got it. He almost figured out what God was trying to tell him...almost.
"You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile..." (Acts 10:28) Dog gone it, Peter! Why did you have to go there? Just be their guest and do what it was God sent you there to do.
I love this...and I hate this. Peter just couldn't accept the fact, yet, that these dirty Gentiles were the same to God as his people. He would go to them, and minister with them because God told him to, but he was going to make sure they knew their place. We still do it, only it's not Jew/Gentile. It's Rich/Poor...Well off/Homeless...Black/White...Straight/Gay...Suits/Jeans...
We still have a laundry list of folks we will work with because God told us too, but we haven't quite figured out yet that God loves them just as much as God loves us. That is the Good News. And that, my friends, is dangerous.