Sunday, May 22, 2011

Camel Stew

God propelled Peter and the early church into new pastures. They were thrust into unfamiliar territory.

The church was growing nicely.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47.

They’d had their fair share of miracles, stirring sermons and prayer meetings that shook the foundations of the house. They’d also negotiated the white water rapids of arrests and executions, of leaders and liars put to death, and Saul switching sides. A small dispute about neglected widows was dealt with and men were set aside to meet specific needs.

Yes, the church was growing nicely.

It just needed something more.

It wasn’t intended to be an updated version of Judaism with all the bumps and bruises smoothed out.

Peter got the first glimpse of God’s intentions. Peter on the roof, praying, had a vision.

“He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” (Acts 10:11-13)

The animals, reptiles and birds on offer were not the usual things on the menu. Since for ever they had come with the label “unclean”. God wasn’t just talking about new recipes for camel stew. He is talking about people.

Enter Cornelius, stage left and the Holy Spirit, stage right and things begin to get really interesting. Nothing cryptic this time – the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Gentiles, and Peter as God’s witness to see it happen. God doesn’t always work behind closed doors.

It was all very new and the details of what happened filtered down to Jerusalem. Peter was called to give an account of his actions.

Yes, there was a lot of celebrating and praising God, but I think when the dust settled there was a lot of unease and discomfort. They had been so used to excluding the Gentiles from their faith. Asking them not just to open the door but to actively seek them out was a big step.

I began to wonder what would be in a net dropped down from heaven for me. What would God ask me to do that would have me saying “Surely not, Lord!”? It doesn’t take too much thought to come up with a few “net” items.

New adventures happen to us all. A number of years ago God asked me to join a gospel outreach team. There was definitely a “Surely not, Lord!” response. I wasn’t being asked to eat camel stew…but it was way out of my comfort zone. As much as I praised God for choosing me, I also fretted that the task was too big and I was too poorly equipped for it. God assured me that I wasn’t alone, and He wasn’t asking for the impossible…just for me to trust Him.

Broad sky above her
Peppered with stars
A road winding northwards
Empty of cars
Uprooted and moving
To pastures unknown
Friends left behind her
Feeling alone
She traces the patterns
Of stars in the sky
Fixed in their places
Shining so high
Some things are certain
They always will be
Like sunrise and sunset
And tides of the sea
God never changes
This much she knows
Fixed to this truth
Forward she goes

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