God in the Unexpected
Friday, June 29, 2007 -- Week of Proper 7
(St. Peter & St. Paul)
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office
EITHER the readings for Friday of Proper 7 (p. 972)
Psalms 102 (morning) 107:1-32 (evening)
1 Samuel 9:1-14
OR the readings for the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul (p.998)
Morning: Psalm 66; Ezekiel 2:1-7; Acts 11:1-18
Evening: Psalms 97, 138; Isaiah 49:1-6; Galatians 2:1-9
(I read the lections for Saints Peter & Paul)
The reading from Acts has Peter defending himself from criticism among the early church leaders in Jerusalem. "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" All of the Christian males in Jerusalem were circumcised; the early church was a reform movement of Judaism, proclaiming Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Peter violated scriptural commands and ancient tradition when he ate with Gentiles at the home of Cornelius the Roman Centurion.
Peter tells of the vision. Clean and unclean animals. The voice, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat." His answer, "By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth." The answer from heaven, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." At that moment, people sent from Cornelius arrive. Peter says, "The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us." When Peter arrives and tells Cornelius' household the story of Jesus, they display evidence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?"
This is a turning point in the history of the Christian movement. It puts Peter, the church's leader, squarely on the side of opening the church to Gentiles without their having to become Jewish like Jesus and all of the early disciples. In Acts 15 a council of the apostles will formally endorse the mission to the Gentiles, and entrust that work especially to Paul, the former persecutor of the church.
We discover God's presence and grace in the unexpected person and unexpected place! This is a major theme of scripture: Sarah the barren woman; Jacob the second son; a burning bush; Joseph, the youngest, the spoiled dreamer; Moses the murderer; manna in the wilderness; water from the rock; Rahab the harlot; Ehud the left-handed; Deborah the judge; Gideon the fearful; Jephthah the Gileadite, the son of a prostitute; David the youngest; the widow of Zarephath; Ruth the Moabite; Jeremiah the boy prophet; Hosea the betrayed; Jonah the unwilling; Amos a dresser of sycamores; Esther and Judith; Cyrus the Persian; Jesus the Galilean; a crucified criminal-blasphemer; uneducated fishermen; the Ethiopian eunuch; the Syrophonecian woman; the Good Samaritan; Cornelius the Centurion; Saul the persecutor.
Whenever we witness the presence and grace of God in the unexpected place or unexpected person, we are commanded to change our former perspective. "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." "The Spirit told me not to make a distinction between them and us."
Sunday we will read that there can be no law against the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Whenever we see these manifested in the lives of anyone, we are to be as quick as Peter with Cornelius and as fast as Paul on the road to Damascus. We must change our former perspectives. The Spirit is telling us "not to make a distinction between them and us." "What God has made clean, you must not call profane."
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