The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman army, was “God-fearing” and gave generously to people in need. He was not a full convert to the Jewish faith, so he was considered a Gentile by all who followed the laws of the Jewish community. This meant he could not associate with anyone who was Jewish.
Our Scripture for today declares a message that was whispered throughout the Old Testament. God had told Abraham that his descendants would be a blessing to “all peoples” (Genesis 12:3). And now God called Peter to participate in bringing that blessing as God also worked through Cornelius.
For centuries the Jews were taught that certain foods, as well as people who were non-Jews (Gentiles), were “unclean,” but now God changed all that in a vision he gave to Peter. A sheet coming down from heaven had all kinds of animals on it, and a voice told Peter to eat. Though Peter was hungry, he said he would not eat anything that was “unclean.” But the voice said that if God had made it all clean, no one should call it unclean.
The vision came three times, and then Peter was invited to visit Cornelius. Peter understood that the Spirit of God was changing things and that he needed to follow where the Spirit would lead. On this Pentecost Sunday, we remember that the Spirit is still at work to shape and mold the church.
God of heaven and earth, we confess that we still divide this world into “us” and “them.” Help us to see all people as loved by you and worthy of your grace. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.
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