I had a really good vacation. I was able to go spend a few days in San Jose with Sara’s family. Sara’s brother John recently opened a BBQ restaurant called QBB. Never has Acts 11 been so important. As I put away rib after rib, I felt a certain sense of solidarity with Peter.
You see Peter grew up a good Jewish boy. And one thing good Jewish boys didn’t do was eat pork with gentiles. Peter had been doing just that and had returned to Jerusalem, probably with some BBQ sauce still on lips and his colleagues confronted him.
You can’t do that! They said. That is something that we just don’t do.
The profanity of Eating pork with gentiles is difficult for us to comprehend because we do it all of the time.
Now there are many parallels one could draw next to this confrontation.
But really it comes down to prejudice.
Gentiles were assumed to be dirty, thoughtless, jerks.
They ate gross stuff. Out of ignorance they harassed the early church. They often insulted religious people without even realizing they were doing it.
While we all wrestle with our own prejudices like those of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and otherwise, there is another group who often gets judged too early.
Middle schoolers. Comedian John Mulaney describes middle schoolers as the most terrifying group of people in the world.
Living in New York City, Mulaney says of all the groups of people, only when encountering a pack of 8thgraders will he cross the street to avoid the conflict.
He says 8thgraders will make fun of you in a terrifyingly accurate way. They will zero in on the part of you that you’re most sensitive about.
As people just discovering their own insecurities they are well positioned to notice yours.
And I would add, have you seen what and how they eat?
And jeeze, the questions they ask.
They are dangerous because they don’t even know when their foot is in their mouth.
They don’t know when they’ve slipped into the taboo, the insensitive, and even the insulting.
Rev. Beth and I were at clergy conference this weekend and Beth shared an update about the Way Station.
She said that although her mission had once been young professionals, the white whale of all outreach missions, the one’s we’re supposed to get, God had brought her middle schoolers instead.
Just like in Acts, the gathering of reverend clergy recoiled.
Middle schoolers? Not middle schoolers!
I exaggerate some.
And yet we know that few would intentionally target this group of people.
In a way they are the nexus of this idea described in John’s Revelation this morning.
They are a new creation.
They are what they’re supposed to be and at the same time not.
They are a creation groaning.
They are bluntly discovering new parts of themselves on a daily basis and sometimes that is a very painful process.
And yet we the church are called to a very similar life.
We know that we are God’s children, with our names in the book of life, yet we continue to sin, make mistakes, and carry on our own prejudices.
We live in the reality of Easter Morning while witnessing Good Friday events every day.
We know that Jesus has won the war and yet we continue to see the casualties of evil in our own communities and across the world.
In some ways the world, the church, and all of us who claim life in Christ are best symbolized as middle schoolers.
We are all stumbling to realize what we already are.
We are growing into our destined stature.
Dare I say it, we are all in a state of spiritual puberty.
And this is what Peter tells his colleagues.
Although you all may not have eyes to see it, God has made these people and that means they are good.
God has made the shrimp on the grill and spare ribs in the smoker and they are good.
God has made these people, these Gentiles and they are good.
And if we dohave the eyes to see, when we behold a group of people that God is bringing into fullness, we ourselves will become the people we are meant to be as well.
But notice that after Peter gives his theological argument and vision he gives something else. He gives a story.
And so, I want to give you one as well.
In recent weeks we have prayed for our new sister who was baptized at the Way Station a couple of weeks ago.
Maddison, making the decision without prompting from a parent, came into new life on the Second Sunday in Easter.
On the Saturday after her baptism when Beth was called away, I believe, she turned to our own Sister Jacque and said, “I want to make blessing cards for neighborhood.”
And so, she and the rest of the gang wrote down words of affirmation and God’s love and spread them up and down Grand Avenue.
These young people, who know only too well how hard it is to be in a world of self-consciousness and self-doubt wanted to remind people of the deepest truth, that they were created by God and loved accordingly.
A few days later Beth just so happened to be in a store where these little evangelists had been and the owner said, “Beth I was visited by some of your people.”
“They gave me this.”
“I was having a terrible day, and I really needed it.” “Please tell them thanks.”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”