A vision in Joppa

The 5th Sunday of Easter
Year C
Acts 11:1-18

As Peter is sitting on the flat rooftop of the house of Simon the Tanner in Joppa he is presented with two visions.  The first is what any observer sitting alongside him, overlooking the ocean would see or hear: a busy port coming to life in the pink dawn of early morning, noisy commerce between chandlers and shipowners, the banter of sailors from other lands in their native language, the oaths of stevedores trudging to work and the clatter of carts taking advantage of the early hours to deliver goods.  In literature or music port cities are associated with both danger and opportunity - a mixed blessing at best.  Money is made here and trade is negotiated but you need to keep your wits about you.  At the end of the working day you return to your home.  You relax with those of a similar bent and understanding.  It's natural - we are all different and we belong most to our own.

The other vision is one which given or granted to Peter - in what is described as a dream or a trance - where a large sheet is lowered from heaven in front of the apostle which contains the same mix of known and unknown, safe and dangerous, local and foreign.  Peter is commanded to "kill and eat" - to partake of what goes beyond his ethnic and religious tradition and to let it enter his body.

He revolts - this is not what he has ever done before. 

The Gentile Mission which develops - first in the baptism of Cornelius and his family and then in the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in the northern town of Antioch - is that mission which declared the desire of God to save the world and not merely the tribe.  With our eyes we see one half of reality - one's own town with its quarters and communities, all the compelling reasons folk don't see eye-to-eye and the nature of their grievances against each other.  Church communities are so often places where colours and languages reinforce themselves against the alternatives.  It will remain so until that second vision is given.  One which demonstrates that the geography and the demography of God is different than our own.

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