In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o'clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him. 'Cornelius.' He stared at him in terror and said, 'What is it, Lord?' He answered, 'Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside. When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, 'Get up, Peter: kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.' The voice said to him again, a second time, 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
Two days ago we looked at the Food Laws that Jews follow if they are to keep the Law of Moses. Now we see God challenging Peter's perceptions, using the same subject. Up on the flat roof of the house Peter has a vision of a sheet holding animals and birds that he is forbidden to eat, and voice saying these are not profane or unclean. However this is about much more than the food laws.
Cornelius, a Centurion (a Gentile) has been visited by an Angel who tells him to send for Peter who is in Joppa. God is about to blow Peter's perception of what is wanted of him. Using the food laws, God challenges Peter to think beyond the boundaries, and consider where else God's message of love can be taken. All his life Peter has tried to obey these Laws, and now God is preparing him to expand his thinking to go to the Gentile world.
We too must learn not to get stuck in the past, but allow God to lead us into new challenges and opportunities. No Christian should stand still. Can we look back and see how we have changed and grown with God's help - and can we see how we can continue to change?
You continually challenge
our understanding of our faith,
and of what You call us to be.
Help us not to block out Your messages,
but listen to Your insistent call,
so that we may grow and change,
and help Your Kingdom to continue increase.
You might like to find out about houses in ancient Israel:
Or remind yourself about some of the food laws: