From the Pulpit – Reflections on the Weekly Texts by Pastor Greg at Living Lord
Lutheran Church, May 15th, 2022 Easter 5
1Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also
accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers
criticized him, 3saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4Then
Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me,‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If 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?” 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.
Some of you may remember a song from way back in 1970...go on...I know you were
around...called "Signs", by a group called the Five Man Electrical Band. Ring a bell? It starts
out something like this... "Long haired freaky people need not apply..." And the songwriter
ends up tucking his hair up under his hat, goes in for a job interview, and get hired. And once he's hired, he takes off his hat, and says to his new boss..."Imagine that, me working for
you!" The chorus goes...
"Signs, signs, every a sign. Blockin' at the scenery breaking my mind. Do this, don't do that,
can't you read the sign?"
It's a parody about two different types of people, in the case of the song above, there's the
upstanding employer, with supposedly high standards for his company, and then there's the
long haired hippy type, who otherwise wouldn't have been hired by the employer had he known he was hiding all that long hair under his hat.
Anyway, this reading from Acts for this Sunday sort of mirrors that little scene in the song
above. There are two groups in the story - the Jews...the insiders. The ones who were "in" with God at the time. And then there were the outsiders...the Gentiles. The ones excluded from God's kingdom, according to their beliefs then, because they weren't the chosen ones of God. And so you can imagine these two groups gathering in the local town square, or wherever people gathered back then. One group holding up signs that said things like "Gentiles, you're not welcome here!" or, "Gentiles go home", or something like that. You get the picture.
And just across the street, were the Gentiles, who had been hearing this new word of God
preached by Peter and the apostles, and were being baptized and welcomed into this new family of God that now included the Gentiles. And so their signs might have read something like, "We're people of God, too!"...or "God loves us just like you!" Signs...signs...everywhere a sign.
And you could just imagine the tension between these two groups - the insiders (Jews) now
having to deal with the fact that in Christ crucified and resurrected, their Gentile friends were
now welcomed into the "club" so to speak. And they weren't happy. I'm sure in much the same way that the employer wasn't happy about hiring a long haired hippy to work in his company. You get the point.
Tomorrow, I'm going to preach on how we use signs throughout our history, to not only
identify with our "team", but also, to put down, or cast out, or exclude, the "other" - the one not in "my group. We've seen it since...forever. People with picket signs going back to women's suffrage and the right to vote...signs protesting the Vietnam War, on both sides of the controversy...signs during the Civil Rights movement in America. Who can forget those images of people carrying signs, standing on opposite sides of the street in small town America to the US Capitol, one side with slogans like "Freedom for all!"...and the other side...well, the language was not so hospitable.
Today, we see people carrying signs for or against things like abortion, vaccines, you name it. All, meant to exclude the other side. To express their side's displeasure that other people could have a point of view that may be worth hearing. Get the point?
But, in the gospel for Sunday, Jesus says to his disciples as he's about to go away from them,
this..."I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We can show how we stand on issues by the signs we carry. We can show others what group
we're in by our dietary laws, by laws of purity, by laws of dress, as was the case in the Jews of
the day. OR, as Jesus says, we can let the world know who we are...by the love we have for
one another. Imagine that, in this new kingdom of God, where Jesus breaks all the traditional
rules, and we’re identified not by the signs we carry, but by the love we have for one another.
So, carry your signs when you feel strongly about an issue. Protest against things that you
think are unfair. Advocate for positions on things like social justice, equality, and others. But
first, let others identify you by the love you have for one another. Let others see the love of
God in Christ Jesus first! Let the love of God so shine in your life that others will see your
good works. Thanks be to God. Amen.