“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.’” Acts 10:13-14 (NRSV)
One of the aromas emanating from a kitchen that really gets my mouth salivating is the frying of bacon. Put that smell in the mountains and it almost has me drooling. I love apple wood, cherry wood or hickory wood smoked or corn cob smoked bacon! I want my bacon cooked, so all of the fat is crisp. I enjoy seeing the strips flat and stretched out, so I can monitor better the amount I consume. When they are crisp but all curled up, it is easier for me to eat many more slices than I need, never more than I want!
If it is not my favorite sandwich, it is certainly one that I prepare most often. Ham and cheese! The ham may be Black Forest, brown sugared, honeyed or smoked. The cheese may be Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Swiss. I really enjoy my ham and cheese sandwiches, which I often have for lunch. A Monte Cristo Sandwich makes a good dinner selection!
Early on in the history of the Jews, God issued some dietary laws to the Israelites for their safety and well-being. These kosher laws identified creatures that were clean and unclean. The unclean creatures were not to be consumed for food. In Leviticus 11:4, 7 we read, “… you are not to eat of … the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making it a split hoof, it does not chew the cud, it is unclean to you.” If I were a Jew and if I adhered to the kosher laws I would be denied those porcine pleasures! Can you imagine our lives with no bacon, no ham, no pork chops, no pulled pork barbecue, and no sausage! It is hard for me to imagine, for as a Southerner, I have long enjoyed the other white meat in its various forms.
In our scripture lesson today, the Apostle Peter is given a vision. He sees a sheet filled with all kinds of four footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Peter hears a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Upon seeing this vision and having long adhered to the kosher laws, Peter responds, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Peter resists these instructions and he hears the voice again. Interestingly enough, it takes three times for Peter to accept the message.
More than just learning that foods previously identified as unclean for Jews were now made clean for Jewish Christians to consume, Peter learns that he no longer needs to refrain from associating with Gentiles. In Acts 10:28, we read that Peter said, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” No longer was Peter prohibited from eating pork and no longer was he forbidden to have contact with Gentiles, in this instance Cornelius, his family and friends, who had been gifted with the Holy Spirit.
In His life and ministry, Jesus modeled that we should not refrain from having contact with people who might be viewed as unclean: the woman caught in adultery, the wounded man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the woman at the well, tax collectors and sinners. By showing them the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, they too may come to believe and be gifted with the Holy Spirit!
Creator God, thank You for all of the wonderful foods You have provided for us to eat. Thank You for teaching us to show the love and compassion of Jesus to all, Amen.