I have traded wearing a cross for spoons.
I used to wear them because of my children – thinking about mothering and about the roles that I have as a parent, but they have increasingly become a symbol of my faith.
I still believe in the power of the cross, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that we have stories to hear and to tell about the power of the cross in our lives, but the cross is also a sign of torture and terror. Jesus gave himself willingly over to death, living unapologetically for a vision of the world that was and is based on grace and forgiveness and welcome and love.
And I am on the hunt for a resurrected Jesus. I am searching for the one who shows up in all of the things that he taught about. I am looking for the one who shows up at tables of shared meals and in the feeding of the hungry and in listening to strangers.
As we live in to this Easter season, I keep thinking about the stories where Jesus shows up for his disciples telling them not to be scared, or beginning with “peace be with you’ and then asking for food, or where they are gathered at meals behind locked doors and he shows up out of nowhere and breaks bread with them, or when they are out fishing and he encourages them to try again and they catch a whole bunch of fish and then he asks if they are hungry.
And here, tonight we have a story about shared food through the vision of Peter – pushing against rules that would have us separated from one another God speaks to him and says get up and kill and eat and Peter says, I have never broken the rules about food – but God seems to be showing Peter another way of building community.
I’m not much of a dream interpreter, and I know that dreams can take funny shapes. But this white sheet with the food that goes up and down in Peters’ dream seems to be speaking to Peter and he’s listening. Paying attention to what he believes God might be saying to him.
Now we have to be careful here, because I do not think that this passage encourages us to judge the food rules of another culture or faith tradition – I don’t think that God is telling Peter that keeping kosher is no longer acceptable as a way of honouring God or that we should be trying to change or judge them.
But I think that it might point us as Christians towards a way of being that seeks to help us to make our tables a place of welcome and hospitality.
We have lived for too long in this faith of ours assuming that everyone else had to convert to our particular way of being – as if we could all agree on what our way of being is or was. There are various expressions of Christianity all over the place, some of you have come from very different traditions than the one that you are seated in tonight.
We do seem to agree that Jesus Christ came to us on earth, but as image bearer of God? As prophet? As Messiah and Saviour? Yes – and…. We have variations on a theme in our interpretation of what any of this means for us.
Even in this room I think some interesting conversations could be sparked on who Jesus was alone, never mind by what he said or did or what that means for us in terms of what we should say or do.
And I love that. I love that we would have those conversations – I want us to have those conversations. It is important for us to think deeply about our faith and about what scripture says to us and how we are to live that out in our lives today.
I want us to struggle and argue and wonder together. That is some of what the space following the sermon is all about – I don’t assume that I have the last word – nor should I – nor should you. We are in an evolving conversation about this faith of ours – it began even while Jesus was alive. Think back to the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is in a conversation with his disciples and he asks them: ‘Who do people say that I am?’ and ‘Who do you say that I am’? And Simon Peter replies: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Agreed. Now what? And what do we mean by that?
Well now we keep the conversation going. Now we seek to live into the hospitality that was shown to us by Jesus who shows up again and again at tables and in meals and in the sharing of the abundance that we have.
I have just completed reading Barbara Brown Taylors book: Holy Envy, in which she talks about her experience of teaching a Religion 101 course and how learning about other faith traditions helped to deepen her faith in her own.
She talks about how learning about the tradition and prayer of others at first had her wanting to adopt some of those practices into her own but that as she continued to learn and to watch her students learn, she began to notice how other expressions of faith deepened her understanding of what we have.
Not so that she could convert anyone, but rather it seems to have allowed her to come to a place of making space for others in a way that is genuine and true.
Not wanting to become something else or wanting someone else to become what she is.
I wonder if that’s an invitation for us. How might we deepen our own faith and our own understanding of who God calls us to be through the teachings of Jesus Christ, so that we are making space for others rather than trying to convince them that they must be like us.
It feels like we are living in a time when there are really some loud dominant voices – that conversion and control and making less space for divergent voices feels like a theme – and so I want to make a case for hospitality that is rooted in our teachings through Christian scripture.
I don’t want to let go of the cross altogether at all – but I want us to remember that it was used as a symbol of torture and control – crosses lined the streets as you entered Roman cities to show what happened to people who chose to defy the power of the day.
Jesus gave himself over willingly and did not submit nor did he allow his teachings to change for fear of what would and did happen to him. Rather he continued to speak out.
And then he kept showing up at tables.
Tonight, in Acts we have a story about Peter’s vison of shared food. Of hospitality. ‘The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.’
I want to encourage us to think about what that says to us today in this time and this place. How do we continue to make space for each other and stand against teachings and doctrines that would do the opposite?
And the reading ends with ‘”They praised God saying, Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
What does it look like for us as a community to continue to take a stand for people rather than against one another?
We will continue to affirm our stance for LGBTQ2S+ people, we will continue to make space for the voices of women and their experiences in the world and I hope that we can continue to be a place that takes seriously the calls to Action put out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We have conversations at tables. When we share meals together we have the opportunity to look at each other – the same way that we have to look at one another when we share the bread and the wine with one another and when we stand in a circle up in the chancel. My hope is that we will continue to notice each other. To try to see one another. I pray that we will hear the invitation for us as one of hospitality and welcome.
So I have chosen as a symbol for my faith – spoons. I want to be reminded of the depth of hospitality that I believe my faith in Jesus Christ shows me and pushes me to offer. I want to remember the call to feed the hungry. I want to think about the imagery that Peter offers to us in this reading tonight about sitting at meals with those other than ourselves.
I want to remember the lifegiving opportunity that we have in repentance. That we can repent: we can remember where we got it wrong before and how we might work to make things better now – and then go and do it, because that is what leads us towards life. Not digging in where we are – but being open to that possibility that we might not have been right – our assumptions might be wrong – and then going from there in a way that deepens our love for one another – not pits us against each other.
And we do that by having opportunities to be in conversation with one another where we can listen and be heard, share food and be served and listen for what God might be saying to each of us through the voices of the people around us, in our dreams, in our prayers and through Jesus Christ who is risen and is with us now.