Those People: Heretic’s Guide Sampler for Sunday, April 28th Texts

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Bible Cliff’s Notes (My dog ate my Bible!)

Gospel

John 13:31-35
Jesus knows his disciples want to go with him, but where he is going, they can’t follow. Instead he commands them to love each other as he has loved them. He reminds them that the way people will recognize them as disciples of Jesus is by how generously they love.

First Reading

Acts 11:1-18
Peter is criticized for hanging out with uncircumcised gentiles (i.e., non-Jews). God’s command, in a vision to Peter, is “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” The Holy Spirit tells peter to go with gentiles, “and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

Psalm

Psalm 148
A song of praise for all creatures of the earth and all people, old, young, meek, powerful, male, female, with no distinction. Though interestingly, the next-to-last line mentions God raising a “horn” of strength, salvation (and by some accounts, even royalty) for the chosen people of Israel.

Second Reading

Revelation 21:1-6
A vision of a new heaven, a new earth and a new Jerusalem. When this vision becomes reality, death and suffering will end; all things will be made new.

WTF? (Breaking down scripture in plain language)

Horn – A symbol used a lot in the Bible, generally representing strength, salvation, and sometimes even royalty. Jesus is referred to as the “Horn of Salvation,” and in this Psalm, it speaks of God raising such a horn for God’s people.

Gentile – A term generally used by the Jewish people to refer to any non-Jew. It indicated someone was an outsider, an “other,” and outside of God’s special favor, reserved for the people of Israel.

Joppa – a city in Israel now called Yafo. This is the town where Peter resurrected Dorca, Tabitha’s sister. It is a port town, where the “cedars of Lebanon” reportedly came in for both the first and second temple of Solomon. It was a mishmash of Jewish and non-Jewish culture, having been occupied by the Phoenicians (Greeks), Romans, and even the Jewish Macabbean tribe.

Navel-Gazing (First Thoughts)

  • Tribal identity is a big deal in this part of the world back in Biblical times. Different factions were constantly fighting over territory, and many ruling authorities had a nasty habit of enslaving the conquered people, or worse. So it wasn’t just a matter of difference; there was real, time-tested historic hatred for each other among many different cultures. So when Peter talks about going among the Gentiles, and making no distinction between God’s chosen people of Israel and the so-called pagan outsiders, this was a pretty radical (and probably unpopular) concept.
  • There’s an interesting tension in Peter’s vision about what is “clean” and “unclean.” Of course, in the dream, he describes animals in particular, which would have referred to the types of animals Jews could not eat under traditional kosher law.  But through this vision, Peter is told by God that those old lines of clean/dirty, Jew/Gentile, insider/outsider no longer apply. This is very similar to a better known scripture written later by Paul in Galatians 3:28, where he says, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free…” etc.

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About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.


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