24 October 2019

Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Our reading today is Acts 10:1-16

Our reading today is v13-16:

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.


It’s said that Bishop Salmon, the former Bishop of South Carolina, used to have a saying: ‘never trust anybody who doesn’t like dogs’.

I like dogs. We have a dog. But I was staggered to learn recently that dog owners in the UK spent a whopping £57bn in 2018 on their dogs. On average a dog owner spends £3000 a year on their dog – I repeat, £3000 a year – which includes (apparently) paying for people to walk them, train them, groom them and then for people to actually sit with them while the owners are at work. It’s incredible. And according to the Daily Mirror, half of all UK dog owners allow their dogs to sleep in their bed – what a thought! This got me thinking. I remember hearing once that at the time of Jesus – one of the things that grossed out Jewish people was that the Roman occupying forces during the winter months allowed their dogs to sleep in their beds for extra warmth.

This reason for their disgust revealed a deep divide in Palestine at the time of the New Testament between Jewish people and Gentiles (non Jews). It’s really hard to convey just how divided their society was. A dog sharing a bed with a Roman soldier was a symbol to the average Jew of everything that was wrong with their world. Occupying forces – doing gross (in their view, unholy) things in a land that was deeply sacred to them.

Therefore it’s really hard to put into words, as we journey through the book of Acts, just how significant chapter 10 really is – a turning point – from now, Gentiles are to be included in the family of God. We meet Cornelius. He’s a Roman soldier – a centurion. He probably led at least 100 men. He’s a man of great influence and what’s interesting is that he’s adopted certain Jewish customs. He prays to God – in fact his whole household does – he gives money to the poor, and although he’s respected – he’s not accepted. He’s still an outsider. He’s a non-Jew. A Gentile – he’s outside of the covenant. The Jews at the time had a name for people like him – a dog. Some really religious people wouldn’t share hospitality with Cornelius – wouldn’t have him in their home. Why? He’s unclean and by association he could make you unclean.

It happens today in different parts of the world. Whether it be blatant racism or apartheid in South Africa in the past. I was once on a mission in Northern Ireland 18 years ago. I witnessed a wonderful Anglican Vicar talking to a man on the streets. It was all cordial until he discovered the Vicar was, well, Anglican. He refused to shake the Vicar’s hand because he was Presbyterian. Made no sense to me at all.

That’s why Jesus’ approach to welcome and hospitality is so radically different and how earth shatteringly controversial he was and why he made such a stir by sitting and eating with people who were considered unclean outsiders.

As Cornelius prays, an angel appears to him and instructs him to connect with Peter. He sends his men to Simon the Tanner’s house to find Peter. Then in a remarkable encounter the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and revealed all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds and then the voice said ‘Get up Peter. Kill and eat.’

This is so radical. This is a break with Jewish culture and custom. It’s a turning point in the life and mission of the early church. Peter was to eat meat that was previously considered not kosher. In verse 16 we’re told the vision happened 3 times which in Hebrew culture means it’s ratified. The significance of the food reveals that God is wanting to include non-Jewish people, Gentiles – dogs – outsiders – into the growing new family of God the church.

This was a big deal. The Jewish Christians wanted to preserve their culture but it meant that was it exclusive to people outside. When we operate in ‘preservation mode’ it means that we can try and avoid anything that might seemingly threaten us. The Lord was calling the church away from ‘preservation mode’ to a generosity attitude – one of welcome and embrace and inclusion.

Sometimes unhealthy fear can be behind the desire to preserve. Trust in God and a confidence in him naturally lends itself to generosity which leads to welcome.

Whatever situations we face today – wherever possible, let’s pray that the Lord helps us choose generosity.


Father thank you for your wonderful and incredible grace. Help us to share that with those around us.


READING: Acts 10:1-16

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, ‘Cornelius!’

Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked.

The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.’

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following 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 the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’

The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.