Our lections for this week feel like we are building to a climax. The phrase that sums up this week for me is, “We’re not in Kansas any more.”
This reading from Acts is one of my favourites. I love the imagery, the surprise, Peter’s mistaken arrogance (“nothing unclean will ever touch my lips”) and God’s declaration that God and God alone claims what is clean and unclean. It is a reading that gives the preacher permission to explore and challenge our ways of life that we have come to idolize, that we have made sacrosanct. It is good to remember with the end of this reading that, because the early church was open to the change of the Holy Spirit, many of us are Christians today, because this was the inspirational moment to open the church to Gentiles.
In our reading from the Revelation we take quite a jump through the vision until we are almost at the end. The lectionary sticks with the familiar parts of Revelation, often read at funerals. For me, the key verse that changes everything is v. 3, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 CEB). This incarnational understanding of God is so uniquely Christian and makes the vision of Revelation not only something to imagine one day in the future, but seeing the kingdom as being present among us today.
There is a sadness to our gospel reading as Jesus prepares the disciples to say goodbye. He leaves them with words which are truly meant for the present and the future, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35 CEB).
What message will be in your community on Sunday?