“Living with arms wide open”

David Rust commenting on “Radical Welcome” by Stephanie Spellers – CHURCH PUBLISHING INC. Kindle Edition.

I am proposing the following format to get discussion started on this blog. I will summarize in a few sentences a section of the book “Radical Welcome” and then add a few questions or comments of my own. Then, after you have read the same section, you are invited to post your comments on this blog related to the section of the book being discussed. I’d appreciate it if we avoided stating an opinion without knowing the context of the comments from the book. I trust that as we consider the book, we all remain open to the to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to possibly lead us to new insights rather than simply restating what we believed on the topic prior to reading the book. And so……

Pages 41 – 49: “Living with arms wide open”

“So much of our time in church is spent maintaining and protecting: buildings, doctrines, traditions, plans, expectations […]. But what if that is not our call at all? What if […] the love of Christ is actually supposed to free us, to make us imaginative and resilient and fearless enough to go wherever the God of transformation would have us go? What if closing the door to change, something we might have done out of love for our traditions and communities, actually closes the door to the Spirit of God?
Does this mean anything goes, that God revels in chaos? Absolutely not. For millennia Christians have spoken of God’s plan to draw all of creation back into union with the divine will. That requires movement. And movement of any kind is change. If our natural orientation, or certainly the orientation of our institutions, is to resist change and movement, then something has to give […].God needs a free church that defines itself as a community of humble, courageous, flexible disciples who are truly willing to surrender all. Why? Because God is a God of surprises, and our best posture in following and serving God is one of openness and receptivity.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even for those who dropped their nets and followed Christ, the spiritual practice of staying open to God and open to The Other was far from intuitive. In Acts 11, some circumcised believers confronted Peter, frustrated that uncircumcised Gentiles had been accepted as part of the community. To ease their anxiety, he relates the story of his own dramatic conversion and opening. Once, in a dream, he saw unclean animals spread on a sheet coming down from heaven, and heard God commanding him to kill and eat the beasts. He dutifully replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The reply came from heaven: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (Acts 11: 8-9). At that very moment, he awakened to find several Gentiles at his door, begging him to come and baptize a Gentile household in Casearea [sic]. He knew the message from God was about freedom: the freedom to go to this household, the freedom to trust that the Holy Spirit was already there, the freedom to be as radically welcoming as God.”

David’s comments:

I was particularly caught by the example of Peter ….. a devout Jew, absolutely certain that the Hebrew Scriptures called for NOT eating certain animals – that these were absolutely unclean and forbidden. Yet God himself stated, ‘Never consider unclean what God has made pure.’ (Common English Bible). What an uproar must have surged through Peter’s mind and spirit at this dream.

Beyond that, Peter used this dream as an example of God’s new expectations; expectations that the early church should expand to allow the “unclean” Gentiles into the church. Peter expected the early church to turn their Jewish training and tradition upside down, at first, only on the basis of Peter’s dream!

Think of it! If a preacher today stated something similar, there would be lots of controversy!

I wonder what conversations the early church had over this new revelation?! Did they feel they were letting down their background by being open to the possibility God was actually telling them something new? Did they think Peter spoke with the voice of God, or as a misguided fool? And yet we know that the early church did change to allow “the Other” into it.

Radical, indeed!

Your thoughts?

David

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1 Comment

  1. Andrea

     /  Monday July 15th, 2013

    I agree with Spellers that letting go of dearly held ideas takes surrender to the voice and will of God. As she says, it is conversion. A very Christian thing!
    And I would add that like all surrender and conversion, this change (in Peter, in us) takes trust – trust that it is God who is calling, trust that we will be okay if we go into new, unknown territory. And we can trust God: He is love, and He does not want us to act out of fear.

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