As Pentecost is only 2 weeks away no mentioning of the Holy Spirit, although there's an interesting Holy Spirit occurrence in this reading from Acts. So, only a short notice on this event when the Holy Spirit fills people before they were baptised. It adds to a confusion about a theology of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit comes on people before they were baptised and after they were baptised. Not to mention events when the Holy Spirit fell on people without any reference to a baptism, like in Acts 2.
But today is also Rogation Sunday. Rogation Sunday, always celebrated on the 5th Sunday of Easter, is when the farmers asked for a blessing on their wheat.
Traditionally the parishioners were going round the boundaries of the parish to inspect the boundary stones and pray for the protecting of their parish for the coming year. Although, an important part of the rogation walk was to find out whether farmers had illegally blocked bridle paths or other public footpaths by building on or taking those for their crops. Some things never change...
During the reign of Elizabeth I, in a book of homilies for the Elizabethan church, it is described how the Rogation, or perambulation of the boundaries, was to remember town and other communal boundaries in a social and historical context, with extra emphasis on the stability gained from lawful boundary lines.
So, Rogation Sunday is about keeping the boundaries straight and a similar things is happening here at our reading in Acts 10. The whole chapter is about trespassing boundaries as they were set in the past. The chapter began with Peter having a vision in which he is asked to eat these things which were forbidden by Jewish religious laws.
Peter had to draw new boundary lines of what he thought to be good or wrong. This wasn’t easy for Peter, because he was born and raised in a Jewish environment that kept itself close to the law of Moses and other regulations set out by the religious leaders of his time.
One of the most important religious laws for the Jews was and is, keeping themselves to the religious law on food. Even today, orthodox Jews kept themselves strict to what they are allowed to eat and what not. E.g. Orthodox Jews should have 2 cookers, so they cannot cross meat with milk.
So, when Peter said: I will not eat what is forbidden, it just indicates how much he obeyed the religious orders on food and how important it was for him.Crossing this boundary meant a lot for Peter and a complete renewing of his thinking and of his religious interpretations.
And today, in our own situations, we could very well be confronted with similar questions in our Christian faith. it seems we all set our own boundaries and have differences in opinion of what is good or wrong. For the one it could be a simple thing like keeping the Sunday as a day of rest, or not eating chocolate for Lent for another it can be deep seated Christian convictions.
The big problem we’re facing in this day and age however, is whether we believe it is possible to be challenged in our own convictions, in the same way as Peter was.
Will God do a new thing, which throws away all what we always believed or think what is very important to our faith? And if that so, how do we recognise it is from God?
Over the centuries, especially in the first few centuries of Christianity, many church fathers and other theologians have been wrestling with the same question.
The answer they found was to restrict all new teachings and Christian interpretation to new ideas in society to be checked or measured by the so called canon (kanoon in Greek means measuring stick). They called both the OT and NT together as the canon and made it God’s final and complete revelation of Himself once and for all. No more new teachings about God could be added to it.
The RC did not fully agree with that, but believed that their Concili or Counsels bear the same weight as the canon, and take them both as authoritive teaching. But, being part of the CofE, a Church from the Reformation, we keep what is written in the canon as final.
Consequently, every new teaching or interpretation of how society develops is measured by what is written in the canon.
Here now lays the greatest challenge, because we could all read something different in how we interpret the canon. Do we take the canon at face value or do we mix it with our own ideas, feelings or even emotions? And how far can someone interpret a standard set of beliefs differently? Does someone believe to be allowed to move beyond what is written in the canon and add new things to it? Is a change of ethics and moral in society a reason to change the canon, based on interpreting the set rules and regulations?
I will be very careful with sharing my opinion on that, because before we know it we break up in many differrent sections of Christinaity. Perhaps this the reason why we count about 45,000 different Christian denominations today.
But in all such discusions, one thing can never be changed or adapted. And that is the centre of our Christian faith which is Jesus Christ Himself. In all our differences in opinion, interpretation, explanation and beliefs of our faith, Jesus Christ has to remain the Centre. He must remain the focus of what we believe and build our hope upon. Jesus Christ the Foundation and Corner Stone and eternal hope for all who put their trust in Him.