Forming Faith Blog

Radical Inclusion (May 5, 2019)

God's radical inclusion of all in Peter's vision of food (image of traditional Filipino dishes).

As we are continuing in the Easter season, we now encounter a story that exemplifies the Great Commission. God calls us to take God’s greatest promise in Jesus and share it with the world.

A Jewish Beginning

This story is a key event in the life of the early church. Jesus was the Jewish messiah, the fulfillment of the promises God made to the chosen, Jewish, people. The first followers of Jesus were Jewish, and, with few exceptions, Jesus only ministered to Jews. Christianity (before it was so named) was a Jewish movement. But, the question was: what about the Gentiles? Would this Jesus movement be marked by exclusion or inclusion?

Set Apart

One of the themes in the Hebrew Bible is that Israel was God’s chosen people, and they were not to be like the people around them. This separateness was a defining characteristic (or was supposed to be) of a holy people. This specialness was not intended to promote the exclusion of people based on national origin. This nation was to be a holy priesthood for the sake of the world.

Covenantal Community

God’s chosen people were unique in that they were included in the covenant God made at Mount Sinai. More than lineage, it was this covenantal community that made the nation separate. People were born into the nation, but it was the covenant, represented by the Torah, and fulfilled by obedience to it, that made them part of God’s community, God’s kingdom.

Us vs. Them

However, like with many differences between people, this distinction became clearly about “us” versus “them.” In our time, there is a lot of division related to language, race, nationality, immigration status, political views, and most other differences we humans can distinguish (or create). Even, and especially, this exclusion can be found in religion, within Christianity, and in our own congregations.

Radical Inclusion

But then we hear the Great Commission in Matthew, echoed in the commission given by the ascending Jesus in Acts 1:8. God is expanding the covenantal community, the kingdom of God, to include all people, Jew or Gentile. This radical inclusion contradicted the culture of exclusion that defined God’s people for so long. Something had to change.

And, so something did. God chose Peter, the leader of the Twelve, to receive a vision and connect with a Gentile. This Gentile is even a representative of the Roman Empire who was oppressing the Jews. God created a connection that made clear that the expansion of the kingdom and the radical inclusion of all people takes precedence over those things that separate us.

A Multisensory Feast

One of the great things about this story of Peter’s vision and the Roman centurion is the teaching opportunities it affords. A variety of foods is the content of the vision itself. Food is a favorite topic of our young disciples (and our older ones as well). Bring this story to life and engage the senses of your participants by including food in your faith formation. Have small groups discussion the oddest food they have eaten or heard of. Display pictures of different foods. Or, arrange a
a variety of dishes from around the world for participants to try!

Body Prayer

Another way to connect participants with the story, and with faith practices, is to help them pray like Peter. Our free activity this week “Rooftop Prayer” directs participants to imagine climbing a ladder to pray on a rooftop like Peter. This activity is from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum and is optimized to that audience. However, all ages can benefit from using their imaginations, and their bodies, to pray, and so you can adapt this idea to many different settings.

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

The season of Easter is here! However, it’s not too late to order Spring Living the Word faith formation resources (covering Lent through Pentecost Sunday)! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the materials and start using them!

Year 2 (2019-2020) products have launched! Check out the announcement blog post for more details! All products are ready to order, and you can see which product quarters are available for immediate download on our Release Dates web page.

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence. The 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence are still available to download, too!