Revolutionary Relationships

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 16:9-15
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

“Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23, CEB

“If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” Acts 16:15, NRSV

“And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” Revelation 21:10, NRSV

Now hear the good news of the Gospel: God has come to make God’s home among us. This is indeed Good News!

In the reading for last week, God told Peter to “never consider unclean what God has made pure.” Peter interprets his vision for us, saying, “God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.” From this moment on, Gentiles are on the scene to stay. In the lowering of the sheet from Heaven, God reveals that salvation is indeed open to all.

Willie Jennings describes this moment as “a risky time, second only to Good Friday and Holy Saturday, in which God risks with Peter, and Peter risks with God. . . The risk here is found not in believing in new revelations, but in new relationships. The new word that God continues to speak to us is to accept new people, different people that we had not imagined that God would send across our paths and into our lives” (Jennings, 108).

In this week’s reading, Paul follows the Spirit to Phillipi, where, like Peter, he is confronted by a new relationship. Lydia is a wealthy, land-owning woman. Just as God orchestrated the meeting between Cornelius and Peter, God also orchestrated this meeting between Paul and Lydia. It seems God had already been at work preparing a home for the people of God, and showing them that home is in their midst already (and often where they least expect).

A few years ago I had the honor to participate in the wedding of two friends, both of whom are men, and one of whom is transgender. A dozen years ago, I never could have imagined any part of that sentence — that I would be actively participating in a gay wedding, or calling a trans person friend. Nothing from my upbringing in the Church could have prepared me for the kind of friendships I now find myself in as an adult.

God has brought me into relationship with people I never could have imagined — people who, I admit, I once considered impure and unclean.

As it turns out, God is constantly at work in places we don’t expect. Peter, upon waking from his revelation, is immediately confronted with Cornelius. Paul, upon following the spirit, is confronted with Lydia. Gentiles, citizens of the Empire, a land-owning woman — the kind of people that good Jews don’t associate with.

I met my friends over the course of a meal and the sharing of the eucharist. In the breaking of bread and the sharing of a meal, God was confronting me with the kind of relationships I couldn’t imagine, and inviting me to participate in their goodness.

God has come to make God’s home among us. If we, like Peter and Paul, will stop resisting and allow the Spirit to prevail upon us, then we will be surprised and delighted by the many places and peoples where we find God has already made home.

My friend, Rozella Haydée White, names these kinds of worldview-changing relationships as “revolutionary relationships” in her recent book, Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World.

What revolutionary relationship is God orchestrating in your life right now?

Which relationships are you — like Peter, Paul, and myself — resisting?

Are you willing to see the faithfulness in those relationships, and to be prevailed upon to call them home?

*Jennings, Willie J. Acts. Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017.

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