In this episode, we're looking at the story of Peter and Cornelius from Acts 10, which you can read in full by clicking here.
This story, and its broader implications in the book of Acts, is an important text for those who believe that the church should be a place of inclusion. It's not only Cornelius and his household who have a conversion experience in this story -- it's also Peter, and eventually the whole church, who undergo a conversion to include people who previously would have been excluded from the community. And importantly, as I try to highlight in this podcast, this only happens because Peter actually journeys with and converses with Gentiles -- with those who previously would have been excluded. We can't interpret texts and discuss issues of inclusion without being in conversation, and sharing the journey, with those who are being "talked about." People's stories are central to our communal task of interpretation.
There are a lot of great examples of interpretive work on this story. One that's been very meaningful to me comes from the very first chapter of James Alison's excellent and accessible book, On Being Liked (Crossroad Publishing, 2004).
In the podcast, I mention a Henri Nouwen quote, about solitude and monkey brain. That quote is from a book called The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (HarperOne, 1981). Here's a bit more of that quote, from pg. 27-28, about the many distractions that arise whenever we try to sit in solitude and prayer, which I think is quite relevant to Peter's dreams of bacon and our own struggles with prayer:
In order to understand the meaning of solitude, we must first unmask the ways in which the idea of solitude has been distorted by our world. We say to each other that we need some solitude in our lives. What we really are thinking of, however, is a time and a place for ourselves in which we are not bothered by other people, can think our own thoughts, express our own complaints, and do our own thing, whatever it may be. For us, solitude most often means privacy....[But]....As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive -- or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation. Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory.Questions or comments about this week's episode, or about fooling with scripture in general? Send me an email by clicking here.
Like this episode? Want to support this kind of work? Become a patron by clicking here!