Assaulted By God's Vision
Christopher B. Harbin
We have our preconceived notions for looking at things. On one level, our prejudices help us analyze many things quickly. They allow us to order so much information that assails us. They are often beneficial. We trust a church pew to hold our weight because of our prejudices. We trust every hymnal in our pew racks to contain the very same hymns. We trust our Bibles to contain the same texts and convey essentially the same meaning, despite translation differences. We trust the service to be over in time for lunch, because of notions based on repeated experience. We build perceptions and expectations for life on prejudices, education, and previous experience. We build a vision for our life and future. Then we expect it to hold together.
There are times, however, when our preconceived ideas, our vision of reality, fall apart. Our prejudices don't always hold true. They aren't always helpful.
This week we remembered an event that changed our national prejudices. On September 11, 2001, a vision of security in the United States of America fell to shreds. Many were devastated by the loss of life and limb. Perhaps much more powerful was the rift in our preconceived notions that these United States were inviolable, akin to that all but forgotten "Day that will live in Infamy." Sure, we still harbor memories of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the American psyche, but the shock of that experience had faded over time. Meanwhile, our nation had built a new myth of being impregnable and safe, a fortress somehow protected from the disasters and atrocities of war on foreign shores.
When planes flew into buildings symbolizing the power, wealth, and security of the nation, much more than brick, mortar, and drywall fell apart in clouds of smoke, dust, and ash. More than the 2,996 people died in those attacks. A spark of vibrancy, security, and innocence died as well. That myth of being untouchable died in those coordinated attacks.
We lost something of our national vision. We lost a measure of hope and tranquility. We lost the security offered our lives by the prejudices crafted over years of experience, education, and notions of reality. When our visions of reality slowly shaped over the years were dashed, many did not know how to begin the process of creating a new vision. Few even sought God's vision on which to base our lives and perspectives of reality and worthwhile priorities.
Peter had one of those life-shattering experiences on a rooftop in Joppa. No, there were no planes crashing down, but the foundational structures of his religious perspectives were shattered in a three-pronged attack.
First, there was the vision he received. A sheet came down out of heaven with God's voice calling him no longer to consider the distinctions he knew between clean and unclean animals. That does not seem like a big distinction to our perspective today. For a First Century Je ...
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