(Set of antique kosher meat dishes from the Jüdisches Museum in Berlin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
I woke up this morning with an odd thought. I woke up thinking, "I am really looking forward to going to the Pink Picnic Sunday."
A little background--The Pink Picnic is the premier LGBT event in Kirksville. (Well, um...it's probably the only LGBT event in Kirksville. If the Pride Parade in St. Louis is the largest LGBT event in the state, the Pink Picnic is the smallest.) It's open to all, but I've only gotten to go once, and even then, I didn't make it until it was almost over, because of a time conflict.
But getting to this place, this place where I look forward to the Pink Picnic, made me think about this reading today in the Daily Office in an interesting way.
It must have been a strange thing for Peter, after having that dream, to actually sit down for the first time and eat something that he had been told all his life was unclean. We are shown in the book of Acts how Peter figuratively takes this dream seriously, and are taught a good lesson in it, but we are not really shown the first time he sat down to a big dinner with a pork chop in the middle of his plate. Did he worry he would gag on it? Did he sort of sniff it suspiciously? Did he eat it gingerly at first and wait to see if he would be sick to his stomach over it? Did he fret the next few days, thinking, "Oh, man, I'll surely die?"
But what I really wonder about was if this happened in the presence of other people, and he sat there, looking around, thinking, "Oh, man...everyone's gonna look at me and think I'm a Gentile."
It reminds me of the first time I attended an LGBT event.
Now, for the record, I'm straight. But as my blog friend Elizabeth once commented to me on Facebook, "If the Lesbian Police came a knockin', you'd be in jail, and I'd walk." (But then she assured me there would be many lesbian chaplains that would come minister to me in my hour of need. LOL)
She's right. Until people get to know me, they make assumptions about my orientation that are not accurate. I've never truly totally worried about it for the most part, other than the fact I never want to "lead anyone on" relationship-wise by accident. It was that fear that delayed making friends with my blog friend Lisa as long as I did. (The laughable moment was discovering she had delayed making friends with me, more or less because she did not want to appear she was "coming on to me," which led to the "How stupid are WE?" conversation, because we are both so connected to the Episcopal Church and the liturgy, and especially bright shiny liturgical objects.
But I remember the first time I actually attended an LGBT event. I wanted to go to support my friends who had invited me. But for the whole day before I did fret on one thing...
"Oh, man, I'm gonna go to this thing, and everyone who sees me is REALLY gonna assume I'm a lesbian now."
But, the fact was I went to the event, had a wonderful time, and met some really, really good people, some of whom I've gotten to know better.
Yet, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I made sure this first experience was outside of Kirksville.
I never really came totally out in the open about locally being a LGBT ally until we did the Taizé service on bullying in October 2010. Locally, I had always been a very quiet ally. I had this notion in my head that going vocal on the topic of bullying gay youth, would just basically draw all this attention to me with my Kirksville friends, and somehow, my Kirksville friends would abandon me. I'd sit and stew that I'd never have any chance at all, the rest of my life, of ever getting a heterosexual date in Kirksville--that no guy would ever have a secret crush on me around here ever again, that some of my friends who are a little more fundamentalist would disown me, that I'd get a rock in my window or flattened tires or some other awful fate.
But two things happened--one about a year prior to October 2010, and one shortly before.
One was that I, like Peter, had a dream--a dream that, although not as cool as his, was still, now that I look at it, rather prophetic and cool.
I dreamed I was watching a parade on Rollins Street in Macon. That's the street all the parades in town end up. I was watching it on the side of the street where the now-defunct St. James Episcopal Church is. As the floats went by, across the other side of the street, was this little gaggle of very stereotypical looking lesbians. (I sort of laugh now that in my dream, they all were wearing comfortable shoes and flannel shirts and were all um...a little chunky.) Well, in my dream, I'm wearing a t-shirt, and I admit, I do always wear comfortable shoes. Even in my dreams.
But as the parade went on, I noticed that the other parade watchers were staring at them with dirty looks. It made me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. So when there was a break in the floats, in my dream I hot-footed across Rollins Street to the "lesbian" side of the street. In my dream, the discomfort didn't abate, because now the "dream lesbians" were staring at me. After all, wasn't I on the side of the street giving dirty looks?
But in this crazy dream, I looked at them and blurted out, "Hey, I just decided I don't want to be on the side of the street doing the staring, and if they want to stare at me now, the hell with them." Then (sit tight--here comes the prophetic moment...) I pointed at the cupola of the old St. James Episcopal Church and said, "I knew if I was standing on the side of the street where I could see the church, it'd be okay. That's the side of the street I want to be on."
That statement woke me bolt upright out of bed.
I thought about that dream a long, long time.
The other story was just prior to our October Taizé service. I was sitting out by the chiminea with one of my friends, and I admitted, "You know, I'm having a funny feeling. I feel really committed to this business of Kirksville being a safe place for GLBT folks. I have been an ally for more GLBT medical students in 20 years than I can shake a stick at. But I'm ashamed to say I'm worried coming out in the foreground on some of this will just get townie people to thinking I'm a lesbian when I really am straight, and alienate me with some really good people."
She looked at me like I had two heads.
"What the hell?" she said. "I hate to tell you this, but 2/3 of Kirksville already thinks you're a lesbian. But nobody's gonna say anything because this is Kirksville and we're all too polite to say it. So you can just get over that one. That train left the station years ago."
"Think of it this way," she continued. "LGBT people walk around town all the time and people assume they're straight. You're not dealing with anything they aren't dealing with, and it's all the more reason why you should be out front. And didn't you tell me you at times have held off befriending lesbians because you didn't want to "lead them on?" Jesus, everyone knows you're this hermit. Neither faction is going to come on to you because you are called to be this single, quirky hermit who is oddly social at times and loves everyone she meets in this really cool, special way, and you are stressing out over this? Man, you kill me. You are the only person I know who worries about alienating straights and gays over who you are, when "who you are" is this cool, one-in-a-million kind of person. You're a trip, did you know that?"
That bluntness created this wonderful, almost instantaneous transformation in me. What I have come to realize I am on a journey in the second half of my life to really be "who I am," and part of this means to fearlessly eat pork chops in the middle of a kosher town square and let everyone else ask the questions and deal with their judgment issues while I have a fulfilling life being the me that God desires to get to know better.
So, it's okay to sniff that pork chop. It's okay for things not to feel kosher at first. But when we do, like Peter, our world expands to fit the size of the kingdom of Heaven.