Well, folks, we’ve got a weird one.
This scripture from the Book of Acts is one of the more bizarre episodes in the Bible, and we’ve got a lot to choose from.
Peter has this vision of a sheet full of live animals being lowered down from heaven before him, with “four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air,” and he is commanded to kill and eat them.
Reptiles? Really? An angel commands him to kill and eat snakes and lizards?
Sounds more like a bad acid trip than a manifestation of God.
But I was thinking also it may be the first occurrence of a venerable church tradition: the church picnic.
Both my parents were raised Southern Baptist.
My mother was raised in a university Southern Baptist church, right off the campus of Baylor in Waco. They were very sober, respectable, pillar of the community types, and based on her descriptions of the services, were the closest thing to high church Baptists I can picture.
My father’s church, however…well, to begin with it was called Confederate Avenue Baptist Church, and if that doesn’t sum up the Old South I don’t know what does.
And Confederate Avenue was an old-fashioned, sawdust on the floor, traveling preacher, week-long revivals in the summer type of church.
The hellfire and damnation preaching was so intense, my father says, that he got saved two or three times just to be sure.
And at my father’s church, there was a regular phenomenon called “chicken on the grounds.” “Chicken on the grounds,” from what I can tell, was a combination outdoor coffee hour and church picnic that happened every Sunday.
This was also the type of church for which the noon meal was only halftime, there was church that night as well, with some kind of educational program for the kids called “Training Union” that still makes my parents shudder to remember it.
So at chicken on the grounds, my father says, everyone would sit down at the tables out in the yard. Continue reading