There is a lot to love about Pirates Cove in Josephine, Alabama. Legend has it that the hamburger served as the muse for Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The Bushwackers are legendary and poured with a strong hand by just friendly enough barkeeps. The beach is littered with boats of all shapes, sizes, and seaworthiness. But my favorite part of Pirates Cove is the eclectic clientele. On any given afternoon, you can find yourself enjoying a cheeseburger and a cold beer next a penniless alcoholic, a college student looking for a bit too much fun, a family of four trying to keep it all together, and a multi-millionaire. It is the sort of crowd that would have made the circumcised believers in Jerusalem pretty uncomfortable.
In the culture of first century Palestine, eating with someone was the sign of an intimate friendship. With elaborate washing rituals, a general lack of understanding around food born illnesses, reclining on the floor next to each other, and eating without silverware, you can imagine that one might be careful when deciding on what and with whom you are going eat. When the leadership in Jerusalem hears that Peter has been eating foods considered unclean with people who are considered unclean, we can imagine that they get pretty nervous, pretty quickly.
“Why do you eat with them?”
Peter’s response is a risky one, both in his era and in ours: “The Spirit told me to make no distinction between them and us.” The tendency to overindulge in frosty cold alcoholic beverages notwithstanding, it seems to me that Peter is suggesting that the Kingdom of God is like Pirates Cove. It is a place where the only distinction that gets made is between those who choose fries over the delicious onion rings. People of all socioeconomic stripes gather together and eat with one another, sharing the commonality of our shared status as children of God, enjoying the fruit of God’s good creation on a beautiful piece of sandy back bay beachfront property. Does your community have a place like Pirates Cove? A place like Cornelius’ house? A place where all can come together with the potential energy of the Holy Spirit to change a people and build the kingdom?