Badges? The Spirit don't need no stinking badges!

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In the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, two fortune hunters and would-be gold prospectors, Dobbs and Curtin, head to the Sierra Madre mountain range to prospect for gold.
On the way, they are attacked by various groups of bandits.
In the most famous scene, Dobbs, played by Humphry Bogart, is surrounded by armed men who claim to be Mexican federal police who demand that Dobbs hand over his rifle.
In the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, two fortune hunters and would-be gold prospectors, Dobbs and Curtin, head to the Sierra Madre mountain range to prospect for gold.
On the way, they are attacked by various groups of bandits.
In the most famous scene, Dobbs, played by Humphry Bogart, is surrounded by armed men who claim to be Mexican federal police who demand that Dobbs hand over his rifle.
Dobbs says, "if you are Federales, where are your badges?
To which the leader of the gang responds, "Badges?  We don't need to stinking badges!"
In other words, I don't have to prove anything to you.
I don't have to explain myself to you.
I don't have to justify why I am doing what I am doing.
"We don't need so stinking badges."
Which . .  is pretty much exactly how the Holy Spirit acts in the Book of Acts we have been reading since Easter.
All through this Easter season,  Spirit has been busy smashing through walls and illegally crossing borders.
A few weeks ago, we heard the story about Phillip.
Phillip, who is sent by an God's angel, finds an Ethiopian Eunuch on the road back from Jerusalem reading the prophet Isaiah.
Phillip jumps up into the Eunuch's chariot, and starts talking with him about the Good News of Jesus.
The chariot rolls by some water, and the Ethiopian asks Phillip,  "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?"
Actually, quite a lot might have prevented the Ethiopian from being baptized.
The Ethiopian is a eunuch.
What about that law in Deuteronomy?
As the King James version memorably puts it, "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD."  Deuteronomy 23:1.
NRSV - No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.  
The Ethiopian is not allowed to go into the temple.
The Ethiopian is not allowed to make atonement for his sins.
The Ethiopian cannot be part of the community.
Not because of anything that he did, but because of what was done to him and who he is.
But Phillip did not pay attention to these things.
The Lord's angel sent Phillip on a mission, and Phillip was going to carry it out.
They stopped the chariot, got out, and Phillip baptized the Ethiopian.
Phillip Baptized the Ethiopian and the Holy Spirit came upon them and the Ethiopian "went away rejoicing."
Through Phillip, the Spirit is fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy: (Isaiah 56:3-5)
Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,  “I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever."
The Holy Spirit is bringing us all into the Kingdom of God, no matter matter what laws, traditions, or customs might stand in the way.
The Spirit don't need no stinking badges.
And in today's  from Acts we hear about Peter baptizing Cornelius.
To understand what is going on the the reading, we need a little back story.
Cornelius, is Roman military commander -- a centurion.
A military commander in the despised, pagan, Roman army occupying a subjugated Judea.
Cornelius, who lived in Caesarea, the Roman military capital city named for the emperor.
Caesar.
Now Cornelius is a good and just man.
Cornelius cares for the people, prays to God all the time, and gives money to the poor.
But Cornelius is definitely not Jewish.
An angel visits Cornelius, and the Angel tells him that God has heard his prayers.
The angel tells Cornelius to send his men to find Peter in the neighboring town of Joppa.
Cornelius' men find Peter, who has just had a vision.
In the vision, the Spirit shows Peter a sheet -- a kind of menu -- filled with all kinds of animals.
Including pigs, horses, reptiles, shellfish.
The Spirit tells Peter -- go ahead and eat all of these animals.
To which Peter responds, no, I can't eat those animals.
I am not allowed to eat those animals under the law of Moses.
Those animals are profane and unclean.
Which was a real problem for following Jesus.
Jesus' whole program is gathering people together, sitting down with people, and eating.
Eating with everyone and anyone.
So if Peter could only go and eat with people who kept the law of Moses when it came to what was being served--well, that leaves out a whole lot of people.
Both Jewish people who did not have the means to comply with the law and everyone else in the world who had different food traditions -- including all of us sitting here today.
Peter tells the Holy Spirit, no he can't eat those animals.
Peter tells Holy Spirit he can't eat that kind of food.
Peter tells the Holy Spirit, I can't eat with those kind of people.
It's against the rules.
To which the Holy Spirit replies:
Badges?  The Spirit don't need no stinking badges!
Or, more precisely, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’
But both mean the same thing.
Don't let your understanding of the rules -- even God's rules -- let you shut out anyone from the love of God.
So after God shows Peter what is on the menu three times, Cornelius' men knock on Peter's door.
The Holy Spirit tells Peter to get up and go with these gentile men and not to make any distinction between them and Jewish Christians like Peter.
So Peter goes with with some of his friends and the men sent by Cornelius, and all of them -- Jew and Gentile together--make their way to Caesaria and Cornelius' house.
The gentile house of Cornelius the Roman military commander, which no good Jewish boy like Peter should go into because the house itself was ritually unclean.
And also, no good Jewish boy would want to go into because good things usually did not happen to you when a commander in an occupying army asks you over to talk.
But Peter listens and is obedient to the Spirit, and goes into Cornelius' house.
Cornelius then tells Peter all about how the angel told Cornelius to look for Peter and ask him to come to Cornelius' house.
Peter then starts talking about Jesus.
Peter tells everyone the good news about how Jesus is God, became a human being like us, taught us, loved us, and suffers with us, and completed his fully human life by dying for us.
And Peter told everyone in the house how Jesus rose from the dead, broke the chains of death allowing us to enter eternal life, and sent the Spirit to continue to teach us and guide us to be Jesus' hands and feet on Earth today.
"While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word."
"The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God."
"Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing the gentiles who had received the Holy Spirit?
In other words, if the Holy Spirit has filled these gentiles, is there any reason why they should not be brought into the one community of Jesus followers?
Yes, lots of reasons.
They were not ethnically Jewish.
They ate illegal food.
They were part of an army that took part in pagan rituals.
They were occupiers of Peter and Jesus' country.
But the Spirit had chosen Cornelius and Cornelius' household.
Badges?  The Spirit don't need no stinking badges!
Who was Peter to keep people from God's love whom the Spirit had called to be God friends.
"So [Peter] ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they invited [Peter] to stay for several days."
The Book of Acts tells us about the early beginning of the Church, and the Book of Acts also tells us about what the the Holy Spirit was like then and what the Holy Spirit is like today.
The Holy Spirit is a troublemaker, a disturber of our small little worlds, and breaker of our small-minded and sometimes petty understandings of how God wants us to live and be.
Whenever we try to contain the Holy Spirit with detailed rules about who is in and who is out with God, who is loved and who is not loved by God, the Spirit overflows all of our human containers and acts outside of them.
The Spirit saw her church supporting slavery by referencing St. Paul's writings out of context.
The Spirit overflowed this too-small container.
The Spirit worked through abolitionist groups outside the church that eventually converted the church itself to the Church's own Gospel of dignity for every human being.
The Spirit saw her church denying women a leadership role both in the church and in the larger society, again pointing to scripture out of context.
The Spirit overflowed this too-small container.
The Spirit through women's suffrage groups and feminist groups to allow women the right to vote, to work, and in our and many denominations the ability to serve as priests, pastors, teachers, and religious.
The Spirit sees her church and society today excluding sexual minorities like the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Excluding gay, lesbian, and transgendered people from full participation in the life of the church and from equal rights in society.
But the Spirit is in the process over overflowing this too small container right here and right now, in our own time.
The Spirit sees her Church and society ignoring the environment and climate change, taking language, again taking scripture out of context and confusing our relationship with the rest of God's creation.
But the Spirit is overflowing this too-small container now also, as the church takes up her responsibility as a voice and a steward of God's non-human creation.
And the great good news is that the Spirit will continue to lead us as God's people in the future.
Lead us, surprise us, and surely ask us to include and love God's people and God's creation in new ways that will challenge our understandings and make us very uncomfortable.
But the Spirit is the Spirit, and blows where She wills to please the Lord.
"Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
The answer is no.
None of us can cling to our rules, our customs, and our understandings to exclude people whom the Spirit loves.
And the Spirit loves every single human being and all of God's creation, down to the smallest part.
Badges?  The Spirit doesn't need no stinking badges.
Amen.

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