Readings: Psalm 27; Isaiah 4:2-6; Acts 11:1-18
“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…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?” [Acts 11:11-17, NRSV]
Every year, my father’s mother gave him the same Christmas gift: underwear. When I asked her why, she just said that it saved him the trouble of buying something that was important but not particularly fun. Other every-single-year gifts she gave: a AAA membership renewal, the latest Hallmark ornament in the series, and maple sugar candy. Everyone knew these were somewhere under the tree, or in an envelope among the tree’s branches. There were always other gifts for my father and the other recipients of these perennial presents, but I can’t recall them. It’s only the repeated gifts I remember.
That’s true of the gifts my sister and I got for Christmas, too. The years that we got the same thing (1976: gauchos and matching sweaters; 2010: crock pot; 2019: battery operated flickering candles, complete with a remote control) I recall, the others I do not. There’s something about seeing someone else gifted with the same thing that insures that it sticks in my memory.
Perhaps that’s why it was so important for Peter to see the Caesareans receiving the same thing he and his friends got from God: he’d remember it. The vision of a banquet coming down from heaven may not have stuck if it hadn’t been followed by Peter seeing someone else get the same gift he got. If God gave the same Spirit to strangers with foreign ways, then God must love them as much as friends who share the same customs and beliefs. Same gift=same regard.
Maybe seeing someone with the same gift makes it not just possible but likely that I will not hinder God’s plans. Perhaps I’ll even dare to help.