On Sunday at 07:30 Marianne opened the front door and stepped out into the morning sunshine. Looking around her she noticed three big men coming up the drive carrying a heavy weight on a pallet. They completed their approach, and apologising for the early delivery, announced that they had brought a stork to us. Reflecting that it was usually the stork that did the delivery, Marianne went in to the kitchen where I was just making coffee and told me about the men and the bird. My job was now to finish the transaction by guiding them to the stork’s nest in the grounds. We chatted, they had strength, and good hearts.
Later we sat in the chapel and heard the story from Acts about Peter, who after a vision of a cloth lowered from heaven was visited by three men calling him elsewhere. Peter was recounting to his fellow believers how God had opened the door of salvation to those outside the Jewish faith.
As I was reading this passage aloud to us all I noticed the number three again, several times, and when I got to the words, “the Holy Spirit fell on them” I had to pause before being able to read on.
When we reflected on this story afterwards, someone noticed that the three men were a reminder of the visit to Abraham’s camp of the three who brought the news of the coming of their son Isaac.
A key element of our chapel services is the sharing of leadership in reading the liturgy and reflecting on our Scripture readings together. As we shared in reading the liturgy on Sunday I noticed how important it is for us to hear one another's voices, and for each one to be heard. We remind each other of God’s presence with us. On my own, I would not have made the connection to the three men who appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre, who are introduced like this in Genesis 18:1
“God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing…”
I was reminded of this story by Anthony de Mello:
A guru asked his disciples how they could tell when the night had ended and the day begun.
One said, “when you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a cow or a horse.”
“No”, said the guru.
“When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is a neem tree or a mango tree.”
“Wrong again.” said the guru.
"Well, then, what is it?” asked the disciples.
"When you look into the face of any man and recognise your brother in him, when you look into the face of any woman and recognise in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun it is still night.”
On reflection, I believe that the stork brought the men to us and not the other way around.
The Lord be with you.
Acts 11:7-18 (The Message) 7-10 “Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Master. I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t kosher.’ The voice spoke again: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky.
11-14 “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbour, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for.’
15-17 “So I started in, talking. Before I’d spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. I remembered Jesus’ words: ‘John baptised with water; you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?”
18 Hearing it all laid out like that, they [the Jewish believers who were doubtful about the gospel going to the Gentiles] quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life.”