Yesterday’s reading introduced a “foreigner,” a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, into Luke’s account of how the church and faith grew. Cornelius is devote and God fearing, seeking truth. In a vision he is instructed to send for Peter who is 30 miles south on the coast at Joppa. Luke is letting us see a major moment, a major shift in spiritual development.
Peter is going about life as normal but since it is lunchtime and he is hungry, he waits while the meal is prepared as he is the guest. Life as normal, right! Luke tells us Peter fell into a trance. Perhaps we would say, he drifted off into deep thought and reflection. We do this when we are deeply pondering something, perhaps a family crisis, perhaps a wayward child, perhaps an upcoming speaking engagement. Our mind strays. Peter had a vision about eating food that he knew was prohibited to Jews. In the vision God tells him to eat and Peter protests. Peter is interacting with God about what feels like an instruction! In Peter’s vision, God is approachable! God responds, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Now that is a little vague at its best. We know the end of the story and how dietary laws have evolved but Peter did not. He did not have all the cooking TV shows we have that challenge our sense of what is appropriate to eat or even what items are appropriate to combine together Peter has been presented with information “outside the box.” He must figure out how to interpret the vision.
I would suggest that spiritual growth sometimes occurs like this. Our mind wanders and engages with something seemingly different and outside the box of our faith understanding and we are challenged to rethink our basic understanding. Sickness often challenges us with the question of why good people suffer. War challenges us as I hear people reflecting, “What did we do to deserve to be attacked?” Accidents force us to regroup.
Peter did not understand and was pondering when the messengers from Cornelius appear at the door. Often we don’t understand immediately but as the question lingers in our thinking, gradually God may unfold a situation that forces a growth in our understanding and in our relationship with God and with others. When those questions challenge us, may we not close our thinking but hang in there with the discovery process. Spiritual growth may be a sudden insight but often it is an unfolding process that requires us to live into the insight. Blessings as you work with your challenges today.