Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
After the loss of a loved one, life is never the same. And yet, hopefully over time we settle into a routine that helps us move forward.
After he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to his terrified friends twice behind locked doors. In today’s reading he appears once more. By this time, they’ve ventured out from behind their locked doors. In fact, they’re beginning to get back into a routine that feels somewhat normal. “I’m going fishing,” Peter says, because that’s what Peter does for a living: fish. And the others follow.
But that night they are skunked—no fish. As morning breaks, someone on the beach calls out to them, “Any luck?” No, they reply. Try fishing on the other side of the boat, the stranger suggests. They do, & the net is so full they can hardly drag it to shore.
Think of that. Peter’s job is fishing; he’s an expert. Some stranger on the shore tells him to try his luck on the other side of the boat–& against all odds, he does. He has one of his best days fishing ever!
Something similar happens after Jesus has left the earth. Like Peter, Saul knew what his job was & how to do it. He was a religious man & knew his religious faith inside & out. He did his best to follow the rules. He knew the rules so well that he could spot a false teaching when he saw it. These Christian teachings were a threat to the true Jewish faith. Saul’s job—his mission–was to stamp it out.
Saul was on his way to Damascus, where he planned to continue hunting down the followers of this Christian cult. All of a sudden, a blinding flash of light. He falls to the ground & hears a voice: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do. Unbelievably, Saul did as he was told. Like Peter before him, he was sure that he was on the right path, but against all odds, he changed direction.
There’s one more story. 10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And the Lord told Ananias to find this guy named Saul.
Put yourself in Ananias’ shoes. He’s one of those whom Saul has been hunting. Saul is the enemy. Ananias said what probably any of us would have said in his situation: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name. But just as Saul did as he was told, as Peter did what he was told, so also Ananias did as he was told. Against all their training, against all their experience & against all their belief, Paul, & Ananias, & Peter risked following a new direction.
How about you? This past week, have you heard a voice you didn’t recognize? Or, maybe you recognized the voice & felt threatened by it. Maybe it was a conversation with someone, or a newspaper article, or an experience you had. Have you heard something this past week that goes against your training, against your experience, against your belief–& against all odds, you decided to listen to that voice, & change direction?
Peter didn’t seem to have a lot to lose. If he didn’t follow the stranger’s advice, so what? He was an expert fisherman but hadn’t caught any fish. Why not try something different? On the other hand, he had his pride & reputation to be concerned about. What would all these other guys he was with think if he was wrong & the stranger was right?
Saul had more to lose. He’d built his whole life around a set of beliefs, which were now being challenged by a voice out of nowhere. What would a powerful, wealthy, educated man do in such a situation? He, too, could lose his reputation. But his world was being turned upside down. How do you go from being sure of yourself to having the very foundations of what you believe shaken to the core? How do you let go of beliefs that have given you wealth, power & every social advantage?
And then there’s Ananias. He’s a fairly minor character in the Bible but in this story he has the most to lose. “I’ve heard what people say about this guy Saul,” he says to the Lord. Ananias knew that he could lose more than his reputation. He could lose more than his beliefs. If he trusted the voice that he heard, he could lose his life!
How hard it is to set aside what we know—or what we think we know. How hard it is to place our trust in the Living God!
This past week at book study we heard a story by Kelly Fryer, the author of the book we’re reading. She’s a Lutheran pastor & speaks of a time when she was called to risk a lot in redeveloping her congregation. Listen to her story & see if you can find glimpses of Saul, & Ananias & Peter. And maybe, see if you can catch glimpses of yourself:
(Read “C” Word: pp. 96-99)
Who knows what’s waiting for us in the week to come? Who knows what surprises? Who knows what surprising people? Who knows what surprising opportunities?
Grace, peace & courage be with each one of you in the week ahead as you hear the voice of the Risen Christ calling to you.