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Tuesday, April 17, 2007
We encounter Christ in dramatic turnings and quiet unfoldings that change us. The texts for this week tell stories of restoration that emerge from brokenness. They also speak the ancient confession of Jesus as kurios (“Lord”). The Risen Christ stands over and above all rival claims to our allegiance. The Spirit commissions us to this witness. Acts 9:1–6, (7–20) Earlier in Acts, those who gathered to witness the stoning of Stephen “laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). Saul approves of the killing, and then takes a leading role in “ravaging” the church (8:1–3). This persecution scatters the community. The focus scripture opens with Saul seeking out the dispersed followers of “The Way.” “The Way” is an expression for the Christian community in Acts. In Hebrew Scriptures, the “way” was an expression for living in conformity with the Torah. Acts’ adoption of this title suggests that its audience continued to regard itself as a part of the Jewish community. This first of three narratives of Saul’s encounter with Christ on the Damascus road (22:3–16; 26:4–23) contains three core details. This encounter begins with a flash of light that puts Saul on the ground. There is a voice that calls Saul by name and directs him what to do next. And there is the ensuing loss of Saul’s sight. Sometimes overlooked in the drama of Saul’s experience of call is the story of the call of Ananias. It, too, is a story of transformation. Like the rest of the dispersed Christian community, Ananias had good cause to mistrust Saul. Saul had done “much evil” to the church. Yet, on the Damascus road, Saul had been “turned.” So now Ananias is challenged to a turning of his own. Ananias is to go to Saul and bring healing to this former enemy. This is an encounter with Christ, whose call to reconciliation remains as timely for the church today as it was for Ananias. The Spirit brings restoration to Saul through both the word (“Brother Saul”) and touch of Ananias. The narrative ends with Saul’s proclamation of Jesus. Both Saul and Ananias have had encounters with Christ that transform them and their communities. As noted by Rob Wall in The New Interpreter’s Bible (vol. X, p. 150): “The primary purpose of visionary episodes in Acts is not to convert non-believers…but to commission prophets to missionary tasks.” God calls us into new life, whose freshness flows from restoration and toward mission. Psalm 30 celebrates the God who turns mourning into dancing, weeping into joy. In Revelation 5:11–14, the community worships the Lamb, once slaughtered, but now standing beside the throne of God. Peter, in John 21:1–19, reverses his threefold denial of Jesus (John 18:15–27) by threefold affirmation of love for Jesus. Peter’s restoration comes through encounter with Christ. Sunday’s texts depict encounter with God in many ways. Saul’s story comes in a dramatic turning, while Ananias’ story is in quiet persuasion. The psalmist speaks out of a near-death experience that results in healing and praise. In John, encounter comes in recognition on the lake, and then in a conversation after a meal. The faithful in Revelation encounter God in worship. Encountering Christ calls, restores, and commissions Christian community. The forms those encounters take vary widely, but they all lead to renewal. For they remind us in whose presence we live and in whose name we serve. In what ways, and through what persons, have you encountered Jesus? What trust is required for you to risk changing, especially in your places of brokenness, so that God’s Spirit may work renewal and restoration?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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