Twentieth Day of Easter   20 comments

Ananias Restoring Sight to St. Paul, by Pietro Cortona (1631)

Effects and Agents of Divine Intervention

Friday, April 20, 2018 (Year B)

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Acts 9:1-31 (Revised English Bible):

[Note:  The Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts lists Acts 9:1-20 as the first reading for Years A and B and Acts 9:10-20, 26-31 as the first reading for Year C.  I have merged and extended these to create a composite first reading.]

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and applied for letters to the synagogues at Damascus authorizing him to arrest any followers of the new way whom he found, men or women, and bring them to Jerusalem.  While he was still on the road and nearing Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed all around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Tell me, Lord,

he said,

who you are.

The voice answered,

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.

Meanwhile the men who were traveling with him stood speechless; they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could not see; they led by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  He was blind for three days, and took no food or drink.

There was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias.  He had a vision in which he heard the Lord say,

Ananias!

He answered,

Here I am, Lord.

The Lord said to him,

Go to Straight Street, to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  You will find him at prayer; he has had a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to restore his sight.

Ananias answered,

Lord, I have often heard about this man and all the harm he has done your people in Jerusalem.  Now he is here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who invoke your name.

But the Lord replied,

You must go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before the nations and their kings, and before the people of Israel.  I myself will show him all that he must go through for my name’s sake.

So Ananias went and, on entering the house, laid his hands on him and said,

Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately it was if scales had fallen from his eyes, and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten his strength returned.

He stayed some time with the disciples in Damascus.  Without delay he proclaimed Jesus publicly in the synagogues, declaring him to be the Son of God.  All who heard were astounded.

Is not this the man,

they said,

who was in Jerusalem hunting down those who invoke this name?  Did he not come here for the sole purpose of arresting them and taking them before the chief priests?

But Saul went from strength to strength, and confounded the Jews of Damascus with his cogent proofs that Jesus was the Messiah.

When some time had passed, the Jews hatched a plot against his life; but their plans became known to Saul.  They kept watch on the city gates day and night so that they might murder him; but one night some disciples took him out and, lowering him in a basket, let him down over the wall.

On reaching Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was really a disciple.  Barnabas, however, took him and introduced him to the apostles; he described to them how on his journey Saul had seen the Lord and heard his voice, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  Saul now stayed with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem.  He spoke out boldly and openly in the name of the Lord, talking and debating with the Greek-speaking Jews.  But they planned to murder him, and when the brethren discovered this they escorted him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.

Meanwhile the church, throughout Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria, was left in peace to build up its strength, and to live in the fear of the Lord.  Encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers.

Psalm 117 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD, all nations,

extol him, all you peoples;

for his love protecting us is strong,

the LORD’s faithfulness is everlasting.

Praise the LORD.

John 6:52-59 (Anchor Bible):

At this time the Jews started to quarrel among themselves, saying,

How can he give us [his] flesh to eat?

Therefore Jesus told them,

Let me firmly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  He who eats on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.  And I shall raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food, and my blood, real drink.  The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike those ancestors who ate and yet died, the man who feeds on this bread will live forever.

He said this in a synagogue instruction at Capernaum.

The Collect:

Let your people, O Lord, rejoice for ever that they have been renewed in spirit; and let the joy of our adoption as your sons and daughters strengthen the hope of our glorious resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Saul of Tarsus was on the “right” side of religious authority when he persecuted the nascent Christian movement.  Yet, as Paul the Apostle he found his true spiritual calling.  Between those two phases of his life came a divine intervention nobody present could ignore.  Through a direct act of God Saul found true life in Jesus, even though this entailed the hunter joining the ranks of the hunted, and suffering martyrdom in time.  He, like Jesus, was reborn after three days, and died at the hands of the Roman Empire.

Two men played an instrumental role in facilitating the conversion and ministry of Paul the Apostle.  Ananias of Damascus obeyed God and took a great risk in approaching Saul of Tarsus.  Imagine that you are Ananias in the account from Acts.  A certain measure of caution and skepticism would be reasonable, given Saul’s recent history.  Yet God granted Saul a new beginning, and Ananias played a part in that process.  Then the Twelve in Jerusalem were understandably afraid until Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement”) introduced Saul to them.

I detect a loose thread in the Acts reading for this day.  The men traveling with Saul heard the voice yet saw nobody, and “stood speechless.”  What effect(s) did this experience have on them?  I presume that they took Saul to Damascus, and that they were at least initially in agreement with Saul’s mission to persecute Christians in that city.  Did they change their minds?  The author of Luke-Acts does not answer my questions.

Which character in this story reminds you of yourself?  Where does your answer to this question lead you spiritually?

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

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Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2018, April, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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20 responses to “Twentieth Day of Easter

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