3 Easter

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your Word O Lord is a lantern for our feet, and a light upon our path.  In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

At times it feels as if all preachers are paid to stand in the pulpit and tell us what we already know; “God is love,” “Jesus saves,” “Let the Spirit guide you.”  We know other things as well, such as, “nothing is sure, except death and taxes” and, here is a favorite truism, “People don’t like change.”  I hear versions of “people don’t like change” all the time in church; “we’ve never done it that way,” or “we only do it this way.”  People really don’t like change.

I wonder though, maybe it is not that we don’t like changes.  Many times we like the results of change, but not the process of change.  After all, I may LOVE my new kitchen or bathroom when it is finished, but who likes all the dust and dislocation of construction?  I think what we don’t like are transitions; the messy, awkward and sometimes painful journey from what was to what will be.  There is a wonderful saying from the AA fellowship, “Where God closes a door, somewhere else he opens another door, but it is hell in the hallway from one doorway to the next!” 

I think St. Paul would agree with that sentiment.  In today’s reading from the Book of Acts we heard about his conversion from the radical, persecutor of Christians to the Chief Apostle for Christ.  And what a transition he went through!  While he was still called by the name of Saul he had an encounter with the Living Lord on the road to Damascus. 

This story is recounted three times in the Book of Acts, it was clearly a favorite story, and you can see why it would be a story that was told over and over again.  It has drama, it has pathos, it has a villain who, through suffering, is transformed into a hero.  The transition that Saul of the Sadducees goes through to become the Apostle Paul is like a little death; he is blinded by light, he hears a voice speaking from heaven admonishing him as a persecutor of Jesus, he does not eat or drink anything for three days, he does not leave the place where he is sent, even though he is not told what will happen next.  Saul is given a lot to think about as he sits in darkness; he is in pain mentally, physically and spiritually.  In three days time his painful transition is over and he is raised from his old life of sin and given a new life, and is called by a new name, Paul an Evangelist for Christ.

Ananias also goes through a conversion experience.  Ananias also hears a voice, through a dream, to “get up and go” to an enemy, to a person who would have imprisoned and killed him if he could.  Ananias is afraid and he know too much about the ways of the world and about persons like Saul.  He is blinded himself, by his fears and what he thinks he knows about Saul.  He too has to trust the truth of the Voice from heaven and believe that God can change the circumstances of both the world and Saul’s heart.  Ananias follows the command of God to “get up and go” and through faith his doubts and fears about Saul are laid to rest; Ananias is able to see the transformation of Saul to Paul and witness the scales fall from his eyes.  The scales have fallen from Ananias eyes as well and he is able to see the transforming power of God in the newly baptized Paul.

In our collect for this third Sunday of Easter we pray, “Open the eyes of our faith that we may behold Jesus in all his redeeming work,” but it doesn’t seem as if Peter and the other disciples have had their eyes opened, even though they have seen Jesus, the Risen Lord, two times already. You would think the disciples would have been energized and excited to go and proclaim the truth that they have witnessed – Jesus, who was dead is now alive!  We have seen him!  We have touched him!  He is the Risen Lord!
What do Peter and the disciples want to do after meet Jesus again – they want to go fishing!  They want to go back to their old life, they want to do the things that they know how to do, they want what is familiar, what is comfortable.  Remember: “People don’t like changes.”  They go back to where they were when they first met Jesus and responded to his call, they go back to where they were by the sea as if the three years they spent traveling with Jesus, seeing amazing events and ideas didn’t matter. I think they are afraid of the transition that is demanded of them.

So there they were fishing all night without much luck.  Just after daybreak they hear a Voice calling to they from the shore, “Children, you don’t have any fish do you?”  A strange question.  The Voice on shore evidently knew they had no fish.  The Voice tells them how to catch some fish on the other side of the boat and suddenly they know to whom the Voice belongs.  Suddenly they recognize the Lord.  He was on shore to prepare breakfast for them; Jesus sharing a meal with them once again.  He invites them to add their own fish to the fire.  Jesus is still with them, feeding and supporting them.  They realize that they do not need to go back to what is safe and comfortable.  They realize they need not be afraid that what God demands of them will be too hard for them, for Jesus is faithful to his promise to be with them always; caring for them, giving them nourishment, supporting their efforts and present with them always.  They do not know what the future may bring, but they know that the future belong to Jesus.

The disciples had a long and difficult road ahead of them, it is true.  They could not begin to imagine the effect of their preaching, teaching and witness would have upon the world, and that their words would still be a part of our world to this day.  They were faithful so that all these centuries later we can hear the Word of God and be faithful witnesses too. 

Here at Church of Our Savior we are in some transition.  We don’t know where the next door will open for us, but we do know that Jesus is with us – feeding, comforting and supporting us always.  We can endure any changes if we, like the disciples of old, are faithful to witness of Christ.  No one knows exactly what the future holds for Church of Our Savior, but we DO know that Jesus is in our past, our present and our future and that we are called as baptized people to witness about Jesus Christ in this place.  AMEN.