St. Luke’s Church – Part of Christ’s Body

“St. Luke’s Church – Part of Christ’s Body”

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (12:26) – February 7, 2021

            So many activities needed to stop with the shut-down and shelter-in-place last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing I have missed very much is the wonderful time I spent reading to the preschool children here at St. Luke’s Church. Every Tuesday morning for years, I read picture books of all kinds to the children.

            I was reminded of this sad experience as I considered today’s Scripture reading. Paul’s discussion about the Church compared to an actual, human body reminded me of a delightful children’s picture book, one I’d love to read to the preschool children. This book is a retelling of a Liberian creation story about a human head, two arms, a body, and two legs, and how they all decide to come together and work as a team, creating a complete human body.

I believe the apostle Paul would greatly approve this story and message! A human body does need its various parts to work together. Just imagine the commotion, the disruption that would happen if parts of the body went on strike, or refused to work with other parts of the body!

As Paul said, “15 If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? 18 God put every different part in the body just as God wanted it to be.”

No matter how many parts of the body we name, each part is important, and each part is needed. We can tell right away if a part of the body is hurt, or broken, or not working normally. And, what if certain parts are missing altogether? The functionality of the body – or, as Paul would remind us, of the Church – would be very much diminished.

I know most people are associated with a local church, and many people are active members. What a wonderful way to honor and please the Lord when God’s children are active and vital parts of God’s body – the Church.

The local church has members who are active in many roles. There are those who are the mouth of the congregation – the pastor and teachers in the church. The arms of a local church are often seen as the deacons, in the food pantries and serving ministries. And, the feet of a congregation can be those who transport people, or participate in Meals on Wheels. The heart of the local church can be those vital members who are well-beloved among the church folk.

As I describe various tasks and ministries, I suspect you can think of individuals who fit these to a “T.” And, all of these parts of the body, of the Church, are needed.

From time to time, churches need to take stock, and see where they are going as a congregation. Group reflection and consideration is useful, even exciting. We here at St. Luke’s Church are going to put together a timeline of the past 20 years this coming weekend! As Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” said, “Who we are in the present includes who we were in the past.”

I need to present this church timeline as the final project in a clinical internship I am taking right now. Plus, I see this marvelous opportunity for our congregation to find out more about some important history that this church shares together. Both the ups as well as the downs, the celebrations as well as the difficulties are all so important and valuable to reflect upon and consider. The best part is that we will have a marvelous church coach to assist us this weekend.

The Rev. Brandyn Simmons has a great deal of experience in working with congregations on the historical background of a congregation as well as the assessment and understanding piece. I am very grateful to Pastor Brandyn, and I ask each of you for your prayers as we take this exciting journey of memory and discovery.

Some of you may have long experience with your local church, or you may be a more recent member. Regardless of how long you have been at your church, what has kept you coming to worship services? What aspects of fellowship and togetherness at your church are important to you? What is the single most positive thing you would like to tell me about your church? Now, take that thing – whatever it is – and write it down. Send it to your pastor in an email, or in a phone call, text, or note by mail. This is such a blessing for your pastor and your congregation!  

For many churches, the first Sunday of the month is Communion Sunday. In the Lord’s Supper, the local congregation has another reason to come together as the Body of Christ. We are invited to come together around the table and share the bread and the cup together. Even in the socially-distant time of the pandemic, we can still be together in spirit and in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.    

Yes, we are all individuals, and yes, each of us is beloved by God to be whatever part of the Church Body God has meant for us to be! And yes, we can be the best hand or eye or foot or whatever Church Body-part we are able. Can you do that? I know I will try. Let’s all strive to be God’s Body as we pull together, work together, and celebrate together. The apostle Paul would certainly approve!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

A Time for Everything

“A Time for Everything”

eccl-3-1-everything-cursive

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 – January 1, 2017

Expectations. Excitement! A fresh, new start. With eyes wide open, we all have the opportunity to make a new beginning, this New Year’s Day of 2017. New brooms sweep clean. New, fresh, sparkling clean, not a spot or speck to be seen. At least, not yet.

 As our scripture lesson from Ecclesiastes 3 says today, there is a time for everything. God has given each one of us a sense of the passage of time. God has implanted that within us, and we are placed in this construct of time, of past, present and future.

What are we to do with this concept of time? And, the idea that time is a never-ending stream? That, somehow, each of us is intricately bound up in this bubble called history, and together or separately, each of us has specific things to do. Or, not do. To look behind at 2016 with longing or regret, missing opportunities lost, or gazing ahead with expectancy, looking forward to what 2017 has to bring into each life?

What new, fresh excitement, and expectations!

Let’s take a common example. A door. We can either be on one side or the other of a doorway. One side—inside—and the other—outside. One side—in the past—and the other—in the future. It’s difficult to straddle both parts of a world, and at the same time to strive to do both of these either/or activities stated in our passage from Ecclesiastes, today.

Thinking further, Doors are good images for New Year’s Day. We have closed the door on last year, on 2016. We’ve opened the door to a new, sparkling clean year.

When each of us walks through a door, things can change—either a lot or just a little. As one bible commentator says, “When you go from outside to inside, you use a quieter voice, you wipe off (sometimes even take off) your shoes, you expect to do different things.  Walking through doors tells us where we are and who we are. “ [1]

Janus is the Roman god of endings and beginnings. A two-headed god, with one head looking backwards into the past, and the other looking forward, into the future. This god presided over gates and doors, and was sometimes shown with a gatekeeper’s keys and staff. There can be a great deal of change and transition from one place to another, as one year changes into the next.

Some people have a great deal of baggage left over from last year. Lots of stuff to carry with them into the new year. What does our scripture passage say? “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” There are several ways to view this poetic look at life and death, and everything that comes in between, but one way is to acknowledge this overarching structure as a foundational basis for understanding the cosmos, life itself.

Sure, some can go too far, and have a totally fatalistic point of view, saying that everything is absolutely fated and predetermined. Nothing is worth doing, no innovation, no creativity; no one can change anything ever. What a hopeless, helpless point of view. This view takes away free will, human decision, and the possibility of change. Why do anything, ever again?

However, we can leave our baggage and stuff, old and tattered, tired and worn, just drop it, even brand-new stuff with price tags still attached. We can look forward to a new year, a new chance to walk into the future with head held high, and eyes open to new possibilities.

I have an opportunity to realize and remember the many blessings that God provides in each of our lives, on a regular basis. Do you remember each of those blessings that God provided in your life, in 2016? Can you name each one, and thank God for it? Nope, me, neither. But, here is a concrete way to help you remember each one in 2017. Here is a real action step to take.

It’s called The Jar Project, and features jars with the following label attached: “The Jar Project. Starting New Year’s Day, I will fill this empty jar with notes about good things that happen. On next New Year’s Eve, I will empty it and remember that awesome things did happen this year.”

There are various other ways people think of this activity. Some people call it a Gratitude Jar, or a Blessing Jar. Put in strips of paper with things or people you are grateful for, or that you have been blessed by, in 2017. Then at the end of the year, each of us will have a whole year of wonderful, awesome blessings to truly thank God for.

Come with me, back to the doors of our sanctuary. We can offer prayer, asking that these doors welcome many visitors during the coming year and that all who come through the doorway be blessed.  I am going to write on our church doors with prayers for all who will come through the doors this year (worshipers, visitors, brides and grooms, parents bringing babies to be baptized, families and friends coming to bury their dead, members of community groups which will use the facilities).

Please, I encourage each of you, each household, to repeat this in your own homes. God’s richest blessings on you and your family in 2017.

 

God of doors and homes, bless this home this year and every year.

Bless all who come and go through this door, both those who live here and those who visit.

May all who enter through this door come in peace and bring joy.

May all who come to this door find welcome and love.

May the love and joy in this home overflow and spread into the community and the world. [2]

[1] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/11/new-years-day-years-b-c.html New Year’s Day, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2013

[2] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/11/new-years-day-years-b-c.html New Year’s Day, adapted from Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2013

Powerful, Living Word

“Powerful, Living Word”

Heb 4-12 alive and active

Hebrews 4:12-13 – August 7, 2016

Words have power. Well-written words paint pictures in our brains, lift our spirits, or tug at our heartstrings.

Think of the vivid quote from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest: “We are such stuff/As dreams are made on; and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep.” And, the stirring words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Or, the heartstring tugs from A.A. Milne’s book Winnie the Pooh: “How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet “You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”

This service today is all about words. Some very special words. Powerful words. God’s words. The Word of God, the Bible.

Our passage for this morning comes from the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4. Reading verse 4:12 again: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Those words are pretty powerful! Sharp, penetrating, dividing, judging. The Word of God has great penetrating power, piercing incisively. This is an everyday picture: imagine a butcher with a very large, very sharp knife, cutting down to the bone.

“The word of God is not just sharp, but sharper than the sharpest doubled edged sword. In that sense the word of God can cut either way—in judgement or blessing.” [1] Plus, God’s Word, the Bible, is filled with God’s Spirit. That is important, too!

We are taking a closer look at the United Church of Christ’s Statement of Mission. Today’s sentence is: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called to preach and teach with the power of the living Word.

God’s words have been powerful since the beginning of time. And, even before. Think of the preincarnate Jesus, the eternal God the Son. The first chapter of the Gospel of John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Jesus, the Logos, which is a Greek expression meaning “the Word.” He spoke, and the entire universe came into being. Jesus is equated with this powerful, living and active Word of God!

As a minister of the Gospel, it is my responsibility and joy to preach and teach the Word of God. To preach and teach the amazing, mighty, powerful, living Word. Yet, the Statement of Mission tells us plainly that we all—that is, everyone here—have that same responsibility.

Last Wednesday afternoon, I went with several people from Morton Grove to the south side of Chicago. My friend had been in touch with a mothers’ group called Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK). This group has a free meal outreach called Give Them a Meal.

The four of us went to the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. What a wonderful opportunity for people to come together, to share, to have fellowship and make community. We set up everything so the free meal could be offered to anyone who came up to the street corner.

We were there for several hours. Yes, it was a marvelous afternoon. We were of service to that community. However, I wanted to let you know that just before I left, I had a wonderful conversation with the senior pastor of a Missionary Baptist church that set up an outdoor worship service on that same street corner.

Complete with sound system and moveable pulpit, that church has a regular outreach to their community each Wednesday evening. Pastor Matthew told me of the burden on his heart to disciple the members of his church. He strives to teach them to share their faith. Just as the UCC Statement of Mission says, “be ready to teach and preach with the power of the living Word.”

That’s what Pastor Matthew and his congregation strive to do, week in and week out! I am not particularly skilled in evangelism. That is one area where I fall short. I can learn lots from him and the members of his church. Plus, this sentence from our Statement of Mission tells us that teaching and preaching with the power of the living Word is something that every believer in Christ ought to be doing, on a regular basis.

There is a problem, though. We humans have shortcomings. We miss the mark in so many ways. As I was preaching last week, natural humans have deceitful hearts. We hide and run away. Our thoughts, words and actions are cloaked in darkness and sin.

Does this word picture sound sadly familiar? Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, and then repeatedly in the New Testament, we see over and over again how natural humans keep tripping up. How we sin “in thought, word, and deed,” The second part of Hebrews 4:12 lets us know that God’s word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I think that all of us here today acknowledge that we humans do sin. Miss the mark. Make mistakes. Say stupid things.

There is a famous picture, or icon, of Jesus.  Jesus the Judge. We are all familiar with pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, or Jesus with the little children. But here in these verses, we have a serious word-picture of the risen, exalted Jesus, Jesus the Judge. Yes, this is a very real part of our Lord Jesus, whom we know and love.

The other half of this pair of verses lets us know that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Words of caution! Words telling us to take care. As one commentator mentions, “the Word of God can probe the innermost motives of the real self and bring them out into the open, and then, with the self exposed to the light, prompt repentance and forgiveness.” [2]

Serious stuff, the Word of God! The Bible.

Still, we need to look at the words of the statement from the UCC Statement of Mission. “be ready to teach and preach with the power of the living Word.”

When it comes to everyone—all of us being ready to preach and teach, God offers us help. Isn’t that wonderful? God lets us know that we have God coming alongside of us. Helping, coaching, cheering us on as we tell others about the tremendous God we serve.

I have mentioned Miss Rose before. Miss Rose was a loving, caring senior from a church I attended some thirty years ago. Imagine my surprise and pleasure to find her one of the residents at the senior citizen home I worked at while I attended seminary! Miss Rose had the gift of evangelism. She would ask practically everyone, “Do you know the Lord?” Then, she would tell about the wonderful things God was doing in her life.

Miss Rose did not have an easy time at the retirement home. She was in constant pain, among other health issues. However, she did not let that stop her. Practically every person knew that God was Miss Rose’s Helper, Refuge, Strength. Shepherd. Healer.

Just in case anyone is wondering how to be “ready to teach and preach with the power of the living Word,” We can follow Miss Rose’s excellent example. Tell others what God is doing for you, right now. Tell others about the Holy Spirit’s power in your life. And, tell others about the amazing Word of God, the Logos, God the Son, Jesus!

What an opportunity! Tell others, like Miss Rose. Tell others about God’s power in your life, today. Alleluia, amen.

[1] http://www.lectionarystudies.com/sunday28be.html “The Word of God,”  Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons, Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources.  

[2] http://www.lectionarystudies.com/sunday28be.html “The Word of God,”  Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons, Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources.  

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2016: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Invitation to Wonder

“Invitation to Wonder”

Virgin Mary and Child - Russian Orthodox

Luke 2:17-18 – December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas! What a wonderful expression. People greeting each other on the street, in the stores, here at church. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but still. What a joyous time of the year. Merry Christmas, many people say!

But I want you to go back, two thousand years. Go back to a time when “Merry Christmas” was not even a phrase, a wish, an idea in people’s heads. Go back to the time that Dr. Luke describes in the second chapter of his Gospel. Back to the time when Israel was an occupied country, and the Roman Empire was the strong man. Back to the time when all people in Israel needed to be enrolled. The Roman government decided to have a census, so that they would be able to tax the people of Israel more accurately.

In our Gospel reading tonight, we heard this census described. The Holy Family, Joseph and his fiancée Mary, went to Bethlehem to enroll, because Joseph was a direct descendant of King David. I suspect there were many people on the roads. Today, traveling can be stressful and nerve-wracking. However, I am certain travel in the first century was much more difficult. Poor roads, with many people walking to get from one place to another. We might imagine that Joseph and Mary had a donkey, but nowhere in the Gospel is that mentioned. Travel conditions were challenging, at best.

So, there they are, in Bethlehem. A long way from their home, in Nazareth. I suspect Joseph took care of the enrollment business first thing. But Mary felt the pains of labor begin. What a scary thing! To be far, far from home, in an unfamiliar place, and to have such a significant event happen. Significant, and potentially life-threatening, too.

I have had several children. I can remember all four of the deliveries. All of them happened in the hospital, with nurses and doctors standing by. Quite possibly most of the women here who have delivered babies can remember all their deliveries, too. Don’t you think Mary and Joseph remembered this experience for the rest of their lives? Yes, delivering a baby is a special day for anyone. But—even more so, for Mary and Joseph. Because of the angels. And the additional special visitors, too.

As Luke tells us, there were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Remember, there is no radio or telephone, no Internet or even telegraph. When messengers personally come to deliver a extra special announcement, it is a big deal. These angels coming to the shepherds, well, that was a super big deal, to be sure!

And the announcement? This isn’t the birth of a normal, ordinary baby. No! This baby is an extra special baby. The Messiah, who will save His people from their sins. Did you hear? This special baby, this Savior, Christ the Lord, is born to you—to me—to all of us, in the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.

Did you hear? The Savior, the Christ, the promised Messiah, came into this world as a Baby in Bethlehem. The Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, Creator of the whole universe, God the Son, emptied Himself of all God-ness. Took on humanity, and was born as a helpless Baby. That is not only good news, that is earth-shaking news. Good news of great joy for all the people. For you, for me, for all of us.

Yes, the promises of Christmas may sound familiar to us. The good news that the angels brought may be old news, to some. But those promises? They are so needed, today. What with uncertainty and fear, anxiety and hatred so common today. Peace and security seem way out of humanity’s reach. Don’t we need some good news right now?

This is good news, this Gospel the angels brought to the shepherds. And they, in turn, told everyone they could about the Child, which the Lord had made known to them. Just as Luke said, all who heard about the Child were amazed at what the shepherd told them.

After that special birth announcement from the angels, and the excited visits from the shepherds, we are left with Mary. Mary who was only a teenager. Mary, who had had nine months to consider this extraordinary pregnancy and upcoming birth.

I cannot imagine a teenager entrusted with such a serious task as bearing the Savior of the world. Yet, Mary must have been up to the task.

Mary must have been a reflective young woman.

We know from verse 18 that Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. All of these words, these unfolding events. Another translation has this verse as “Mary was keeping together (sunetare) all these words, bringing them together (sumballos) in her heart.” Keeping together, sunetare, has the sense of integration. Bringing these events together, or sumballos! She was fitting all the puzzle pieces together, bit by bit.

Can we do the same? Can we fit all the puzzle pieces together? Can we slow down, just a little, and wonder at the miracle of that night? I invite us all to listen to the good news of the shepherds.

Stop by that manger in Bethlehem, and be caught up in the wonder of what happened that night, so long ago. The eternal God, Creator of the universe, come to earth as the Babe in Bethlehem.

God gives each of us an opportunity, an invitation to wonder; an invitation to worship the newborn Savior.

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

@chaplaineliza

Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind .  Thanks!

“Who Are You, Lord?”

Who Are You, Lord?

Acts 9 conversionofsaintpaul - ethiopian icon

Acts 9:1-19 – August 2, 2015

Sometimes, asking good questions can be difficult.

In the 1400’s and 1500’s, the astronomers in Europe were discovering wonderful things about our solar system. It wasn’t until 1543 that astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus asked, “Could it be that the Earth orbits the Sun?” This was a dangerous question to ask, in his time. Common knowledge and expert opinion were in agreement, in the 1500’s: the Earth was the center of everything. But Copernicus had the courage to ask this simple—and profound—question, which turned the scientific community on its heads, and changed the world.

We turn to our Scripture passage for today. Acts chapter 9. Saul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, was one of the chief persecutors of the early Church in the area of Jerusalem. He had been a witness to the stoning of Stephen, a short time before this reading today. Saul’s zeal in pursuing these “Jewish heretics,” these followers of “The Way” had become legendary. Let me read the Acts passage from an excellent translation by J.B. Phillips.

“1-2 But Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and begged him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way, whether men or women, he could bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.”

That was the situation. Saul was filled with religious zeal! It wasn’t enough that he had been instrumental in kicking out most of the believers and breaking up the Jerusalem church. He was going to round up these Jewish heretics in Damascus, more than one hundred miles away. Nab these false believers! And, extradite them. Bring them back to face the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

Who was Saul, anyway? Born a Roman citizen in Asia Minor, he was one of the graduates of the equivalent of an Ivy League school—the University of Tarsus, one of the finest universities of the first century. He had been a student of the Rabbi Gamaliel, one of the most prominent Jewish scholars of that day. As far as knowledge and book learning was concerned? Saul had it, in abundance! He was trained as a Pharisee, in every aspect of the Jewish religion. And, he was on fire to haul in every upstart Jewish heretic he could lay his hands on!

Just like the scientific establishment in the 1500’s in Europe, Saul had his mind set, for once and for all. He knew he was right, and nothing could make him swerve from his desire, his zeal to see justice done. Let’s go back to our reading from Acts. “3-4 But on his journey, as Saul neared Damascus, a light from Heaven suddenly blazed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?””

Whoa! Wait a minute, here! Saul is one of the top religious law-followers in Jerusalem. As he said himself, a Pharisee of the Pharisees! But, BAM! Here is a clear, Heavenly event happening to Saul. You might have heard about “a Damascus road experience,” meaning a sudden, dramatic conversion experience? This is it. Right here, right now. Paul’s—I mean, Saul’s dramatic conversion experience.

Time after time in the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets have encounters with the living God. We can see from descriptions in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, just to name several. And the most significant—that of Moses, in Exodus, at the burning bush. Just as God called Moses twice: “Moses, Moses!” So the risen Lord Jesus also calls twice: “Saul, Saul!”

I have a suspicion that Saul immediately “got it.” The mental puzzle pieces started falling into place. Saul finally asked a really good question: “Who are you, Lord?

Isn’t that the way it is with you or with me, sometimes? Here we are, headed down Life Road, going about our business. When, boom! A sudden event happens. Maybe not as serious as Paul’s Damascus Road encounter, but all the same, earth-shaking. It could be something that happens to our health, or our jobs, an accident or some type of traumatic or sudden happening. Or, if it doesn’t happen to us, it happens to one of our loved ones. Our best friend. Or a next door neighbor.

Even if it’s something really fantastic, it can still be earth-shaking. Just as much of a shift or a change in life. Similar to the dramatic shift in the scientific world after Copernicus proved that the Earth really did orbit the Sun. He turned the whole world’s attitudes and ideas on their heads and paved the way for a whole new way of thinking. New frames for good questions.

As Saul was lying there in the dust of the road, I am sure a few new thoughts broke into his mind. “Who are you, Lord?” As one commentary says, Saul’s really good question was that “of a devout Jew who understands the significance of his experience from reading Scripture.”

Let’s continue with our reading: “6-7 “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” was the reply. “But now stand up and go into the city and there you will be told what you must do.”

His companions on the journey stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but could see no one.”

Do you understand what’s going on here? The others in this vigilante posse can hear a voice, but have no idea Who is speaking. On top of that, Saul is suddenly struck blind. The companions don’t have a clue what is going on. They need to lead Saul by the hand into Damascus, blind and helpless. There he sits, and fasts, for three whole days.

I need to finish the narrative. It doesn’t end here! Not by a long shot!

10 Now in Damascus there was a disciple by the name of Ananias. The Lord spoke to this man in a dream. calling him by his name. “I am here, Lord,” he replied. 11-12 Then the Lord said to him, “Get up and go down to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man named Saul from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying and he sees in his mind’s eye a man by the name of Ananias coming into the house, and placing his hands upon him to restore his sight.” 13-14 But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard on all hands about this man and how much harm he has done to Your holy people in Jerusalem! Why even now he holds papers from the chief priests to arrest all who call upon Your name.” 15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go on your way, for this man is My chosen instrument to bear My name before the Gentiles and their kings, as well as to the sons of Israel. Indeed, I Myself will show him what he must suffer for the sake of My name.”

17 Then Ananias set out and went to the house, and there he laid his hands upon Saul, and said, “Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me—Jesus who appeared to you on your journey here—so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18-19a Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got to his feet and was baptised. Then he took some food and regained his strength.”

We see how a persecutor of Christians became the foremost preacher of Christ. By asking a really good question.

John Holbert mentions in his study on Acts 9, “Luke seals his portrait of the great apostle by reminding us that God is forever in the business of choosing the least likely of persons to do the great work of God.” Remember God’s “chosen instrument” mentioned in Acts 9:15? Paul refers to himself again as a cracked pot (in Greek, skeuos) for Jesus, in 2 Corinthians 4:7. We are all flawed, cracked pots. Each of us is a chosen instrument for God, yes! And a less-than-perfect cracked pot, too.

Do I have the amazing gifts of planning, leadership and public speaking that the Apostle Paul had? Not likely. However, I do what I can with what God has given me. You can, too! God calls each of us. Some to small tasks, others to larger ones. We are all flawed vessels—less-than-perfect cracked pots for Jesus.

Saul—shortly to become the Apostle Paul—was called by God to go to the Gentiles. To go to the nations, and not to just preach to Jews. I wonder. The Lord has called each one of us. God has welcomed each of us into a heavenly relationship. I wonder. The nations are coming to us—to Morton Grove, to Glenview, to Niles, to Des Plaines, and all over the Chicago area. Is God calling us to be God’s chosen instruments to our neighbors? To those we work with? To the person at the coffee shop or the clerk at the grocery store?

I offer you—I offer all of us the opportunity to hear God’s call! Chances are, it won’t be as dramatic as Saul’s conversion. But can you hear God’s call with gladness? God calls each of us. Some to small tasks, others to larger ones. Paul’s conversion narrative fires the imagination! May we find in its depths a call on every single one of us, for change and new possibility.

Alleluia! Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind .  Thanks!