Lectionary Readings for April 14. Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 30, Rev. 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
These passages all deal with consequences of the resurrection.
In the John piece, Jesus appears on the shore of the lake and cooks breakfast for the disciples. He calls out to them, calling them "children". Why a diminutive? Is this only a reference to them as students, or are they significantly younger than he is? We tend to think of the disciples as the same age as Jesus.Maybe that's not right-it is very possible they were young adults, maybe less than 20 years old. At a youth ministry conference a month ago, our speaker displayed a famous painting of the last supper. He asked what was wrong with it. After a time, he pointed out that the disciples were depicted as old men! That, he challenged, is a wrong perception, the disciples would have been young, they were students with time to follow Jesus. They would not be grey beards! If these are the ones Jesus entrusted his mission to, are we doing enough to equip, entrust, and challenge our young adults with the work and outreach of the good news? Are we expecting too much perfection out of each other and ourselves, leaving ourselves afraid to try? One consequence of the resurrection is that all the disciples become 'missionaries'. The spreading of the faith is no longer in the hands of a select older, accomplished, and established few. How can this challenge us?
Saul's conversion in Acts 9 is another place where strange consequences occur. Saul is a highly unlikely choice for a missionary, yet God chooses, changes, and sends him. I'm struck by Saul's response to the blinding experience. He doesn't eat or drink for 3 days. He goes the route of spiritual discipline, fasting and waiting for revelation, for God to speak. When something traumatic happens to us, we immediately run to science (the hospital) for answers. And that is a sensible response, but do we also wait for God to speak? Does God sometimes need us to slow down and be receptive to the thoughts, words, dreams, and insights of those around us? I have been blessed to sometimes hear stories of people who have either taken (or more often been forced by illness to take) time to listen for God. They have some amazing things to say about life, about God's presence, and about changed perceptions as they move forward. A consequence of the resurrection is that God speaks into our spaces and questions, changing us and the world in ways we could not have predicted. Can we listen for God?
The shocking part of the Revelation piece, even weirder than the apocalyptic genre, is the central idea. The idea the only one worthy to open the scroll in the glory of heaven is not a resplendent, richly garbed hero type, but a slaughtered lamb. Incongruous! Unbelievable! A complete turning over of the expectations and proprieties of worldly kingdoms. The one who is worthy is the one who was willing to be humiliated and die for the love of others. A consequence of the resurrection is the calling of the followers of the lamb to be like him, to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, to change the very fabric of society into something that honours the servants, not the kings. Sometimes we get glimpses of this as the church serves others, but sometimes we get so caught up in maintaining our systems that it is hard to remember why we do it all. How does remembering the resurrection each year stir the church to faithful, humble, service?
Psalm 30 says; "you have turned my mourning into dancing". May this be so for each of us and for those we are sent to minister to each day.