Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

painting of Ananias restoring the sight of Saul aka St Paul

More than willing to follow through on the assignment, after a little more explanation.

The main conclusion from our class this morning, in considering Acts 9:10-19, was that Ananias was a significant influence on Saul [Paul], through his embodiment of the characteristics that any of us ought to strive to embody as Christians: trust in God and obedience; welcoming and loving the people we encounter; making a way into the community. Ananias’ modeling of this approach can be seen in Paul’s later ministry, and there’s no reason to think he did not learn it from his early encounters with the disciples, specifically Ananias. We could do worse than take Ananias’ ministry as a model for our own.

The other thing we realized is that Jesus in the passage is not an authoritarian, “because I said so, that’s why” kind of instructor. Although some of us might be inclined to think it’s a mistake to question the Lord, Jesus honors Ananias’ objection, and responds to it reassuringly, by providing him with a rationale for the instruction. A lot of us appreciated that.

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Shabbat shalom

Image - Friday Evening by Isidor Kaufman

“One must be overawed by the marvel of time to be ready to perceive the presence of eternity in a single moment. One must live and act as if the fate of all of time would depend on a single moment.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 76.

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My Mother’s Yankee Daughter

Here is a story that became a legend in our family: We were driving to church. My brother and I were kids. We were talking about the Civil War. Both of us knew it was fought to end slavery and keep the Union together, and that Abraham Lincoln was a hero. And my mother thought to herself “Where did I get those two Yankee children?” read the rest

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Acts 9 10-19)

painting of Ananias restoring the sight of Saul aka St Paul

Is this a picture of faith? Hope? Love?

Here are some questions related to Acts 9:10-19, the Uniform Series text for Sunday, August 20, that we might try to discuss in class:

The reading opens with the Lord appearing to Ananias in a vision, and announces that Saul has also seen a vision while praying. From what we know about Ananias and Saul, can we tell what prepares them to have visions? What seems to have been the purpose of the visions? How would you, yourself, respond to an experience like this? Why?

In Ananias’ vision, the Lord commands him to seek Saul out and help him regain his sight. Ananias has every reason to think this is a dangerous mission, and raises this question. What does this tell us about Ananias, and about Ananias’ relationship with the Lord? What human relationship(s) you know might include a similar exchange? Which ones wouldn’t, or would end differently? Does the human comparison shed any light on the exchange between Ananias and the Lord? What is it? read the rest

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Christian Doctrine (16)

Image - John Calvin

“… a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit”
Institutes III.2.vii

Here are my summary notes on Chapter 16 of Christian Doctrine1, “Are You a Christian? The Doctrine of Justification”:

Guthrie introduces the topic with possible answers to someone’s question “Are you a Christian?” What do you say? That you go to church, etc.? So, it’s about what you do? That you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, is your personal savior, whatever – so, it’s just a matter of having the right ideas? That God has done this and that for you – so, it’s about God, but how does that make you a Christian? It feels like a trick question, some kind of trap. From there he goes on to deal with the problem the doctrine of justification developed to solve, its core meaning and “justification” if you will, the role of faith in “justification by grace through faith,” and the [potential] problem of how people come by that faith, with a final nod to theologians who want to recast the doctrine to be less individualistic and more social. read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Acts 9 10-19)

painting of Ananias restoring the sight of Saul aka St Paul

Ananias, per instructions, lays hands on Saul so he may regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, shown top center

The Uniform Series passage for Sunday, August 20 is Acts 9:10-19, the last part of the episode of Paul (Saul’s) dramatic conversion experience (or, “conversion” experience, if we follow the new scholarship on Paul, which I do, that holds that Paul never stops “being Jewish,” although he does clearly become a disciple of Jesus, Christ) on the road to Damascus. These are the verses that focus on the activity of Ananias, and Ananias’ ministry to Saul. Here are my exegetical notes:

Characters, action, motion: There are three characters in the text: Ananias, the lord – at one point identified as Jesus, and Saul. Ananias does a lot: says – a formulaic response, and a long explanatory speech, answers – in a long speech, departs, enters, lays hands on Saul; the Lord does one thing: says – two long speeches to Ananias; Saul regains his sight, rises, is baptized, takes food, and is strengthened – so, a pair of passive verbs. In this story, or part of the story, things happen to Saul, upon the initiative of the Lord and the intervention of Ananias. read the rest

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

painting of the baptism of the Ethiopian by St Philip

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:27-28)

[A sermon on Acts 8:26-40, the Uniform Series text for Sunday, August 13, 2017.]

What in the world are we supposed to make of this story? This peculiar story about a meeting, as it turns out, an appointment, arranged by the Holy Spirit no less, so that from one side at least it looks for all the world like a coincidence – “it so happened that there was a man taking the same road, and it so happened that he was a Christian who knew the scripture …” – how else is the Ethiopian gentleman going to tell his story? Although perhaps he will believe, as many of us also believe, I suspect, because I have heard a lot of people say this, “In God’s world there are no coincidences.” An appointment in the middle of the desert between a pious man of God, a newly-ordained deacon, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian of Jerusalem, and this other person, this foreigner, this stranger, this queer, confused bundle of power and privilege and loss and exclusion, in whom everything about him that counts for something is cancelled out by everything that counts against him, reducing him to the status of a human zero, at least within the institutional system of his ancient religious environment.

What in the world are we supposed to make of this? read the rest

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