Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord… as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? —from Acts 9:1—20.
It was difficult for me to choose between this week’s scripture lessons… The almost unimaginable conversion of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles or St. John’s post-Easter, resurrection appearance and breakfast on the beach, replete with Jesus’ re-commissioning of the disciples to “go and feed my sheep”! I went with the latter for worship, but Paul’s persuasive, power-of-example presence cannot go unnoticed!
For those who dare to do so, there is something very daring and controversial in living out the gospel for of course it calls for restoration and reconciliation. If we really understand that we are made whole by the grace and love of God then we have to respond to the invitation therein to live that relationship in community.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for those who were once persecuted at Saul’s hand, to listen to Paul now preach the gospel of love and grace, forgiveness and for-each-other-fellowship to them? Maybe this story is as much about the daring and controversial work of redemption and restoration where the one who hurts a community is offered justice and grace by that same community than it is about the one who is transformed! Maybe it is another example of resurrection at work in the living and breathing and being of the faith community.
Beloved we are an Easter people, and as people of faith we are called to live the hard edge of the gospel that accepts in grace and offers justice to those who have been unjust towards us and the very community that we seek to form. And transformation comes, as Psalm 30 extols. The Psalmist celebrates God who transforms mourning into dancing and weeping into joy. At the heart of our faith is the promise that hurt and pain and violence will be transformed. This is a powerful image of what God’s grace and love can do. It energizes a transformation rather than simply making everything better.
So it leaves us wondering: What trust is required for us to risk transformation, especially in places of brokenness, so God’s Spirit may bring restoration, renewal, transformation? And what stories of transformation do we know that began personally, spread locally, and became global?
How might this inform our ongoing process of transformation? Will we allow God to drive restoration of this community so that we might go out and feed God’s beloved sheep?
With Blessing and prayer for joyful and transformative resurrection—
in your life and in our church’s ministry!
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade