Monday, August 23, 2010

Lectionary Day 1 : here we go . . . you are coming too, right?

So I am beginning to read through the Daily Lectionary (which, if you are scoring at home is a two year cycle that (roughly) gets you through the Bible)  I am inviting you to come along for the ride and conversation.  If you are looking for the daily lectionary, there are many places to find it, but I suggest the PC(USA) site where you can either read it, listen to it or have it emailed to you daily.  Check it out here:
So, now on to today's readings: Acts 9:19-31
The passage from Acts really struck me this morning.  Not that there is anything really groundbreaking in there.  Basically, just Paul beginning his ministry and the disciples being more than a little wary of accepting him.  Of course, they had good reason to be wary - prior to his Damascus road conversion he was actively persecuting all of the followers of Christ he could find and on at least one occasion was a party to a murder (The stoning of Steven - Acts 7:58).
In a cruel twist of irony, after Saul/Paul has seen (and been blinded by) the light on the road to Damascus he suffers from the same persecution that until so recently he was perpetrating.  It is always remarkable to me when life and death actions are just routinely mentioned with no fanfare, and this Acts passage has Paul escaping not once but twice from death at the hands of those trying to silence him.
So what, what does that possibly have to do with those of us sitting so comfortably in our 'tolerant' American society?
Well, since I have already been long winded on my first post today, let me say I think it has everything to do with us.  You see, if Paul's experience was an isolated one, a unique one, it might be different.  But it is not.  Paul, like Jesus and his first followers before him and like so many thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) after him, Paul is persecuted and threatened for proclaiming the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His story and experience is not the exception, but rather the rule.
So I think it begs the question, have we ever suffered - or even been willing to suffer for the gospel?  Not to be dramatic, but I think if we are not at least getting uncomfortable on a regular basis - or even suffering some sort of persecution - than maybe we are not proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ with our whole lives.
Listen, I am a people pleaser - I want everyone to like me, but we must be willing to be isolated, be made fun of and maybe even suffer if we are even a little bit serious about following Jesus Christ.
Because, if we follow Christ (look what they did to him!), if we allow the Holy Spirit of God to work in us and through us it only stands to reason that we might encounter the world in similar ways to how Jesus and his followers through history have - with persecution and suffering.
So as not to end on a complete downer, I will share with you what was running through my head as I was reading the passages for today and writing this.  It was a song from my childhood, one I remember singing on many bus trips during Summers Best Two Weeks.  I don't remember the name or all the lyrics - but what I remember goes something like this: 'God did not promise joy with out pain, sun with out rain, peace without pain . . . but God did promise strength for the day, rest from our labor and light for the way'
I remember there were some fun motions or something to the song.  But more than that, the song highlights one hard and one encouraging truth: First, life is sometimes - in fact, often - hard and following Jesus means having a willingness to encounter not just the 'mountain top moments' but also the valleys of hardship and pain.  But in suffering or persecution or any difficult time we can and, in fact must, hang on to the fact that we are promised strength for the day, rest from our burdens and light for our way as we seek to follow Christ.  Amen.
 See you tomorrow.


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