Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Six

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Matthew 22:23-33

The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”

Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.

Always trying to trip Jesus up. If it wasn’t the Pharisees, then it was the other important group-within-a-group, the Sadducees. They were the ones interested in ‘the law,’ sometimes described as ‘teachers of the law’ in scripture. And they did not believe in a bodily resurrection. So they decided to hone in on that doctrinal issue and see if they couldn’t stump the teacher.

No such luck. They took a fine point in the law – the levirate marriage succession, wherein a widowed woman became the wife (or the property?) of her former husband’s brother – and came up with the most complicated scenario they could devise, sure that they had finally found a way to make this popular teacher fumble and bumble his way to an answer.

As always, Jesus turns the tables. He didn’t just do it literally, you know. He did it all the time with these pesky questions, and today’s little vignette is a particularly interesting example of that technique. Not only does Jesus affirm his belief in a resurrection, but he fills in some blanks about that transformative new life that awaits us after death. Not sure if this means we’ll be asexual or just unsexual, but it’s surely different from this life, isn’t it? And then he pulls the rug right out from under them and asks, “Why do you keep talking about the resurrection of the dead?? We serve a God of the living!”

And that is just about the finest and simplest expositions of the doctrine of bodily resurrection I’ve ever read anywhere.

Thank you, Lord, for the promise of eternity. We don’t understand it — something we share with the Sadducees of the first century! But we trust that you DO understand it and that you’re speaking truth to these trouble-makers. Thank you for always telling the truth, even when we try our best to trip you up. Thank you for making it simple and for keeping the main thing, the main thing.

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Five

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Psalm 143

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;
answer me in your righteousness.
Do not enter into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued me,
crushing my life to the ground,
making me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old,
I think about all your deeds,
I meditate on the works of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.  Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me,
or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Save me, O Lord, from my enemies;
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me
on a level path.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life.
In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.
In your steadfast love cut off my enemies,
and destroy all my adversaries,
for I am your servant.

For me, a level path is critical. Since my foot surgery almost three years ago, I’ve had problems with balance. Add to that the fact that neither of my knees works terribly well, and you gotta know that level is what works best.

Here are the lines that speak to me on this reading. Please share any that speak to you today in the comments.

“Let your good spirit lead me on a level path,” the psalmist cries. And I join in the cry — in a very real sense as well as a metaphorical one. There are other lovely phrases in this song, too. What are some of your favorites? Here is a list of mine:

“give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness” — Yes! God is faithful.

“Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” — Yup. I feel like this on a regular basis, especially in the current political climate.

I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land — a sturdy metaphor that has been part of my daily life during the years of this long drought, a picture that I hold within my heart of my need for the refreshment of the Water of Life.

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul — “new every morning,” right? Yes, Lord, help me to hear of your love every new day and to trust in it and in you. Teach me the way. . .

You are the Master of the Path, whether it’s level all the time or not. Help us, Lord, to look to you, to tell you the truth about how we’re feeling, and to trust that you are here, right here, with us in the midst of it all, joy and pain, laughter and sorrow. Thank you.

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross – Day Thirty-Four



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Acts 20:7-12

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

What a strange, small story! And man, could that Paul TALK, eh? Do you have relatives or friends who can talk like this? Just story after story, detail after detail, until you, too, have to fight sleep??

The small packets in the picture up there are my first attempt at crochet after several years away from that craft. A friend’s two sons are having their first children just weeks apart this spring — one of them is already here! — and so I made them each a blanket and a cap and included a copy of Matthew Paul Turner’s delightful new book with each gift set. Babies need lots of sleep, and cozy blankets can help that happen.

Well, this man was young, but not quite a baby. And his unexpected sleep led to a near-disaster — falling 3 stories and dying on the spot! Yet, Paul doesn’t hesitate to tell everyone that death has not won in this kid’s life — at least, not yet.

And after that nice and weird little interruption, Paul proceeds to eat and then . . . to start talking once again! All.Night.Long.

I love that that detail is included in the telling of this story. I also love this one — they took the kid away! Enough was enough.

Lord, sometimes we don’t know when we hit enough. Give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand when it’s time to take a break, to stop talking, to let the Spirit breathe in our midst. Thank you that Paul wasn’t perfect and that someone took the time and care to tell us this little story — just in case we were in danger of imagining that he might have been!

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Three

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John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus began to weep.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 Oh, my goodness, gracious sakes alive — I so, SO love this story. For a very long list of reasons, some of which I have highlighted above. I will admit to a certain partiality for Martha — I relate to her, what can I say? Take care of business, get it done, stay busy — ah, yes. But this powerful interchange with her friend, who in the space of a minute becomes her Messiah, well . . . it’s wonderful.

Both sisters utter the same sentence at the sight of their friend, Jesus, exhibiting utter faith in his power to heal. But look what happens when they get to the grave, and Jesus gives the order to roll back the stone — Martha cries out: “Oh, no, Jesus, he’s been dead long enough to stink already!”

Her newfound revelation just sort of evaporates in that moment, doesn’t it? I told you, I can really relate to this woman! 

The surprising character in this long narrative is Thomas, don’t you think? Doubting Thomas, we’ve come to call him over the centuries. But catch that little line up there: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Wow. He has heard the same words from Jesus as all of the others, but here, right here, he shows us that he gets it, he knows that Jesus is headed for his own death. He can read the tenor of the times and he has heard Jesus himself say it will happen. And he believes what Jesus tells him. Maybe his desire to see and touch his risen Lord came not so much from doubt, but from a deep love and desire to really see this thing that has come to pass. Who knows?

And then, there is the beautiful picture of Jesus’s tears, his deep empathy for the pain of his friends, his rock-solid sense that death is an enemy, even though it is the necessary end for every one of us. I am grateful that Jesus walked the entire human journey while he was on this earth . . . up to and including death. He gets it.

And finally, those last words to the mourners as they stand there, stupified that Lazarus has actually come forth! YOU unbind him. YES! That is our task as followers of Jesus and fellow sufferers with all of humanity — we are to help release all that binds us in the dark and empty places. WE are to be the hands and feet of Jesus himself.

Amazing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for living this story and for making sure that John wrote it down for us! Lord Jesus, we get to see so many sides of you in these verses, sides that we need to see. The commitment to wait until the time is right, the insight into the truth of the situation, the empathy expressed to these sisters and their friends, the invitation to them all to join him in the glorious work of release! Help us to join you, too, Lord. Us, too. 

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-Two

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Luke 24:44-53

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Must have been some sky that day, right? We saw some glorious cloud formations while driving south to our daughter’s last weekend for an early birthday dinner for my husband. I said to Dick as we drove, “That looks like a Montana sky over there,” remembering our summer driving tour of national parks last year.

Right up until the last minute, Jesus was teaching, teaching, teaching. Explaining their scriptures to them in new and exciting ways, encouraging them to hold fast to who he was and what he said and did in their midst. 

He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

That’s my favorite line in this passage, at least for this reading of it. This is what any decent preacher prays for as he or she prepares Sunday’s sermon — “open my mind, Lord. Help me to see and understand.”

It’s not an easy task, preaching. So be kind to your preachers, friends. Encourage them, ask good questions, engage in dialog if you don’t completely understand, even if you disagree. Keep it earnest, but not derogatory, and above all, don’t make it personal. I’m here to tell you, pastoring is not an easy gig. It’s a very, very good one. But it is never easy.

And that is exactly what Jesus is doing with his faithful band — he is pastoring them, right up until his moment of departure from this earth.

Thank you, Lord, that you are our pastor, our shepherd. And thank you for the pastors that you’ve provided for us, in this time and this place. Today, I want to pray for them, that your Spirit would be very near, that parishioners would be kind and careful, that your gracious will would blossom in their lives and in their ministries. Amen.

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty-One

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Ezekiel 33:10-16

Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right— if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live.

This is a hard text in many ways. It contains a fair amount of judgment, doesn’t it? But for me, the primary takeaway is what I’ve highlighted above: beware of ever trusting in my own righteousness.

We are all prone to this one, I think — at least, I certainly am. I can so quickly began to keep a tally in my head of all the great things I’ve done recently and then hold up that little list before the throne, saying, “See, see?? I’m a good girl. Yes, I am”

Well, yes, that is true. But is it not true because of what I do, but only because of what Christ does in me. Thankfully, God sees my potential! And Jesus came to show us all what grand potential we have, simply because we are children of a good God. And then . . . and then  . . .  Jesus enters the scene, often unexpectedly, even sometimes uninvited, and begins to move things around a little bit on the inside. Remember the old classic, “My Heart, Christ’s Home?” A fine little booklet that uses the picture of our heart as a home, with Christ moving in and cleaning it up for us.

I like that picture a lot! Even when I’m not quite sure I want him to move that particular chair over to that particular corner. . .

Lord of our hearts, Lord of our homes, Help us to welcome you, day after day after day. Help us to give you free rein to do whatever it is that needs doing in us and through us. And then, help us to remember that NOTHING that is fully good and righteous is even possible for us to do without your kind assistance. Thank you!

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Thirty

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Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

This is a favorite psalm for me. I have loved it as long as I can remember and I began to deepen in my understanding of it when a church choir I once belonged to sang an anthem setting of this text. It was a stunning experience for me. Written by an Armenian American composer named Alan Hovhannes, this short anthem — written for organ, soprano solo and choir — creates exactly the right mood for this plaintive cry. Have a listen:

I’m in the midst of a ‘depth’ season these days, and, once again, I have found these words to be a source of deep comfort. My mama is dying . . . and I was diagnosed with pneumonia late this afternoon, after 4.5 hours at urgent care and lots and lots of tests because of my rather wild medical history. So yes, I feel a bit in the depths tonight. And you know what? God welcomes me, right where I am, frustrations, anxieties, anger . . . all of it.

Yes. This one is perfect for me right.now.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits; and in his word is my hope”

AMEN.

Lord, Thank you for inviting us to bring the full expression of our emotions into your presence. Nothing is excluded, nothing is unwelcome. Thank you for the psalmist who wrote this particular song, thank you for the scribe who preserved it, and thank you for the power of these words and for the promise of them, too. 

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Twenty-Nine

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Isaiah 60:17-22

Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
    instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
    instead of stones, iron.
I will appoint Peace as your overseer
    and Righteousness as your taskmaster.
Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
    devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation,
    and your gates Praise.

The sun shall no longer be
    your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
    give light to you by night;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
    or your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous;
    they shall possess the land forever.
They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands,
    so that I might be glorified.
The least of them shall become a clan,
    and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will accomplish it quickly.

This gorgeous chapter begins with these familiar words: “Arise, shine! For your light has come!”

It fits, doesn’t it? Again, our scripture for the day is talking to us about LIGHT, particularly about the radiant glory of our God. And such a portrait of a very different world to the one we currently inhabit, am I right? “Peace as our overseer, righteousness as our taskmaster?” Walls called, ‘salvation,’ and gates called, ‘praise?’

Oh, yes, please! There are days, even entire seasons when I long for this vision to be reality. I’m in the middle of one of those right now, as we wait for my mother to die. There is still a remnant of light in her face — not as often as there once was, but I see it flashing out from time to time. I’m guessing I always will.

I hope my own children can say the same thing about me when that time comes. What about you?

Lord of Light, Thank you for this picture of a redeemed creation, a new world. Help us to keep that vision in the forefront of our minds as we walk through days of trouble and struggle. Help us to trust that someday . . . someday, that world will be our reality! Thank you!

 

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Twenty-Eight

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Colossians 1:9-14

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Today is my good husband’s 75th birthday. And this prayer is one that I’d like to remember to pray for him every day of however many years we have left together on this earth. Isn’t it glorious?

Every phrase of these seven verses is powerful. As I read it today, I pray it for you as well, dear reader. That you might be ‘made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power. . .” “joyfully giving thanks to the Father.”

Thanks be to God for the powerful ways in which we have been rescued and are continuing to be rescued as we walk this dusty earth. 

Give us eyes to see  your redemption, O Lord. And ears to hear your words of love and affirmation. And help us to offer those words to others, praying with Paul for all those loved ones you’ve placed in our lives. And help us to pray these good words for ourselves, as well. Thank you, Lord.

Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Twenty-Seven

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Acts 9:1-20

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now 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?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem;and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Such a familiar story for those of us who have been following after Jesus for a while. We know this one, inside and out, right?

Read it again. And read it as though you’ve never in your life heard this tale. See what jumps out at you, what surprises, flusters, mystifies, confuses you. Here’s what I see this time around:

That Saul is one determined zealot! And he’s on the road.

Saul is the only one who sees that light, that blinding light. But everyone heard the voice. Now whether or not the others heard the words is not clear — but the voice was audible to everyone.

Ananias has a vision, too. And both Saul and Ananias enter into a conversation with Jesus in the midst of their visions. And both of them are confused by everything, too. Saul is clueless as to the identity of this voice. Ananias knows who it is, but doesn’t much like what he says!

In response to Ananias, Jesus tells him that Saul has been chosen, very specifically, to take the good news to the Gentile world. And that he — Jesus, himself — will teach him how much he will suffer as he moves into that call.

Ananias is obedient, despite his reservations. He goes to the street called Straight, he enters the house, he lays hands on Saul and prays for his healing, the healing happens in a strange way, Saul is baptized and he eats for the first time in three days.

Saul wastes no time in being obedient, either. Immediately, he begins proclaiming who Jesus is in the synagogues of Damascus.

Amazing. So many pieces to this stunning little puzzle of a narrative. The rest of the book of Acts and half of the rest of the New Testament is devoted to this man, to his work, his teaching, his relationship with Jesus, his friendships, his arguments, his troubles and his successes. But here, right here, we meet him for the first time

Quite the introduction, don’t you think?

Lord, I thank you for Saul/Paul. For his energy, devotion, willingness to truly repent (turn around) and his skill and commitment as a disciple and a teacher/leader. He doesn’t do anything perfectly, but he does it all devotedly and he does it all well. Thank you for his life, for his words, for his mission. Thank you most of all that way back then, you saw us. . . these Gentiles of the 21st century . . . and you found someone to take your message of love and hope and salvation in our direction.