Things you don’t want to do

In today’s reading (Acts 9:10-19) Ananias has a vision in which the Lord tells him to go heal Saul. This is interesting for several reasons.

The Lord calls Ananias by name. It  wasn’t necessary to add this detail, unless it follows some story form I’m not aware of. The use of the word “name” comes up several times in this passage so I think it’s safe to assume any time a name is called or the noun name is used, there’s significance to it.

Of Saul, the Lord says, “…he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” My name.

The Lord gives Ananias a reason for doing this work, just as a celestial messenger gave Mary a reason for her mission. God does not seem to mind explaining himself. This is a form of respect, I think.

Ananias really doesn’t want to do the job, because Saul is known to be authorized by the leadership to “bind all those who invoke your name.” Again, the use of “name” seems significant. The term is used frequently to describe something like God’s authority, but I’m not sure I understand it.

I wonder, why doesn’t the Lord just heal Saul? Why not heal him without the intervention of Ananias?

Ananias calls Saul “brother.” I’m curious to know the significance of this. My first thought was, this is recognition that Saul was a brother in Christ. This seems like an act of trust and faith, given Saul’s reputation. Or, it could simply mean he’s a brother Isrealite. Is the difference important?

The mission of Ananias to Saul involves more than just physical healing. It seems he is to facilitate Saul being filled with the Holy Spirit. To me, this would seem to make he is being placed in a particularly vulnerable position. Ananias is being asked to take a significant risk to advance the name of the Lord.

Lord, awaken me to the mission you have for me. Show me the meaning and purpose of what I am to do. Teach me the meaning and significance of your name. Help me do the things I would rather not do, things I may in fact have a good reason to question, but which it is my duty to faithfully perform to further your kingdom. Amen.

A Wise Magistrate

From today’s Book of Common Prayer Independence Day readings:

“A wise magistrate educates his people,
and the rule of an intelligent person is well ordered.
As the people’s judge is, so are his officials;
as the ruler of the city is, so are all its inhabitants.
An undisciplined king ruins his people,
but a city becomes fit to live in through the understanding of its rulers.” Ecclesiasticus 10

Something to consider as election season approaches.

First, get a million dollars

One of the evening lectionary readings for the feast of Saint Philip and St. James tokay reminds me of the Steve Martin bit where he says something like, “how to become a millionaire… First, get a million dollars.” In the reading Proverbs 4:7 says “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight.”

It also reminds me of a bit from “Hee Haw” where a patient says to his doctor “it hurts in all these places.” The doctor drawls in response, “Well, the thing for you to do is stay out of them places.” The Proverbs reading says, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” In other words, “stay out of them places.”

Sometimes profound = simple and obvious, but simple and obvious truths are no less true than complex and obtuse ones.

Today’s Newspaper: You can’t make this stuff up

Multiple fascinating stories in todays newspaper, beginning with the obvious USA women’s World Cup soccer victory, and continuing with the following items:

  • A man who threatens to clear 10 acres of land near Chattanooga Tennessee and create the world’s largest Confederate flag.
  • A man gets drunk, lights off a firework on his head, blows off the top of his head, and dies.
  • A South Dakota town museum restores a harpsichord from the 1500’s.
  • Billy Joel who is 68 weds his girlfriend of 34. They have been together for 6 years.
  • A 13-year old boy drowns in a closed public pool.
  • An ad that says back pain can be relieved through “decompression” treatment.
  • An ad for cremation starting at $695.
  • Greece says no to “austerity.”
  • An editorial about the power of Black Christians’ faith in the face of terrible adversity.
  • The growing phenomena of children “bullying” parents.
  • The Mississippi river approaching flood stage.
  • An obituary of a man who earned two bronze stars for his service at the height of the Viet Nam War and another man who piloted landing crafts in combat in the Pacific in World War II, and another man who was “once given a cigar by Red Skelton.”
  • The Dalai Lama turns 80.

An interesting, sobering, and entertaining read for a Monday.

Expectantly Waiting, and Acting

Today’s lectionary reading in Luke focuses on Jesus in the throes of death, and the aftermath: The centurion praising God after seeing him die, the crowds going away beating their breasts, the “acquaintances” of Jesus hovering at a distance, the veil in the temple torn. And Joseph of Arimathea, “a good man,” who was “waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God,” doing a mitzvah by providing a dignified burial for Jesus.

The theme of “waiting” on the Lord, and for the kingdom, which begins in Genesis, “For your salvation I wait, oh Lord,” and continues through the Psalms and Micah would have been familiar to those hearing or reading the words written in Luke. Here is Joseph of Arimathea,  a member of the council who did not agree with the council’s course of action against Jesus, providing a model of behavior for how to serve  in times when the prevailing mindset results in great evil.

The New Jerusalem

The evening readings for Independence Day are from Micah and Revelation. Micah describes the New Jerusalem as a place where “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid…” In Revelation, John says “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them…” and as I imagine it God himself dreams–if such a thing is possible–that “I will be their God and they will be my children.”

What an unimaginably beautiful and reassuring image.

“Do not be angry with your neighbor for every injury”

In the morning readings for Independence Day, Ecclesiasticus says, among other very practical and wise things, “Do not be angry with your neighbor for every injury, and do not resort to acts of insolence.”

This is how we live together in community in peace. Almost by definition, to live in community is to endure injury. When we believe that every injury is a challenge to our own personal sovereignty, we are acting with undue pride, according to the author of Ecclesiasticus. The sin of pride, the writer says, “is to forsake the Lord; the heart is withdrawn from its Maker.” In some way, true “independence” is not derived from withdrawal, but rather from living in peace with our neighbors in spite of inevitable injury.

Insolent and uncivil acts are signs of withdrawing from God, withdrawing from our neighbors, of sin.

This evening when I review my day, I will ask myself if I am truly “independent,” in the very best sense, or am I withdrawing my heart from my Maker by showing undue pride and being angry for every injury.