Engaging the Word: Readings for 4/10/16 (The Third Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh

Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Saul, later Paul, is converted on the road to Damascus, we get a glimpse of John’s stunning vision of heaven, and the risen Christ appears to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius.

The Conversion of St. Paul by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-82). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Conversion of St. Paul by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-82). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 9:1-20: In the passage from Acts, Saul, who was to become Paul, was on his way to Damascus to stamp out followers of Christ. On the road as he was nearing the city, a great light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to earth. A voice then called out, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Paul asked who was speaking, Jesus revealed himself, and told him to enter the city where he would be told what to do. Paul was blinded by the experience, and his companions had to lead him into the city.

The Lord then appeared to a disciple named Ananias in a vision and commanded him to go and heal Saul. The Lord explained that Saul was 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.” Ananias was reluctant to go because he knew of Saul’s evil reputation, but the Lord told him that Saul had been chosen to be an instrument to the Gentiles. Ananias went and laid his hands on Saul, saying that the Lord Jesus sent him that he may regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. “And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored.” Saul was baptized and began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

As we know, Paul went on to play a critical role in the formation of the early church and its doctrine.  “A Damascus moment” and “scales falling from one’s eyes” have become proverbial phrases for a sudden enlightenment with an immediate change of heart or mind.

Psalm 30: The psalm’s title is “A Song at the dedication of the temple.” These words were added when the psalm was sung at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) commemorating the cleansing of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. It is a wonderful psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance and healing. Verse 11 is highlighted in my Prayer Book: “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; O Lord, by my helper.”

Revelation 5:11-14: In the Book of Revelation, John has a vision of God’s plan for a new heaven and a new earth. This week’s reading is the thrilling climax of two chapters about John’s vision of heaven. Here, the chorus of heavenly voices proclaims Christ, the Lamb of God, worthy to receive “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Amen!

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Jacopo Bassano, 1545. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Jacopo Bassano, 1545. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 21:1-19: In this week’s reading seven of the disciples went fishing by the Sea of Tiberias (aka Galilee). They fished all night and caught nothing. At daybreak Jesus appeared on the beach (the disciples didn’t recognize him) and said, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they try to haul the net in and find it filled with a huge number of fish, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Even though they catch 153 fish, the net was not torn. And when they go ashore, Jesus is cooking breakfast. Later, Jesus redeems Peter for his three denials on Good Friday by giving him three opportunities to affirm his love. Of course, when we affirm our love for Jesus, he has work for us to do—“Feed my lambs, tend my sheep; feed my sheep; follow me.”

This story brought to mind Anne Lamott’s advice in her book, Help, Thanks, Wow: the Three Essential Prayers. She reminds us that we can survive terrible suffering by finding and trusting in God’s abiding presence. But for those who can’t believe that there is a power greater than themselves, she says, “I would lend you my higher power, this sweet brown-eyed Jew who will want you to get glasses of water for everyone, and then come to the beach for some nice fish.”

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