As I sat there with a book next to the coals from the morning fire, a wind began to blow. And it continued to blow, and it got stronger and stronger, blowing sand into my pages, and blowing the pages over so that I had to keep my hand firmly on the book to be able to read at all. I finally got so frustrated I shouted at the wind, at God, at the universe, “Really?!?! I’m finally in the right mindset to read, and now this? Stop with the sand blowing already.”
And this was Paul. As a Pharisee, under the authority of the Chief Priest, he pursued the followers of the Way to foreign countries and cities, with a relentless perseverance because he was “so furiously enraged” at them. And then when he became a follower of Christ, Paul pursued the conversion of people in foreign countries and cities with the same relentless perseverance that he showed in persecuting Christians before this moment beneath the bright light on the road to Damascus.
People love to hear sermons about how God loves them. People love to hear sermons about how those who love God are blessed. People love to hear about how God’s love covers over their multitude of sins. People love hearing sermons about love as long as that love relates to them. But people hate to hear sermons that demand that they follow through on loving their neighbor, because others can just be so difficult to love sometimes.
Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Luke 6:39-49 ) In the late 80’s, there was an anti-drug public service announcement that shows a father confronting his son about the son’s drug use.Read More…
“Didn’t we play stickball with him?” “Didn’t he once pull the tail of a donkey an make it bray so loudly at 3am that all the neighbors woke up?” “Didn’t he used to catch frogs down by the river and scare the girls with them?”
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
In the age of Jesus, it’s not like you could dismiss a voice talking from heaven as someone playing tricks on you with a wireless lapel mic and a hidden loudspeaker. That just wasn’t a possibility. So these people had to dismiss the voice from heaven as thunder, even though they heard the voice, and what it said. They dismissed the voice as thunder because they did not want to believe, or be confronted with the truth.
I’ve seen it happen where someone comes to church, dressed all in black, with colored, spiked hair, wearing chains and combat boots, listening to the latest and greatest heavy metal – and then several months later you find that that person is now wearing skirts, blouses, cardigan sweaters and beautiful high heeled shoes. This didn’t happen overtly, and didn’t happen overnight, but somehow the idea that “good Christians don’t do that” permeated someone’s life to such an extent that they gave up the exciting and diverse person that they were to become just like everyone else merely to fit in and be accepted.
They’ve seen this movie before, and so some of them are thinking, “Great! Jesus is here, he’ll calm the storm and all will be well.”
But Jesus doesn’t calm the storm.
He’s just standing there, telling them not to be afraid, in the midst of all this raging chaos.
I tried to rationalize, I tried to ignore, I tried to bargain, but for some reason, God kept putting this on my heart, and I finally relented. As I gave the money to my local priest to give to the bishop, I was almost in tears, wondering how this could remotely be God’s plan, seeing as how I didn’t have the money to deal with my own bills.
The trouble with this viewpoint is that it seeks to benefit from faith without putting any work into it. It looks for safety, it looks for rescue and the salvation from eternal damnation, rather than a relationship with God. It is purely practical.