Message for Sunday 5 May 2019: “Who’s Calling?”

Heaven is calling. Just when you think all the drama is over after Easter, God wants your attention. Powerful New Testament celebrities provide you with examples of spiritual transformation:  Saul (Acts 9: 1-20) and Peter (John 21: 1-19).

The situation with Saul reveals how this prolific New Testament writer was spiritually awakened. Before his conversion, Saul was a mercenary hired by the Jewish bureaucracy to persecute The Way, the earliest known name for people later called Christians. On his trip to Damascus to arrest Jesus’ followers, Saul had a dramatic encounter that changed his life. Saul and his companions heard the voice of Jesus, whom Saul was indirectly persecuting. The outcome from this miraculous event was that Paul was spiritually transformed. How ironic that the Saul who had been condemning Christians would assume a new name—Paul—and become the most renown, zealous missionary in Christian history.

Now consider Peter, who was also an extremely influential Christian leader. The circumstance for Peter’s spiritual transformation involved Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance. The risen Jesus visited his friends as they were fishing. Peter was in the boat and when knew Jesus was there he put on his clothes. You may wonder why Peter was naked in a boat with his friends but that’s a story for another day. The strange spectacle continued as Peter jumped into the water clothed (Peter seems to have done things backwards!). Some have called Peter’s behavior a reality break given his bizarre behavior.

Peter’s reluctance to face Jesus is understandable given that Peter had betrayed his Lord on the night of Jesus’ arrest prior to the crucifixion. During the post-resurrection visit, Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs, tend my sheep,” and again to “feed my lambs.” Jesus further asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter said “you know that I love you.” Jesus finally asked Peter to follow him, which suggests that Peter had fallen away prior to the encounter but was now splendidly restored.

We’ve considered the examples of Peter and Paul but what about you? People throughout history have reported dramatic encounters with the divine, some so fantastic that they rival a Hollywood blockbuster. The vast majority of people who convert to Christianity don’t report theatrical religious experiences. But don’t fall complacent because a spiritual awakening is more significant than any side-show drama. Your connection with God can involve a spiritual transformation. This is an inward miracle, but not something that will make the evening news (not that you’d like that anyway). No matter what you think of Peter’s or Paul’s situation the point is that God can take someone at their worst and weirdest and transform them into a marvelous new person.

Be assured that God’s interface with you is as unique as you are, and that God’s calling can assume a myriad of forms. Become less anxious about trying to duplicate others’ supposed spiritual experiences. As with everything else in life, your mileage will vary. Reading about how God has appeared to others can challenge you, opening possibilities that you might not otherwise recognize. And yes, knowing how God deals with other people may inspire a new potential for you.

Saul and Peter must have felt perplexed during their ordeals. You may also feel an odd mix of circumstances when God wants your attention. Are you open to God communicating with you? Are you listening? It’s not easy to sense God in daily living given all the distractions. The important thing is to remain mindful and expectant. If you’re not willing to be transformed then God will not force it. Yearn for God’s presence and you may experience a spiritual transformation, one of eternal bliss, soul-penetrating joy, and the best possible life  –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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