One of the joys that I no longer take for granted is the resumed opportunity to reflect together on the scriptures- what I missed, what revelation transpired, how others heard differently. The process of community wrestling with the message is priceless. We teach each other, receive correction, learn new ways, and go forward changed by the words of elders and babies. Vern approached me after my last teaching to speak such an insight, and I am grateful to share with you here. May the process thrive as we learn and change and grow together. -Renée
Vern Fein May 2022
Recently, Renée’s teaching focused on Peter, Saul and Ananias, how Jesus encountered each man and flipped their lives around- as He did for many of us. When the attendant Scriptures were read, something jumped out at me, the way we all know a verse can be heard in a way it was not before.
Jesus commanded Ananias, despite that disciple’s legitimate fear, to go to Saul, touch his eyes and heal him and tell him that he was the instrument God chose to bring His Name before Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel; this was a truly challenging task that a zealous Saul/Paul would welcome because he burned for the Truth, despite his ignorance, which is maybe why Jesus chose him when He knocked him down on that road. Saul, the man who was hell-bent on killing the followers of the Way, would be the one to liberate them. Don’t we love God’s irony, His foolishness over man’s wisdom?
Then the Lord told Ananias what He was going to tell Saul, almost like an afterthought, but for me, as I heard that again, maybe like the bright light on the road that hit Saul in the eyes, I heard what God said: “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my Name.” A total reversal. Like giving a soldier a medal of honor and sending him back to the hardest battle he would ever fight.
During Communion, I began to pray and reflect on that—how God had first reached out to me/us with the great joy of salvation and the promise of His forever Kingdom. But in that glorious time, did He ask us to suffer also? I don’t remember because I was infantile with joy and relief then. Perhaps some of you remember otherwise?
I began to reflect on how the early Christians suffered, those who were persecuted over the centuries for their faith, those who even today are tortured and killed for their love of Jesus. But that is not for me now and never has been in my long walk with Him, and, indeed, (maybe you have had this thought too) wondered how I would stand up to that kind of persecution?
So I asked: What is the suffering You have called me/us to as so many of us live and thrive in middle-class America? And what I heard is that He gave us His world view, the way He saw the beautiful world He has made and the vision of the glorious Kingdom that He is going to establish. But ALSO how broken the world is, how much pain and suffering there is, how we were to hate the way the World is, and our call to do something about it, no matter how futile we might feel or difficult it might be. He saw the pain of famine, war, sickness, like perpetual Egyptian plagues on this world. So when He sent us into the world we were to tell all of His glorious kingdom, His marvelous salvation, but, also, be honest about the way He saw the world, what turned Jesus from the joy of Cana to weeping over Jerusalem.
So, this, in part, is our call to suffer. It is not comparable to the suffering of so many in our world, but we never know what the future holds in this life. We are to tell the world of the pain and grief and injustice that will be present until God takes it away. We are never to ignore this while we are alive, but, despite this pain, we are called to praise God and appreciate the beauty of this world and realize we are called always to make it better through His church and His Gospel, be the sheep and not the goats.
Jesus- We accept that role and will suffer and sacrifice with that until You are tending Your garden again. Thank You for trusting us now with planting the flowers and hoeing the weeds. Amen.