Message Title: The Blind Side- Turn the Other Cheek
Theme: Active Faith
Main Text: *Acts 9:1-20
Scripture Reading: John 21:1-19
RCL Scripture: *Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Focus: God doesn’t give up.
Function: to find pathways for restoration, redemption, and reconciliation that are guided by God’s Spirit.
Other Notes: COMMUNION SUNDAY| STORIES OF ACTIVE FAITH PEOPLE – St Francis, Shane Claiborne, mother Theresa, “hell’s kitchen” & Walter Rauschenbusch
SCRIPTURE READING: John 21:1-19 Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. 3Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.” They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus. 5Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards. 9When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
ACTIVE FAITH EXAMPLE: Shane Claiborne
- Shane Claiborne is a unique type of Christian. In the early 2000’s he used the phrase “New Monastic” or “Monastic Christian” to describe his faith. His influences include Mother Theresa and St Francis of Assisi. It’s no wonder that Claiborne’s life was structured similar to St francis: he chose to live in poverty and community in the inner city of Philadelphia. They called this community “the Simple Way” which has grown into it’s own ministry organization.
- In the beginning, Shane and his roommates chose an intentional style of living that pursued radical love to their community. This community did not fit in with typica Philly—they had a washing machine powered by a bicycle AND they would turn guns into gardening tools through black smithing methods. PHOTO (inspired by Isaiah 2:4)
TRANSITION: Claiborne’s demeanor and methodology is quite different than the two men we’ll study today BUT he has just as much zeal for Jesus.
MAIN TEXT: Acts 9:1-20 Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, 2seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?” 5Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6“Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.” 7Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything. 10In Damascus there was a certain disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Yes, Lord.” 11The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.” 15The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord sent me—Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you were coming here. He sent me so that you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Instantly, flakes fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. 19After eating, he regained his strength. He stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days. 20Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared.
EXPLAINATION & INTERPRETATION:
- Saul was so full of zeal for his beliefs that he was ready to crush this Jesus movement plaguing his faith.
- On his way to carry out his plans, Jesus appeared to him saying “why are you persecuting (harassing) me?!”
- Jesus commissions Saul, blinds him, and sends him to Ananias (a fellow Christian) to get sorted out.
- Saul doesn’t even seem to have a choice—Jesus is redeeming his story- PERIOD!
- Saul went from zealousness of rage to grace
- Jesus seems to be in the habit of restoring people when they or others have given up. While I could offer you many examples, we’ll focus on the story from the gospel passage today.
- In many ways, Peter is just like Paul. Peter is zealous and does everything 200%.
- Jesus is washing feet NO JESUS NOT ME! OK OK THEN MY WHOLE BODY!
- Jesus is getting arrested *cuts off guards ear*!
- Jesus has died and they’re looking for his followers? DEFINITELY NOT ME!
- This guy has no chill.
- NOW Peter is behaving as if he’s given up. He went HOME after seeing the empty tomb. Now he’s at the sea of Galilee – sad, broken, lost. (I mean—What are the disciples doing there? They’ve already seen the risen Christ a few times… why are they fishing?!) In his mind, Peter has lost his place as a disciple so why not go back to the life before Jesus—a life of fishing.
- Hard core post-break up energy.
- But once again, Jesus pulls him out of that life. Jesus restores Peter to his place as a disciple.
- In many ways, Peter is just like Paul. Peter is zealous and does everything 200%.
- Saul was redeemed. Peter was restored. There is hope for us too.
- Back to intro: Shane Claiborne is a radical Christian living out the teachings and actions of Jesus in bold ways. Frequently his actions and words make people uncomfortable. An unpopular but big part of his ministry includes caring for those on death row. He advocates for inmates. He speaks with governors. He does public engagements to end capital punishment.
- He wrote a book titled “Executing Grace” where he discusses how faith in Jesus (a man executed on death row) means we should be against this form of punishment.
- It’s a hard path to consider when we humans desire justice when we’ve been wronged.
- I’ll leave space for you to ponder Claiborne’s thoughts & actions while we consider our own.
- AUDIENCE REFLECTION: take some time to ponder these questions.
- How are we opening doors for redemption, restoration, and reconciliation?
- Do we make room for people with criminal records in a church community?
- Do we leave room for people to change their mind who hurt or failed us?
- Do we make space for people to start a new life?
- DISCLAIMER; If you have suffered abuse—these questions can be quite triggering or confusing. Please use caution when considering reconciliation with your abuser.
- All reconciliation, redemption, and restoration should be fueled by the Spirit of God, NOT by an attitude of guilt or fear.
- For the rest of us who haven’t experienced abuse—we are called to be agents of healing for both parties: the guilty and the victim without putting pressure on the victim to reconcile with the guilty.
COMMUNION: Our first act of reconciliation is the communion table. At this table, we are equals. No one is greater than another. No one is more righteous. No one is garbage. Everyone gets an equal seat at this table.
CONCLUSION: No one is past God’s redemption. Saul wanted to kill Christians. Jesus redeemed him. Peter had denied Jesus. Jesus restored him. Maybe that person on death row will be your neighbor in eternity. Our God is all powerful and all loving. Our God can redeem, restore, and reconcile any store—yours, mine, or theirs.