There were three sons going back home
for the 60th anniversary of their church in New Jersey.
first, was driving from Pennsylvania, and got as far as Minnesota before he
stopped, and made a U-Turn.
second, was driving in from Chicago, was heading through Ohio, but took a wrong
turn here and there, jagging north then south, each time he veered off course
his GPS would say “Re-calculating.”
third, was driving from Virginia, and once he
got off the Garden State Parkway,
he had to pull over and look at his
map to make sure he knew the particular place in New Jersey he was going.
made a U-turn, one had a GPS that
consistently Re-calculated to keep
him on track, and the third pulled over
to ensure he got to his particular goal.
flipped directions, one got there in
fits and starts, and the third just
needed to focus on his goal.
tell this story, not to make sure you all show up a week from today to
celebrate our anniversary and hear the Bishop, but in order to talk about the
Flips, fits and starts, and focusing of conversion.
Flips, Fits and Starts, and Focusing.
All, valid experiences of Conversion.
at Paul, Mr. Conversion Extraordinaire, look at how he flips
—does a 180 degree turn.
was a very strict Jew
—a Fundamentalist we might call him
—He knew his scripture,
he knew Deuteronomy 21:23,
he knew that those who die upon a
tree are accursed,
yet these “Followers of the Way”
--These Earliest Christians
were claiming a man who died on a
—on a tree
—was the Messiah,
was God’s Blessed One!
knew his Bible and he knew that was blasphemy,
was an abomination,
was a threat to the good order of
he approved of the murder of St. Stephen,
and was using any authority he could
find, and some ill gotten authority too more likely than not
to fight against these liars,
these people on the Wrong
mad he goes along the Way to
he’s turned around,
within a couple of weeks he goes from
persecution to preaching,
from declaring the Way to be
to following along the Way himself,
following after Jesus
—being his disciple!
this is good to remember—especially when you face those most recalcitrant of
folk who, to your eyes, are beyond
—sometimes, now I’m not saying always
—but sometimes, they’re folk who are
going to flip,
who God will turn around,
who will make a U-turn in life and
find themselves as good as they once were bad,
wolves into lambs,
sinners into saints.
For that matter, sometimes you too will find
yourself on the wolf end of the stick,
and its good to know that the Good Shepherd can flip you around, even
Then there is Peter
—what a guy,
never a more back and forth, fits and starts, man than he,
“Don’t wash my feet Jesus!
…wash all of me.”
“You are the Messiah, the Son of God…
…Hold up now guy, who do you think
you are saying the Messiah has got to be crucified… I don’t think you know what
you’re doing Lord!”
And more to the point, today, “I’ll
never deny you…
… woops, I denied you three times.”
there by a charcoal fire, three times
denied his discipleship.
Seriously, this guy!
Every step a side step,
every time he takes a drive the GPS
goes crazy recalculating.
today, there by the charcoal fire, this breakfast of fish
three times he
affirms he’s Jesus’ disciple,
three times he
says “I love you!” To Jesus.
Peter didn’t exist, we’d have had to make him up, because he’s all of us.
His kind of conversion, so often our own,
return to Baptism,
struggle to be faithful,
reminder that we are children of God, even when we don’t feel like it.
Yes, us Sinner/Saints,
us Peter people.
Maybe not the fireworks of Paul, but
a struggle still!
there is brave Ananias, his conversion, an act of focusing. Like Mary, he doesn’t ask a Why question, but a How
—how can I follow you
—how can I minister to this Paul
How when he wants to kill us?
Yet, he follows and goes where God
calls him to go.
points him to a concrete needy nasty, warts and all person, and he goes.
too should be our question:
How can I be a faithful disciple in
this particular time and this particular place
generalities, but the particular personal ground upon which I stand?
What tasks will you callous my hands
with O’ Lord?
This is so important—we can easily
get lost in the clouds, or point too often to acts in the past, but now,
how is God calling us?
How is God calling you?!?
Yes, sometimes conversion is about
seeing more clearly and acting more particularly.
Fits and Starts, and Focusing. All valid experiences of Conversion.
of them is a way God acts in our life.
Each is part of the life of faith,
all our lives.
We can’t denigrate those who’ve come so far to get where they are,
or dismiss those who struggle with the pull and tug of their heart and
seem to stay in one place,
or allow the down in the dirt challenges
of particulars to disappear from our
of them, real experiences of God acting in our life!
ALSO, all of them are signs of God’s abundance!
abundance fueling the journey along
and God’s abundance the goal of the journey!
cars, making U-turns, Jagging back
and forth Re-calculating, and idling
while the map comes out of the glove box
—they’re all fueled by the desire to
get to that anniversary.
cars, their flipping, fits and starts, and focusing,
--For all of them, their goal? Arriving
at that anniversary.
—Peter, fed an abundance of fish
—more than you should be able to
catch in one go—
just as wine flowed at the Wedding of
Cana at the start of John’s Gospel,
here at the end food of the sea falls like manna from heaven for him, for us!
Paul and Ananias, by the end of their
spiritual cat and mouse game, are fed
with the fullness of their unlikely brotherhood,
—Healing, Baptism, Food, Community,
—these things can feed you forever!
they’re all heading to the abundance that is the very presence of God!
All heading toward the Throne of God,
where we’ll sing praises together as sister and brother, where we will dwell
with our Risen Lord!
ends and the means of our conversion,
be we like Ananias, Peter, or Paul,
Faithful Focusing, Fits and Starts,
Pulled over, Re-calculating, or
making a U-turn
The ends and means are both God’s providence for us,
God’s very real presence with us
through Christ our Lord!