The Woman in Purple (or Acts as a Movie)

Acts 16:9-15 – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for May 1, 2016

“One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth.” (Acts 9:14)

PurpleWeave
A dealer in purple cloth . . .

They met down by the river, some Jews, a handful of Gentiles, and the usual suspects from other places beyond the city of Philippi.

Paul, with Timothy and Silas, ventured to the riverbank. It was Friday, the Sabbath. According to the 16th chapter in Acts, they’d been in Philippi only a few days. Their visit to this strange-to-them speck on the map of Rome’s empire was inspired by a vision Paul had one night.

In the vision a man of Macedonia urged Paul to come and help.

To bring the good news of Jesus?

To bring the good news of Jesus!

And so a dream with a mysterious man from a faraway locale compelled these spirit-fed, God-led disciples of Jesus to venture into the unfamiliar. They chose to trust a midnight hint, a divine nudge, a vision that lingered after waking.

Sometimes that’s enough. Continue reading →

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Blindsided

Acts 9:1-20 – Third Sunday of Easter – for April 10, 2016

“After 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…” (Acts 9:8)

What horse?
Caravaggio’s “Conversion on the Way to Damascus”

Back* in 2009, The Blind Side made wheelbarrows of money and garnered Sandra Bullock an Oscar. I recently watched it again. The film’s title refers to a football team’s need to protect a quarterback’s blind side. Nasty things can happen when a quarterback focuses on a receiver while an unseen opponent approaches to thwart the play.

But it’s more than a football phrase.

There’s still Survivor, the ancient reality show. Contestants fret about blindsides. When—not if—will another player stab them in the proverbial back? Promises will be tossed under a bus . . . or the nearest coconut tree.

Years ago—yes, I recall the exact date—a United Methodist District Superintendent called to say I’d be moving to a different church. Nothing like answering the phone near bedtime to learn your whole world has been upended. He and I never got along. But he possessed the bureaucratic power to rearrange my future. Call me blindsided.

Have you been blindsided? Hasn’t everyone experienced a “bad” thing that unexpectedly caused havoc? Continue reading →

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What Horse?

Acts 9:1-16 (7-20) – Second Sunday after Easter – for April 14, 2013

“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing . . .” (Acts 9:8)

Conversion on the wayThe 2009 film The Blind Side made wheelbarrows of money. Sandra Bullock received an Oscar for her performance. I liked the movie. I laughed. I wept. I cheered. The title of the film refers to a football team’s need to protect a quarterback’s blind side. Bad things happen when a quarterback focuses downfield, searching for a receiver, and an unseen opponent approaches to thwart the play.

Of course the title works in multiple ways. It’s not only about football.

Then there’s Survivor, the silly (but also oddly revealing) reality show. Contestants fret about blindsides. When—not if—will another player stab them in the proverbial back? Alliances will get tossed under the bus . . . or nearest coconut tree. (Please, in the current season, will someone blindside “secret agent” Phil? Now!)

I’ve been blindsided. Twenty years ago this month—and yeah, I remember the day and time of night—a United Methodist District Superintendent called to tell me to move to a different church. Nothing like a phone call before bedtime to hear your present and future have been, er, tossed under a coconut tree. He and I didn’t get along. He was right about some of his concerns regarding me; I was right about some of the positions I took that irked him. So, both of us were right and wrong. However he held power over me. Bad news:  Blindsided!

And yet blindsided can have its upsides. My wife and I just celebrated our twenty-ninth anniversary. I happily recall the first time I spotted her thirty-one years ago:  the left side of the church’s back row when I stood to preach. Who’s that? Whoa! (If asked a few days before that pre-sermon epiphany, I’d have wondered if I could ever heal from my first marriage . . . and divorce.) Good news:  Blindsided!

Saul of Tarsus was blindsided. On his journey to Damascus Saul-who’d-become-Paul had an agenda . . . “Breathing threats and murder,” the Acts of the Apostles gleefully proclaimed. Before he became Paul, he was a mean-hearted, anti-Christian, butt-kicking dude. Then God, so the story goes, blindsided the fearsome Pharisee and terror from Tarsus. Conversion!

Literally, according to scripture, Paul lost his sight somewhere between blazing light, a heavenly voice and smacking the ground. Or maybe he didn’t. Even a casual reader of the Bible will notice there’s a difference between Acts’ dramatic rendering of Paul’s conversion and the places (like the opening of Galatians) where Paul personally writes about his transformation. I view Acts as one part history and one part a cheerleading PR effort to make the rise of the followers of Christ look good. Really, really good. Continue reading →

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