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Lucky Us

April 8, 2016

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney spoke a few weeks ago at Nancy Reagan’s funeral service. He read a letter written by President Reagan to Mrs. Reagan, Christmas 1981—their first Christmas in the White House—describing the various women he loved. He ended by listing the nicknames he had given these women, concluding that “all of these women are you.”   They were the various faces or aspects of the same woman. He signed the letter, “Lucky Me.”

In the same way, this week’s Scripture texts[1] describe a few of the faces of God: the Gentle God who comes to us when we have hit bottom and are weeping; the confrontational In-Your-Face-God; the Praiseworthy God; the Hospitable God.

We are also lucky, because while God was the same yesterday as he is today and will be tomorrow, (Hebrews 13:8; “I the Lord do not change,” Malachi 3:6) he approaches each of us according to our own uniqueness. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He sometimes guides us to take leaps that we are not quite sure we can make, assuring us that Father knows best.  He is with us in times of sorrow and weeping. He is with us when we rail against him and diminish his followers. He is with us in our dreams, during our meals and in all aspects of our daily lives.

The Gentle God:

David describes a gentle and protective side of God in Psalm 30; if we depend on him for our security, we will not be shaken. He is with us when we are in pain, sad, or despondent. David tells us that God “lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me” (v. 1); “I called to you for help, and you healed me” (v.2); “When I felt secure, I said ‘I will never be shaken’”(v. 6); “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (v.11).

The-In-Your-Face God

Saint Paul was no saint when his name was Saul. He was an enemy of God—an unlikely candidate for the key spokesman for the new faith. But so much more believable because of it. There are countless examples of people who came to Christ through an attempt to discredit Christianity.

Saul didn’t make a decision for Christ. Rather, “It was Christ who decided for him and intervened in his life.” (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts (1990) InterVarsity Press, p. 168). Stott invites us to consider Saul’s state of mind at the time: Luke “tells us that at Stephen’s martyrdom ‘the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul’ (Acts 7:58), that ‘Saul was there, giving approval to this death’ (8:1), and that then ‘Saul began to destroy the church’ (8:3), making a house-to-house search for Christians, dragging men and women off to prison. Now Luke resumes Saul’s story by saying that he ‘was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples’ (9:1). He had not changed since Stephen’s death; he was still in the same mental condition of hatred and hostility.” (Stott, The Message of Acts p. 168).

It gets worse. Saul followed Jesus’ disciples 175 miles northeast of Jerusalem to Damascus for the purpose of finding those who had fled the city, and taking them prisoner.

But God had other plans for Saul. He hit him on the side of the head (figuratively) and blinded him: “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” . . . “’I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” (Acts 9: 3, 5).

Instead of entering Damascus as a murderous persecutor of Christ’s followers, “he was led into it, humbled and blinded, a captive of the very Christ he had opposed . . . Christ had interrupted his headlong career of persecution and had turned him round to face in the opposite direction.” (Stott, The Message of Acts, p. 170).

Christ can, and has conscripted many “enemies” into his camp. But as John Stott points out: “In order to be converted, it is not necessary for us to be struck by divine lightning, or fall to the ground, or hear our name called out in Aramaic, any more than it is necessary to travel to precisely the same place outside of Damascus. Nor is it possible for us to be granted a resurrection appearance or call to an apostleship like Paul’s.” Nevertheless, it is clear . . . that . . . Saul’s conversion and commissioning are applicable to us today. For we can . . . experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, surrender to him in penitence and faith, and receive his summons to service.” (Stott, The Message of Acts, p. 166).

The Praise worthy God

During the Easter season, we are particularly aware of our debt to Jesus Christ, for humbling himself to become a human, and enduring great suffering for our sakes. Jesus revealed himself to John while he was in exile in Patmos. John saw creatures of all kinds praising Jesus for his unselfish and loving act of becoming a human, and sacrificing himself:

The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb . . . saying ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God, from every tribe and language and people . . . worthy is the lamb who was slain , to receive power and wealth an wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:8-12).

These verses remind us that praise is as important a part of prayer as are our petitions.

The Hospitable God

Always the teacher, Jesus sets a good example for us in the gospel lesson by showing us that caring for others’ physical needs is an important part of ministry. Jesus invited his disciples to have breakfast with him, when he appeared to them for the third time, before speaking to them (John 21:12).

Hospitality was a key ingredient of Jesus’ ministry. The first miracle he performed was assisting a wedding host who ran out of wine, by turning water into wine. He often paired good food or drink with spiritual food. But he extended his hospitality first to his friends and others before making a spiritual point; a meal preceded a teaching in the Last Supper, and he fed thousands before speaking to them.

Lucky Us

God meets us where we are. Don’t be concerned if your experience isn’t the same as another person’s. It is only our puny human minds that think that any part of the triune God approaches everyone in the same way or that God only responds to certain words or postures. God is not limited to the boundaries of the human mind. He may appear to someone else very differently than to you or to me. We may have similar experiences with God, or not. But we can always depend on him. If you depend on him for your security, you will not be shaken. Lucky us.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan


[1] The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday of Easter are Psalm 30; Acts 9:1-22; Revelation 5:8-14; John 21:1-14.

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