Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
As Saul (a.k.a., Paul) 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?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “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.”
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Change is good. You go first.
It may well be true that nothing is certain in life but change. That doesn’t mean any of us like change, or that any of us are good at it. That often seems especially true of church life, organized religion, religious people and the spiritual journey.
I’m wondering this Monday morning when and if you’ve ever experienced change in your life, especially in your spiritual life. Have you ever changed your mind? Have you ever changed patterns of behavior? Were those changes for the better? What caused the change? What were the catalysts?
It’s ironic that we resist change because so many of the stories in the Bible speak about change and growth. In this Easter season, we are reading our way through the New Testament book called the Acts of the Apostles. It’s filled with stories of change as the news of Jesus’ resurrection grabs hold of a small group of disciples. When that happened, the world was changed. (Note Margaret Mead’s quote above. I think she had the early church in mind.) What do we learn about how that kind of change happens from these readings?
Among the stories in this week’s reading (see schedule below), we read about the ways that change came to St. Paul. Paul had dedicated his life to persecuting the church, bringing considerable talents and energy to that task. He was good at it. He got kudos for it. He was on a roll, until a light shone on the road to Damascus and he was set on another course. He pulled a spiritual 180. That change, the individual transformation came with a personal encounter, a voice from heaven calling his name, challenging him to think about what he was doing, making him rethink everything that had given his life meaning. St. Paul had thought he was right. He came to see another way.
Soon after reading about the change that came to St. Paul, we read about a change that came to the early Christian community. Even in its infancy, it had set up institutional rules about who was in and who was out. It doesn’t take long. In Acts 10, we read about how St. Peter, the leader of that community, changed his mind on the issue of whether Gentiles could be included in the Christian community. St. Peter had thought he was right. He came to see another way.
The changes come in close encounters of a spiritual kind. For Paul, it was an encounter with God speaking directly to him. For Peter, it was an encounter with a faithful person outside of his normal circle, another way that God speaks to us. All of which underscores what we are learning about spiritual growth (or change or transformation). It is a process that is fundamentally relational. That change or growth or transformation happens in relationship with God and neighbor. It happens for the good when we are focused on love of God and neighbor. It causes us to listen more closely for God’s voice. It causes us to listen more closely to our neighbors, and what they have to teach us.
I don’t know where God is calling us to change this week. I don’t know how God is calling us to grow. I’m guessing that’s different for each one of us. I am convinced that God is never finished with us, which means that change is always open to us, available to us, beckoning to us. However it happens, we are called to open our hearts to it.
What will that look like for you this week?
Good Book Club readings this week:
- MONDAY, April 16: Acts 8:1-8.
- TUESDAY, April 17: Acts 8:9-25.
- WEDNESDAY, April 18: Acts 8:26-40.
- THURSDAY, April 19: Acts 9:1-31.
- FRIDAY, April 20: Acts 9:32-43.
- SATURDAY, April 21:Acts 10:1-16.
- SUNDAY, April 22: Acts 10:17-33.
(Take the Easter season to read the Acts of the Apostles, bit by bit each day. We’ll link the assignments for each day each week.)
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