Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday (A)

Copyright ©2007, Ola Damberg

This is the story of Beatrice, the Apostle Paul’s fictional sister.

Y’all have met my brother Saul or at least heard his story.  Most of you have probably also read some of the letters he wrote.  Many say he is a great man.  I remember him mostly being a pest.  Growing up he would tease me and I would get punished when I tried to get back at him.  He would make fun of me for not being able to cook as well as mama or to sew like nana as she made tents.

It was easier for boys.  They were able to be outside more and go to school.  Saul was a good student so he spent more time studying than working.  Saul studied the Torah and he believed its words.  He often told me I was good because God created me in God’s image.  Somehow that never made sense to me.  The girl who couldn’t sew straight or cook.

Saul spent much of his time with Gamaliel.  Gamaliel was a gentle teacher and often counseled peace and patience.  We were never sure why Saul did not follow Gamaliel’s ways.  Perhaps it was the teasing he took as he walked home from the rabbi’s house.  Or maybe it was that he was not a good fisherman like the other boys.  Whatever it was, Saul became full of anger and it became his mission to persecute those that followed Jesus, the one they called the Christ.

One day while I was visiting cousins we went to the beach.  I was there when Jesus came to the boats and called Peter and the others.  First they put out to deep water (after being up all night with no luck).  They caught so many fish their boat began to sink.  When they got back to shore, they left everything to follow Jesus. 

I couldn’t do that.  My parents were getting older and nana could no longer see.  Who would care for my family?  Besides, why would Jesus want me?  A tent maker who couldn’t sew straight, a woman who couldn’t cook.

Saul was gone for many, many moons.  We heard stories about him, but we did not think they could be true.  When he came for a visit, we knew then that the stories were true.  He told us he had a new name, Paul.  He talked about meeting Jesus on a road and bright lights and voices from heaven.  My brother Saul who had persecuted the followers of this Jesus now says he knows this Jesus.  He says he wants to spend his life telling others about this Jesus, the one whose followers he persecuted. 

He shared about Jesus.  His teaching about the love of God, his healings, the miracles he did.  Saul, I mean Paul, shared about Jesus being crucified, dying, and rising again.  He shared about a time some of the followers were hidden away in a dark room and Jesus appeared to them.  And he told of another day when the followers shared about Jesus in many tongues so that all that were there could hear in their own language.  Some people thought they were drunk, but one of the followers, I think he said it was Peter, told them they were not drunk, but sharing the words of the prophet Joel.

I don’t know about all this stuff.  Maybe following Jesus is for people like my brother, people who are learned and smart.    That day I saw him at the beach was exciting, but I couldn’t drop everything and follow him like those fishermen.

Paul shared some of the last words Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Paul says that is why he is leaving home again.  To go and to share about Jesus.  About his love and his power.  Paul shared some of the letters he has been writing.  It is hard for me to realize this brother of mine is the same one who helped kill my friend Stephen and who burned with rage when speaking about the followers of Jesus.

Yet I see with my own eyes how he is changed.  He is softer, more at peace.  He no longer teases me but rather urges me to know this Jesus.  He is more patient, more loving.

I want to be like he is now.  Yet what would this Jesus want with a tent maker who cannot sew straight, a woman who cannot cook?  Paul reminds me that we all have different gifts.  That we are to use our gifts in community to meet the needs around us.  Paul reminds me that I am good at organizing things and making sure details are taken care of.  He tells me I can use that gift to help spread the words of Jesus.  He says that my gifts will allow those with the gift of words be free to share their gifts.  It doesn’t make sense to me.

Paul wants me to go with him to do this work, but somehow it seems safer to stay here in Tarsus.  To keep doing the things I have always done.  Who am I that I could make disciples?  Who am I to baptize people?  Who am I to teach people?  How do I know Jesus will always be with me?  I never met this Jesus.  How can I know him and how can he be with me always?

It makes no sense to me.  I think I will just stay here.  It is safer.  It is easier.  It is what I know. 

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecision's bugging me… (The Clash)

Let us pray:

God, whose fingers sculpt sun and moon
and curl the baby's ear;
Spirit, brooding over chaos
before the naming of day;
Savior, sending us to earth's ends
with water and words:
startle us with the grace, love, and communion
of your unity in diversity,
that we may live to the praise of your majestic name. Amen.

Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

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