Saturday, May 21, 2011

Acts 9: Three healings

Acts 9 begins with the Jerusalem pogrom spreading 150 miles away to Damascus. It ends with the resurrection of godly woman. In the middle, the Chief Persecutor becomes the Chief Proselytizer. The Kingdom of God is advancing!

Acts 9 recounts three healings, each done explicitly to glorify God. The first healing is of the Drill Instructor variety. When Marine boots arrive at Parris Island, their previous lives are stripped away from them by not-so-tender specialists highly skilled at developing hard-edged warriors for freedom’s army. Enroute to Damascus to stop the dispersed seeds of his pogrom from reaching this vital crossroads of trade caravans, Saul of Tarsus is literally knocked off his high horse. Nothing flowery from Jesus: “Get up. Go. Wait to be told what you must do.” Sounds like boot camp to me! Furthermore Blinded and led by the hand to Damascus, he has time to think about the hard truths of his enlightenment. He knows now he has been more Haman than Mordecai, more Ahab than Elijah. As the scales fall from his eyes (hence the colloquial expression), this “chief of sinners” is healed in both body and soul. Abraham Lincoln said, "I destroy my enemies by making them my friends." That is what is done here by the Greatest Emancipator.

A lifelong civilian, I honor the sacrifice and faith demonstrated by godly men and women in the military. Rep. Vicky Strong, a pastor’s wife in the Northeast Kingdom, has established a website on behalf of her son, Jesse, whose body died in iraq in 2005 but who is alive in Christ today.

Beginning in verse 32 and for the next several chapters, Luke re-focuses on Peter. The Holy Spirit will orchestrate a momentous work of Kingdom unity in chapter 10, but first He performs two more healings: Aeneas, the paralytic, and Tabitha/Dorcas (Aramaic and Greek for “gazelle”) the dead woman. Visiting the saints of Sharon and Lydda, Peter says to a man laying on the ground for eight years, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” (Or as the KJV succinctly states in words quoted by mothers everywhere, “Arise, and make thy bed.”) When Aeneas rose, “all those who lived in Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord,” the Rose of Sharon.

Reading about restored Gazelle, I see the mourners milling around outside the house where she lies. They are wearing clothing that she made for them, which they point out to the apostles. I wonder, will I leave behind such clothing – in my case words and deeds that bless the needy in body and spirit now and into eternity?

My friend Jon Hughes kept a photo of an atypical Catholic saint in his office at Bishop John A. Marshall School. I can never remember his name, perhaps Deacon Pete Gummere of St. Johnsbury will provide this information for me. Anyway - this fellow was a wealthy young, early 20th century Italian who loved to rock climb and ski with his pals. The photo shows a handsome young man laughing and holding a stogie in one hand while his other is draped around his buddy’s shoulder. But there was more to him than worldly bonhomie. As they would ski through the woods, if they came across a chapel he would say to his fellows, “let’s go in and worship.” And he gave so freely to the poor that when he died, large crowds of people who would never notice the death of a rich man attended the funeral as a sign of love and respect and gratitude for one who cared for them, and the One who cares for all of the poor in body and spirit.

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