Tagged: conversion

Ephesians 5:8-14

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 26, 2017.

Paul has exhorted believers to shun sexual immorality, greed, or any kind of impurity for these are unfit to God’s people; besides, they provoke God’s wrath (5:3-6). So, they ought to disassociate themselves from disobedient people (v. 7). It is not clear to what degree believers should distance themselves from immoral and greedy people. Should they have no contact with them or simply not share in their immoral behaviors? In 5:8-14 he provides an additional motive for avoiding said misconducts and associations, which are discordant with their new identity. The pericope cuts off the reading before Paul’s more general advice regarding how believers ought to conduct their lives in a society influenced by evil (5:15-33), but the preacher should have them in mind.

According to Paul, believers now have a new existence. Once “darkness” characterized their lifestyle, now “light” does (v.8). It is clear that the source of their new existence is “in the Lord.” This recalls Jesus’ self-declaration of being “the light of the world,” where he uses darkness-light conversion metaphor (John 8:12; 12: 35-36). Similarly, in v.8 believers have a new life as “children of light” and should walk in a way that reveals the light they now are in Christ. Paul is setting the basis for his view that Christ-enlightened persons can have a transforming effect on darkened lives (vv. 11-14). Here Paul emphasizes his pre-conversion and post-conversion contrast (2:2-4, 11, 13).

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Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 10, 2016.

Conversion of Saul - Michelangelo
Conversion of Saul – Michelangelo

The story of Paul’s conversion joins a litany of dramatic conversion stories that unfold in Acts 8-10.  Beginning with Acts 8:4 we read about the conversion of the Samaritans, then an Ethiopian, and now the conversion of Saul.  The conversions climax with a Roman centurion believing and being baptized.  Each of these stories takes us farther from the original community in Jerusalem than the one before.  They each tell a story of a God who touches the lives of unlikely people from diverse backgrounds, so the good news will spread to the ends of the earth.

On this second Sunday after Easter, it is fitting for the preacher to focus on this central theme of conversion.  He or she will emphasize Christ’s primary and active role in the conversion experience.  It is Christ who approaches and interrupts Paul on his journey, and it is Christ who changes Paul’s course.  Others are unable to see or hear Christ, revealing the intensely personal nature of conversion.  Even still, as the voice engaging Saul moves from accusation to invitation, Christ indicates that this story is not only about conversion but also about vocation and calling.  In a moment, Saul becomes both a believer and a person with a role to play for God. Conversion is not only an experience shared between a new believer and God.  It is also an experience shared between the believer and the world, as he or she is transformed both by their personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior, and by their new calling to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

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Acts 10:34-43

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 27, 2016.

St. Peter in the House of Cornelius - G. Dore
St. Peter in the House of Cornelius – G. Dore

Most preachers will choose one of the gospel passages for this Sunday, but if you are looking for a slightly different spin on the usual Easter texts, Acts 10 is a good way to go.  This passage occurs within the larger context of Cornelius’ conversion story which serves as the climax of the first half of Acts.  Throughout Acts, the gospel has been gradually moving forth unhindered from Jerusalem, into Samaria, and now into Joppa.  Along the way, Samaritans and an Ethiopian have believed the good news.  And if that wasn’t enough to stir things up, Luke now presents a Roman solider! It is no wonder the circumcised believers at Cornelius’ conversion with Peter were just a bit overwhelmed. “Is there anyone this God won’t save?”  This is the question that had to be racing through their hearts and minds.

Just moments before, Peter had that transforming vision on the rooftop. The sheet was lowered, and he was instructed to eat the animals in it, many of which were unclean.  Three times Peter hears the voice, along with the command, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (vs. 15).  The ambiguous vision  becomes clear in verse 34 when Peter finally gets it!  God shows no partiality.  The vision was not simply about unclean food but about “unclean people,” and who is fit to sit at God’s table… and at our table. In this moment of revelation, the invitation to convert shifts from Cornelius to Peter, and then to the reader. Are we willing to let the gospel of Jesus Christ engage and overturn some of our long held preferences and beliefs?  Are we especially willing to be converted in our understanding of who we view as “worthy” recipients of the gospel?  Even more, are we willing to be challenged with a new vision of who we invite to sit at our table?

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