Reconciliation: Good News for Christian Unity
(A homily preached for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at Concordia College New York, 2017)
In the Name + of Jesus.
“Why are you persecuting me?”
That our Lord would allow Himself to be persecuted by His own creation astounds and confounds, to say the very least.
Subjecting Himself to degrading politically-driven pot shots and the babbling blogging banter that affirms every opinion, regardless that it is falsely-fashioned “fake news” grounded squarely in “alternative facts,” our Lord is no stranger to receiving bad press.
Pressed from His own covenant people who should have known better theology when they saw it and heard it while being boxed in by those who could not even Pontius Pilate their way out of a political paper bag, our Lord Jesus’ experiences with persecution involve His own personhood and party being spoiled indiscriminately by those who would seek to separate Him from His Father and His people.
Saul is no exception.
And yet, on a road to Damascus far away from the reporters and on an unpublicized press stop, our Lord offers more than a Tweet;
He gives an “Insta-slam.”
One question causes a political mogul to fall.
One indictment blinds one who routinely oversaw religiously-sanctioned murder.
One lingering interrogative stops him in his place in order to make him the “change he wanted to see,” to show him how he would be “stronger together” and how he could help make a people “great again”—only as a disciple of the One who gets the worst press but does the most work—Jesus Christ our Lord.
And after it, Jesus the I am, the Word of Eternal Life, offers the resurrection word—Rise and go to the city—that only He could bring since He Himself had come into the world to die on a cross for our sin and rise from the dead to bring life and unity to all God’s creation.
And amazing things happened from there as fake news yielded to Good News.
Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, Saul--now Paul—learned how one executive order freshly signed in perfect blood could bring unity, harmony and justice to a war-torn people, out-maneuvering phony campaign promises by fulfilling the words of the laws as the fulfillment of the Law that is itself.
So, why are you persecuting me?
It is the question still in the air on this feast day addressed to the Church.
Why do those who have been given white garments of Christ’s perfect righteousness in Holy Baptism continue instead to choose to hold the clothing of those who would stone innocent martyrs humbly zealous for sharing the truth?
Why do those who were add-ons to the guest list for the Lamb’s wedding banquet, recently and graciously cleared by security after a three-day upper level conference call between a Son and His Father, choose to expend time and energy keeping others away from the Supper of unity?
Why is reconciliation merely a financial term used to describe budget spending in the realm of accounts payable when it first described our postures towards each other, regardless of our affiliations and even our own knowledge of our own sinfulness?
The Week of the Prayer for Christian Unity may be coming to a close, but our earnest desire for oneness and concord in Christ’s Holy Church compels us to continue this noble quest every day He give to us, regardless of the bad press we have given Him and the bad press we have promulgated about each other.
Come and eat, Concordia, as you live your name—Harmony—and let the persecution cease and the ceaseless praises begin.
Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord; forgive us, renew us and lead us so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your Holy Name.
Soli Deo Gloria
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, AD 2017 | Concordia College New York’s Ralph C. Schultz Chapel
The Rev. Dr. Dien Ashley Taylor
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By the mercy of Almighty God, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, New York, was founded in 1928.
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