Christ gets in your way and invites you, calls you, transforms you, to walk in the Way and join God’s children in healing the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday of Easter, year C
Texts: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; John 21:1-19 (plus 20-22)
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Followers of the Way in Damascus probably prayed Psalm 30 a lot that week.
Word had gotten out that Paul, known better by his Hebrew name, Saul, was on his way to do in Damascus what he did in Jerusalem. He was an enforcer for the Council leadership, finding, arresting, and bringing back in chains those who proclaimed Jesus as Messiah. Luke says he “breathed threats and murder” against the faithful Christians. And now he was on the way to Damascus. Surely they all prayed “don’t let our enemies triumph over us,” from this psalm.
And Christ Jesus, risen from the dead, answered that prayer. By confronting their great enemy with love and invitation. Christ, who taught them to pray for and to love their enemies, said, “Here’s what I’ll do with those who hate you. I’ll love them over to our side.” Ananias and the others were understandably doubtful. But Jesus said, I’ve chosen him to be my instrument to bring my name – the Good News you all proclaim – to both Jews and non-Jews.
That’s the way of Christ: transforming hatred with love, for the healing of all.
And the risen Christ believes sinful people are absolutely necessary for this Way.
As tremendously daunting as the world’s problems are, with systemic sins like racism and sexism and classism, and deeply embedded patterns of violence and hatred as a common human way of living, God in Christ has a simple plan: change people one at a time, inviting them into the Way, and eventually all will be healed. The Dalai Lama once wrote, “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.” 
Christ couldn’t agree more. The healing of all creation will come by transforming the human children of God in it, to bring about the wholeness and life of all things.
And it’s the sinners, the broken ones who keep breaking things, the embedded, intransigent ones who perpetuate oppressive systems, the oblivious ones who benefit from the pain of others without knowing it or seeming to care about it, these are who Christ needs to transform.
People like Paul.
Vengeful, violent, and zealous for his cause, Paul is a notorious persecutor of the new community of those who trust in Christ.
Rather than violently stopping Paul, Christ looks at one of the best-trained Jewish people of his day, an exemplar Pharisee, brilliant in the ways of the Jewish faith, and says, “that’s one I could use to reach non-Jewish people, and bring my Gentile and Jewish children together, if I can change his heart.”
No one but God would think that way. So, Christ got in Paul’s way on the road to Damascus, and asked, “Why do you hate me?” Then told him to go to the city and people who he’d been seeking to destroy would help him. Paul went, and he and the world were never the same again.
Christ needed people like Peter, too, whose problem is the opposite of Paul’s.
Peter isn’t breathing threats and murder. He succumbed to his fear after boldly saying he’d never leave Jesus, denying him three times the first chance he got. Peter seems to us to stumble more than walk, overstep more than wisely act, one who at the test failed miserably.
Christ looks at this clumsy, impulsive, fearful follower and says, “there’s a leader. That’s one I trust most to lead my apostles.”
No one but God would think that way. So, Christ got in Peter’s way, sat down with him at breakfast and asked, “Do you love me?” After three painful asks, Jesus each time said, “take care of my sheep. Feed my lambs.” Peter did, and he and the world were never the same again.
Do you realize Christ needs people like you to walk in the Way, too?
The healing of all things will only happen when individuals are transformed from within. And sinners like you and me are critical, because we’re part of the problem. Changing us takes away that part of the problem and makes us part of the solution. Whether you’re breathing violence like Paul or running away like Peter, or in between, the risen Christ sees something in you that you can bring for the life of the world.
Maybe no one but God can see that. No one expected Paul’s transformation. Nothing Peter had done inspired trust he’d be a leader. But Christ saw who they could be, and got in their way, calling them into his Way.
What will that look like for you? God knows. But somehow Christ is going to get in your way to invite you to walk in his Way. Maybe on the road. Maybe at breakfast, saying “do you love me? Then I’ve got a job for you.”
And Peter had another lesson you could learn: don’t compare yourself to others.
After this conversation with Jesus, Peter wondered about his friend John. What would happen to him? Jesus said, “don’t worry about him. You do you, I’ll handle the others.”
That’s good wisdom. You aren’t expected to be Paul or Peter. Or Mother Teresa or Mary Magdalene. Nor are you to worry about whether others are having their conversation with Christ.
But you’ve already come here today to worship the Triune God and hear God’s Word. Essentially, you’ve said to God this morning, “can we have breakfast and talk?” You’re ready for it.
So, listen to what Christ says to you. Because there are lambs to be fed and sheep to be tended. A creation to be healed, God’s children to be brought into life and justice and peace. Christ has a role for you.
Don’t worry what others are doing. And trust that Christ has the utmost confidence you’ll be able to be and do what God sees in you. So that one day, all things will be healed through the Way of Christ.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
 In the foreword to Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh (New York: Bantam, 1991), p. vii. Cited in From Cruelty to Compassion: The Crucible of Personal Transformation, Gerald G. May (Fetzer Institute, 2003), p. 1