Changes
Acts 9:1-20 John 21:1-19

Today I’d like to explore the following statement, “Things change when people encounter Jesus.”  Certainly in today’s readings there are several examples of people’s lives changing when Jesus has spoken to them.  What about for you and me? Do things change for us when we encounter Jesus?  Have you ever encountered Jesus?

We know for certain that Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus because when he asked who it was that was speaking to him the reply was, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”  We know of course that things got a bit weird for Saul from that point on, for three days he couldn’t see and didn’t eat or drink, but he continued his journey to Damascus, with his two helpers guiding him.

Then the story moved on to this guy called Ananias.  He heard from Jesus as well, but he was told to go to Damascus looking for Saul.  But Saul’s reputation as a persecutor has gone before him and poor old Ananias doesn’t want any part of going to meet him, he doesn’t want to be arrested and taken to prison or even worse.  You can understand him feeling a bit anxious can’t you?

Even though he was reluctant at first Jesus still sent him to lay his hands on Saul and restore his sight and give him the Holy Spirit so that he could serve him instead of persecuting him.  When Ananias followed through with what he had been called by Jesus to do Saul’s sight was indeed restored and he was baptised and his work for Jesus began, his whole life changed dramatically.

In fact he immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues saying he is the son of God, the very same places he was heading to in order to find the followers of Jesus and persecute them.  This was a huge turn around in Saul’s life, he was even given a new name, Paul.

What about in the other story we heard this morning, was there anything going on for Peter and his mates, did their encounter with Jesus bring about change for them?

We picked up the story this morning after Jesus had appeared to the Disciples behind closed doors twice.  We heard last week that Thomas had gone from being one who doubted to proclaiming, “My Lord and my God”.  Today we found the disciples at a bit of a loss as to what to do with themselves.  So Peter decided he was going to go fishing, and a half a dozen others decided to tag along.  But alas, as all fishermen know, some days you just don’t catch any fish.

They were just about to call it a night when Jesus turned up on the shore and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  When they caught a huge net full of fish they realised that it was Jesus standing on the shore.  This is when the first ‘change’ took place for Peter, he put on some clothes, because he was fishing naked (OK that’s my ‘Dad’ joke out of the way).

When they had come ashore and were sitting around having breakfast together Jesus asked Peter a series of very similar questions.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  Three times he answered, “Yes of course I do, you know that!”  Each time Jesus told him to look after the flock, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep and feed my sheep.”  In other words, “Stop worrying about yourself and spend you time looking after these people of mine.” 

Peter had gone from denying Jesus to stating categorically that he loves him.  Now it was time to be prepared to minister to Jesus flock following his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  Another change in direction for Peter, who began his career as a fisherman, then went with Jesus to fish for people and now he is being called to be a carer for the people after Jesus’ ascension.

So how and when do we encounter Jesus and what changes for us? 

We have witnessed this morning the baptism of two beautiful baby girls, Hannah and Adelaide.  They have encountered God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, combined with the water used in the baptism and their sins have been washed away, they have become the children of God.

As Paul, who we heard earlier was a persecutor who became a proclaimer said, “All who share in Christ Jesus by being baptised also share in his death.  When we are baptised, we died and were buried with Christ.  We were baptised so that we would live a new life by the glory of God the Father.”  In baptism our lives are made new before God.  That’s a substantial change!  Not necessarily a physical change that we can see, but without doubt an important spiritual change within us.

Baptism is a sacrament, commanded by God using the physical element of water in combination with God’s word.  The other sacrament, Holy Communion is another place where we encounter Jesus.  He commanded us to take the wine and the bread and give thanks, and whenever we do so, to do it in remembrance of him.  This is my body, this is my blood, broken and shed for you.  Every time we eat this bread and drink from this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.  So, whenever we take part in Holy Communion, we are encountering Jesus through his body and blood.  The change that occurs here is that your sins are forgiven.  Again something that we can’t necessarily see but that we should certainly experience.

We can only live a new life if we allow it to take place.  The only decision we can make is whether we allow ourselves to be transformed by God or whether we continue to conform to the world.  Saul agreed to change, Ananias agreed to change, Peter and the other disciples made the change, what about you and I?  Have we made the change? Are our lives any different as a result of our regular encounters with Jesus, in the means of grace, his Word and his sacraments?  We should be living lives that reflect the love that God has shown us, we should be wanting to read God’s word, to be nourished by it.  We should be wanting to receive forgiveness of sins, we should be serving others in response to God’s love, and giving back to him what he has first given us, ourselves our time and our possessions.

We are truly blessed to know Jesus, to love him and to receive his constant outpouring of gifts, we have been forgiven, we just need to allow him to lead us throughout our life and to guide us in new directions of loving and caring for his sheep, the people that he loves.

I pray that you will allow your encounters with Jesus bring about changes in your life and in the lives of those you encounter each day.

Amen.