With the disciples

Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 9:1-20; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus appears to be solitary. He is not alone, but while others hear the voice, only Paul saw Jesus. His companions lead the now blind Paul into the city, where there is a house where he can sit for three days. We don’t know anything about those three days, other than that he neither ate nor drank.

There are lots of visions in the story of Paul on the road to Damascus: the light that blinds Paul, his vision of Ananias coming to him, and Ananias’ vision of Jesus. The Lord asks Ananias to go help a known persecutor of his followers, and it’s not surprising that Ananias initially balks. But he is convinced, and goes to lay his hands on Saul. Saul/Paul regains his sight, is baptized, then eats. Then “for several days he was with the disciples in Damascus”.

Saul’s vision on the road to Damascus changed his life, but for the rest of the book of Acts (and in his letters) he is always in communities. Being a disciple is not solitary: you are always reaching out to new disciples, and connected to other disciples. The Christian life oscillates, for most of us, between the individual and communal. We pray individually, we have our own experiences of the divine, but we worship together, and we serve together.

All the appearances of Jesus to his disciples (after appearing to Mary in the garden) are to them in a group, whether all of them gathered in a room, two on the road to Emmaus, or the group hanging out at the Sea of Tiberias going fishing. Yet while Jesus is with a group, his interrogation focuses only on Simon Peter: Do you love me? Simon’s repeated assurances that he does lead to the commands to “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”.

The question is always to us as individuals: do you love me? If you do, then you tend to and feed the sheep and lambs. For both Peter and Paul, that meant making their whole lives about proclaiming the good news; both suffered imprisonment and death. They were both alone and worked with other disciples.

How do we tend the sheep and feed them today? Our service and ministries are one way. Worshiping together is another. Other work of feeding and tending comes through our daily work. We do this, as did Peter and Paul, with other disciples, who tend to us and feed us, as we tend and feed others.

Do you love me? The question comes to us as individuals, but we answer it in community.

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