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 Easter 3, yr C, 2022 My mom was raised in St. Barnabas, Anglican Church, Winnipeg.   She was baptised there, married there, I was baptised there, as was my sister. Becoming Christian wasn’t a major decision for me…it was the culture I was born into…there was no major conversion experience…it was how my faith began. Today we begin the book of Acts.  Acts chronicles the beginnings of the Christian Church, and our reading today…focuses on beginnings as well.   The beginnings of several individual’s call to ministry, including Paul’s dramatic conversion on the Damascus road. a light from heaven flashed around him. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ It is a famous moment in Acts and the penultimate conversion.  It’s the kinda thing that makes for a great story…in fact such a great story, that Luke tells it 3 times in Acts! It’s the kind of story that we all love! the bad man meets Christ on his way to do a bad thing and he is immediately converted and proclaims the risen Christ! alleluia!  His life is changed and he becomes a force for good.  Perfect! But this isn’t the only way God calls his people.  Many of us don’t have a Damascus experience, and many of us have received more than one calling…some subtle, some direct,  others not, and some people have more gradual callings… I heard a story from a lady in Japan, who used to paper the walls of her bathroom with scripture verses….and after 30 years of reading the bible, verse by verse in the washroom …her husband converted to Christianity. There are many ways that God calls out to the people of God. Today… we have Paul’s calling…directly from Christ in a flash of blinding light…but, there are two other call stories in our scriptures today.  In Acts, alongside the call of Paul is the call of Ananias.             Ananias was already a disciple of Christ.  A follower of the way, and he was very much aware of the danger that followers of the Way of Christ risked because of their faith; especially with people like Saul breathing threats and murder all over the place.  We don’t know how Ananias became a follower, but we do know that he was faithful, and that it was AFTER he became a follower of Christ that he was called to this ministry we read of today.  The Lord, we read, called him by name in a vision and much like many a’ prophet before him, Ananias replied.  Here I am Lord!.  And from there God called Ananias to go find Saul, the persecutor of the church, sworn to hunt down Christians…then to heal him and bless him.  Love your enemy.  Ananias was called to trust that God knew what he was doing and build a relationship with his enemy…not only that, but to take away his enemies weakness and make him strong again.  No wonder Ananias objected!  Yet we know that it was through Ananias that Paul was enabled to do his ministry.  Through the intercession of Ananias that Paul, not only received healing, but was welcomed into the Christian community.             We read that Ananias entered the house of Judas, where Saul of Tarsus was staying.. and greeted him, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Brother…Ananias’ words of greeting to the man who had gone out of his way to persecute the disciples of Christ.  brother…This isn’t simply a polite hello, but an embrace.  Ananias is welcoming his enemy into the community of faith, through his faith in Christ.  It is because of the faith that he has, that Ananias is able to trust God and Christ enough to step out and allow the Holy Spirit to work through him. Beyond this, we read that after being welcomed by Ananias, Saul…now Paul, stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days.  Ananias’s call wasn’t just between him and God, nor even him and Paul, but effected his entire community.  Paul was welcomed, through Ananias’ faith into the church in Damascus and from there Paul began to preach, to teach, to proclaim, to travel and to write his letters.  Living out his call to evangelise gentiles and kings, the people of Israel and many others...including we humble folk…in Canada, millennia later.             If it were not for Ananias’ calling, …furthermore…if it were not for the church community supporting Ananias’s calling and having faith that it was indeed God’s plan to invite Paul into the heart of the Christian community of Damascus…the church may not have grown as it did.  Paul stayed with them for several days…becoming baptised, gaining strength after his trauma and fasting and learning from the community.  It was through Ananias and the church communities embrace of their calling through Ananias, that Paul first experienced what Christ’s church was all about.             Then strengthened and supported by the community Ananias called him into… Paul could fulfill his calling and go out to spread the Gospel of Christ…and the world changed.             Enemy…disciple…community…each receiving their calls in different ways, and each invaluable to the other.  Called and connected through Christ. And just as Paul was called out to go out and evangelize and preach to gentiles and kings, others in our readings today received a different calling. Simon…a fisherman of Galilee, we may recall, was originally called by Jesus as he worked.  Fishing at the lake, Jesus calls out to Simon and Simon follows him. We don’t know if Simon intended to follow Jesus permanently …or initially simply intended to attend the talk Jesus was about to give.  In any event, Simon now called Peter, the rock, is given a new calling as a fisher of men.  Simon Peter, we know from our gospels, had a number of ups and downs during his discipleship and during Holy Week we heard about Peter’s lowest point…where he denied Christ and his discipleship.  Not once, but three times.  Denying his God given call, Christ’s teachings and abandoning all he was called by Christ to do.             Now the story continues as we find a hollow and grief stricken Peter gathered along the shores where he first received his calling.  Peter along with the other disciples were likely feeling lost and unsure of their future. So, they default back to what they know, the family business, fishing on the Sea of Galillee.       However, it’s not that easy to escape ones calling! Jesus is waiting on the shore and calls to his disciples.  Peter, hearing himself being called once more, barely has time to put on his pants as he jumps at the chance to be with Christ once more.             Here on the shores of his first calling, Jesus calls to Peter again.  Not once, or twice, but three times.  Erasing all the denials of the past … all the fears and doubts…and affirming Peter’s call to him and the community is a part of.  Do you love me?  Feed my sheep, feed my lambs.  If you love me Peter, care for those whom I love.  Peter, the rock on which the church was built…called, failed and called again.             There is no escaping God’s call to us.  We can deny it and go back to our old ways…but we like the disciples in our reading will catch no fish.  We won’t fulfill our potential…we’ll be fishing with empty nets.  However, when we listen to God’s call, casting our nets where Christ calls us…going where Christ calls us…leading where Christ calls us…supporting those Christ gives us and answering when Christ calls our name.  The result is abundant.             The disciples had gone back to their own ways and wills, fishing as they always had…and caught nothing.   Upon hearing Jesus and following his word, they had a catch of fish so vast they feared the nets would tear.  A foreshadowing of the catch these fishers of men would one day draw in. I had a degree in Anthropology, I had museum and archaeological experience in my past and I had determined on a future in Museum Conservation when I heard God’s call to the priesthood.  I heard it clearly enough to consult my clergy and mentors…and then receiving their affirmation of my calling ….I promptly dropped everything and caught a plane to the other side of the world.             The next 19 months I spent in Japan, teaching English and doing all I could to avoid, deny and run away from God’s call to ministry.  Let’s just say that I didn’t win that particular battle.              God doesn’t just call us once.  We each are called into our God given ministries, once, twice, many times.  Sometimes in response to persistent resistance to a particular ministry, sometimes because we have been called over a lifetime to a number of different ministries.             There is no single ministry and not just one kind of call.  All we read in the bible and all we have experienced through the church and each other, tell us very clearly that God calls us all in different ways and times.             Regardless of whether we are young and inexperienced like Jeremiah or if we are highly experienced and of a generous age, like Sarai.  Regardless of whether we deny Christ’s call like Peter or run from it like Jonah.  We, like Daniel, have to stand up trembling and walk forward like Miriam and Moses into the sea … crossing from our old life into the new life to which God has called us.             We are all called.  In different and equally valid ways, to our equally valuable ministries…without and within the church.  Each one called and blessed by God to do God’s work. So, as we read through the book of Acts these next weeks and learn about how God called forth the beginnings of the church, may we learn and grow in our understanding of the many callings God gives the people of God. May we gain a greater insight into our own callings and how we can live them out. And perhaps most importantly…may we grown in the certainty of how very important it is to trust God and support each other’s callings so that we….like that church in Damascus can see beyond our own fears and do God’s work in the world.... amen