Sunday, April 28, 2019

Acts 9.1-20: So Ananias Went

Imagine Ananias' dismay. God has appeared to him in a vision (that's not the dismaying part) and has a job for him to do (that's not the dismaying part). He's supposed to go supervise the healing of the man who has been singlehandedly terrorizing all of Christendom (and there's the dismaying part) (Acts 9:1-20). Faithful Ananias has been waiting for God to call on him to do something. No doubt Ananias is ready, waiting, eager, even. Just let me know what you want me to do, God. Here I am. Send me.

And after hearing the work he has been called to do, Ananias says, "God, you have got to be kidding me." I'm sure each of us can think of someone whose name we could insert for "Saul" that would fill us with dread and horror at being called on to heal and baptize. We can only assume that Ananias remembered that God does not see as humans see (1 Samuel 16:7).

And, sure enough, Ananias is remembered for this act. The one that he essentially tried to talk God out of.
Baptism of Paul. 12th century mosaic. Palatine Chapel, Palermo, Sicily.
In this mosaic, Ananias completes his assigned task by baptizing Paul. The text is "Praecepto Christi baptizator Paulus ab Anania" ("At Christ's command, Paul is baptized by Ananias."). In this version, Paul is baptized in a water-filled chalice-shaped font, a shape popular in Romanesque churches, as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends from the hand of God. To Ananias' right a liturgical assistant holds a lit candle.

This mosaic probably tells us more about baptisms in 12th-century Sicily than it does about Paul's baptism. But regardless of font shape or lit candles, what we really learn about in this story is the faithfulness and obedience of this Ananias...not to be confused with the other Ananias in Acts 5.

For thoughts on the charcoal fire on the beach (John 21:1-19), see this week's Art&Faith Matters Facebook post. 
For additional thoughts on John 21:1-19, click here.

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