‘Pick it up, read it’

Psalm 121
Genesis 12:1-4a
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

One of the disadvantages of being both a Lutheran and an academician is that you hear so few good conversion stories. The weight of my tradition identifies regeneration with the work of God in baptism. Those who tell their conversion stories with great gusto or whose spiritual c.v. runs on for pages (or hours) are automatically suspect in my denomination.

And among academics, whose business it is not to change their minds abruptly, it's hard to find stories like the evangelist Billy Sunday's, who one day walked out of a Chicago bar and said to his teammates, "I'm through. I am going to Jesus Christ." Or St. Augustine's, for that matter, whose famous conversion experience involved little more than naïve obedience to a desperate impulse. Overhearing a child's game in which one of the participants cried, Tolle, lege, "pick it up, read it," Augustine quickly flung open his Bible to the passage that changed the rest of his life.

 

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