Scripture: Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
Let us pray: Almighty and Mysterious God, Send your Holy Spirit among us that we might hear and understand your word in this world. Amen.
Paul. This is the beginning of a long story. Paul or his close followers wrote many of the Pauline and deutero-pauline letters – called Epistles – we have in the New Testament. He began not as a faithful Christian, but as a persecutor of the infant church. We first hear about him when he is identified as a young man named Saul at the stoning of Stephen, a disciple-deacon sent by the twelve to do ministries of service to those in need.
Fast forward to this trip to Damascus. Saul has become a self- appointed keeper of the purity of the Jewish faith, and has been rounding up all the “followers of the way,” as early Christians were called, and putting them in jail or prison. He hated the change in his faith they represented. To him, the whole Jesus movement was dangerous, wrong, and had to be stopped. However, something happened.
Instead of purging synagogues of their Jesus followers as he set out to do, ultimately the tables are turned on him. Instead of Saul being in control, Jesus gave him blindness so that he had to be led. Instead of Saul forcing his will on the Followers of the Way, he became captive himself. “Why are you persecuting me?” says Jesus in the blinding white light of heaven that Saul and all those with him could hear. Saul asks, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
This is a classic conversion story. It offers an insight on how one person’s life can be completely turned around. Jesus acts, Jesus speaks, and Jesus commands. Saul hears, Saul obeys, and Saul’s life is radically changed. How often I wish it were that easy! I confess I struggle with this passage. I have not experienced this kind of conversion. I was raised in the church. I went through doubting times, as many do. I even included those doubts in my first attempt to craft a statement of faith. In 8th grade when I went through a confirmation class designed to help me decide if I would accept the faith of my parents and join the church, I was still doubting. It became a very hard decision because my parents had two different opinions about it. I had to come to a choice myself…was I a Christian? A Follower of the Way? Did I believe all the miraculous stories about Jesus? Was God at work in my life in a real and tangible way? In eighth grade, I didn’t know; so I took it on faith that if there was a God, then I’d be accepted doubts and all. So I wrote doubt into my first statement of faith. And the church still accepted me, doubts and all.
More importantly, I came to believe God did, too. What is your story? Did you become Christian by osmosis or conversion? Are you experiencing doubt? Do you have questions you want to ask.? Now is a time to ask. I am going to ask you to form intentionally intergenerational small groups and share a little about your journey of faith. Each of you has a journey, no matter if you are young or old. For some it may be a much longer faith journey than others. That is okay, pick just a small piece to share; know that you are accepted and loved even if you doubt, and please be prepared to listen to one another respectfully as you share. There will be no need to share with the whole church if you do not want to. If you find sharing is too deep for right now, feel free to reflect some “I wonder” questions with one another you may have from the Children’s story earlier. After a number of minutes, I will close us with prayer.
Author’s note: for the children’s story alluded to above, you can find it here: Christian Education Toolbox. It is titled “Jesus Makes Breakfast”