After three and a half months in John’s gospel, the Narrative lectionary moves to the Book of Acts. Bye, John! I’ll miss you. I know many other preachers are glad to be done with John and ready for a change.
Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is a fitting follow up to John’s gospel. If the entire book of John is a way to show us Jesus, Saul’s call story continues the theme. Saul “sees” Jesus most clearly when he can see nothing at all, blinded by the light, and is almost a mirror of the man born blind in John 9.
Saul’s conversion and call is about as dramatic and extreme as possible. In an instant, his life pivots from “breathing threats and murder” against the disciples to becoming the evangelist of his age. Perhaps your call story looks like that. Mine was far less dramatic. “Church girl happens into youth ministry, almost on accident, and eventually goes to seminary“. I’m not trying to diminish my call experience, but it is not Acts 9.
The challenge is preaching Paul’s conversion in a way that allows people who have had similar experiences to recognize their own journey, while not offering it as THE only model of conversion. Many people in the pews have been born again their entire lives, seemingly. Many of us can’t point to a moment on the road to Damascus if we’ve been on the road our whole lives.
As the old hymn says:
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say He died for all.
Regardless of the level of drama involved in our own conversion/call experiences, we all have a role to play in God’s story. We can all tell the love of Jesus.
The other character in this story worthy of preaching focus is Ananias. He knows all about Saul’s threat level, and isn’t afraid to make sure God knows about it too. ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ (v. 13) Ananias is not afraid to stand up for God, even when he’s not sure that God is standing up for God’s own self. He has a relationship with God that allows for conversation, and challenge, and correction.
When God tells Ananias that the mystery of faith is that God has chosen a no good murdering jerk to take God’s message of love to the ends of the known earth, Ananias is willing to trust the mystery and play his part.
Without Ananias, Saul would have been a blind man, stuck in Damascus.
Who are the people who have been Ananias for us? How can we invite people to trust God’s mystery, even when it seems like a terribly bad idea?
Where are your preaching thoughts leading you this week?
Ideas to share? Time with children ideas? Links to liturgies or hymns you’ve written? Please add them in the comments. Working Preacher resources are here. Blessings on your sermon preparation.
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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