The apostle Paul was one of the primary leaders of the early church. But, before that, he was a persecutor of the Church. Here is what Paul says in his own words: “You heard about my previous life in Judaism, how severely I harassed God’s church and tried to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my peers, because I was much more militant about the traditions of my ancestors.” (Galatians 1:13-14) He was suspicious and afraid of those different from himself. His conformity had just about closed his heart and mind to hearing and experiencing the freeing and life-giving love of Christ. He had zealously earned his way onto the church’s “greatest enemies” list.
One day he was headed for Damascus to drag Christians back in chains, but Saul (the Hebrew version of his name, as he is called in that part of the Bible) through his encounter with the living Christ on the road, spun 180 degrees in his life orientation. His bitterness and hatred turned to peace and joy and love. It was a real transformation!
The story of Paul gaining a new vision for his life is relevant for our lives today. It wasn’t just Paul’s story of experiencing the risen Christ that brought about this new vision. It is also the story of Ananias, who played a crucially important part in Paul’s transformation to a new life.
I invite you to think about Paul and Ananias and how the risen Christ is at work in our world today. How is Christ challenging us to a new vision for our world? How is Christ using us to help others find the newness of life?
I look forward to sharing with you this Sunday in Sanctuary worship at 11:00 am.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Acts 9:1-19, Common English Bible
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, 2 seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”
5 Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6 “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”
7 Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.
10 In Damascus there was a certain disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
He answered, “Yes, Lord.”
11 The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.”
15 The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
17 Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord sent me—Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you were coming here. He sent me so that you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly, flakes fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. 19 After eating, he regained his strength.
He stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days.