Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Peace be with you!
Everyone is called by God in some shape or form. You do not have to be a clergyperson / ordained minister to be called by God. A nurse is called by God to tend to the sick; a social worker is called to help people get back on their feet; a police officer is called to keep our neighborhoods safe; a teacher is called to educate others in their field; a parent is called to care for and nurture their children. Everyone has a calling from God to further the good news of Jesus Christ.
As a high school student, I decided I wanted to go to seminary, though at the time I felt called to be a pastor. Somewhere along the way God called me to write as more people, especially former Dean Patricia Lull at Luther Seminary, would nudge me to write. Two years after graduating from Luther Seminary I felt called to write weekly lectionary-based devotions that revolved around the theme of healing. I was scared to begin writing, not knowing who would read the devotions or even what I was getting myself into. The unknown is scary.
In our readings for today, the Lord calls an unlikely individual: Saul who is known to threaten and kill Jesus’ disciples (Acts 9:1). Saul is on way to Damascus to visit the synagogues and find anyone, man or woman, who is a disciple of Jesus. He plans to bring them back to Jerusalem to punish them (Acts 9:2). I think the last person who should be called as a church leader is someone who persecutes Christians. Sometimes I have a difficult time believing the Lord calls me, let alone someone who has killed God’s children. It would be scary to think of the Lord calling Hitler or a serial killer. But God does call and use people who have done terrible things–as he did when he called Saul.
The Lord gets Saul’s attention with a flash of light (Acts 9:3) when he asks, “Why do you persecute me?” Saul is dumbfounded and replies, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:4-5a). If you have never asked that same question, you may be fooling yourself. I think everyone wonders at some point in their lives who God really is. Maybe your question was, “How are you calling me, Lord?” or “Where are you sending me, Lord? North Dakota? Why not somewhere warmer?” or “What do you want me to do here, Lord?” When the Lord calls you, it is not very simple, because it takes time to fully understand your call.
The Lord answers Saul, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:5b-6 NRSV). “Just go, Saul, and you will be told what to do.”
“Sure, Lord, could you give me a little more to go on?” A temporarily blinded Saul gets up and is led into Damascus by his two traveling companions (Acts 9:8). Saul is blind, even though for the first time he saw the light and he now believes in Jesus’ glory. He sits in prayer for three days without eating or drinking (Acts 9:9).
The Lord has his work cut out for him by calling Saul, so he calls upon Ananias to show him the way. The Lord says, “Ananias, I need you to go to downtown Damascus and go to Judas’ house where Saul of Tarsus is staying and praying. He had a vision that a man named Ananias would come, lay hands on him, and heal him of his blindness” (Acts 11-12). Ananias takes a minute to collect his thoughts and says, “Do you know who this Saul guy is, Lord? By the authority of the chief priests, he persecutes people who follow you. Are you sure about this?” (Acts 9:13-14). Even faithful disciples of Jesus question him when they are confused.
However, the Lord is determined for Ananias to heal Saul, because he is going to use Saul to bring the good news to the Gentiles, the kings, and the people of Israel. The Lord tells Ananias that Saul will also suffer in his name (Acts 9:15-16). Maybe it is the fact the Lord says Saul will suffer that helps Ananias decide to do what he is called to do, but he does go to see and heal Saul. Saul is then baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18). Saul spends time with the disciples in Damascus and proclaims Jesus is the Son of God in the synagogues (Acts 9:19-20).
From a persecutor of Jesus’ disciples to being one of his disciples: Saul is transformed into a new person – someone who believes. Sometime during our call process, we have all been transformed into someone new. A light bulb goes on when we begin to understand what we are called to do and that creates excitement within us.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for calling each one of us to spread the good news. Help us to slow down and to listen to how you are calling us to fulfill your plan. Remind us it is not our will but your will. Continue to guide us as we walk in your way. Thank you for having patience with us as we stumble sometimes in our calls. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How is Jesus calling you to spread the good news?
2. Who guided you through the call process?