ACTS 9: THE CONVERSION OF PAUL A Sermon
July 7, 2013
I sit and everything is blurry.
And after the puff of air to test for glaucoma that always makes me jump.
And after the mapping of my retina in brilliant color on a computer screen,
my eye lashes rendered to the size of small twigs,
the macular healthy, the optic nerve intact,
and all is well so far;
I sit and lenses are flipped back and forth before my eyes,
and a voice calls “What can you see?”
And I know that there are letters there, all neat and in a row,
but they appear as smears and squiggles,
out of focus, indistinct.
Am I supposed to see something or is it a trick?
How about now? The voice says.
Lenses flipping, the blurry squiggles still indistinct.
My right eye having slipped four more steps into a stronger prescription.
A voice calls “What can you see?”
And I can see nothing.
Nothing until they adjust the lens through which all I behold before me comes into focus. Clarity. And I see.
Our Gospel today is all about seeing and not seeing. Blindness and sight.
For Paul, still known by his former name of Saul, still living his former life as a Pharisee who likes to prosecute Christians, letter in hand going house to house and dragging away the men and women and children who follow Jesus, dragging them away to prison or even death; this Saul soon to be Paul, sees his mission clearly, sees the good and the bad, what is righteous and what is sin, sees himself as a servant of God with every Christian put in chains. But blindness pervades all that he is doing. His entire conception of all that has come to be , that is coming to be in and through Christ Jesus, God’s plan of salvation unfolding before him, unseen by him. Saul cannot see it. Cannot conceive of it. The love of God. The outpouring of God’s grace. Forgiveness and redemption.
And Jesus meets Saul on the road and Saul has no clue as to the owner of the voice that calls to him. Does not recognize the voice and falls blind, a man blind in his own desire to serve God, believing that he, himself, was faithful, when in reality, Jesus felt persecuted by his actions. Three days blind, in darkness, learning to trust, to place his life in God’s hands. Waiting in a house on a street for a man sent by God to restore him.
And how do we see ourselves?
Are we like the blind man Saul thinking we serve God with passion and commitment following to the last letter of Scripture, every “I” dotted and “t” crossed until we find out we out that everything we thought we knew about serving God was wrong? Faith bordering on blind arrogance being broken, being humbled, receiving new sight, a new way of seeing the world, to see as God sees, to serve as God truly wills us to serve?
Or are we like Ananais sent by God, with some doubt about what God is asking us to do, but in humility willing to step out in faith and do it any way; to see another as God sees them, rather than as we see them, we willing to trust that even if God is sending us to the very last person on earth who would want to see, nevertheless, we will go; we will take the risk; we will do what is asked of us. We will let God’s eyes be our eyes and let that experience, itself, transform us.
How do we see ourselves?
Take a moment and close your eyes.
Allow yourself like Saul along the road to be open to God’s leading.
Now, picture Ananais as God asks him to bring sight to Saul on whose word the lives of Christians have been ended, the blood of perhaps even Ananais’ friends, shed. Picture Ananais in a moment of doubt, surely not to this man Saul, Lord. Not to HIM. Then picture Ananais as he lets God’s eyes be his eyes, God’s will be his will, to see Saul as God sees him.
Can you picture it: Ananais, like Jesus in Gethsemane: Not my will, but yours be done: To look into your own life as it is unfolding and to see others as God sees them. Picture a person that you struggle to love. Do you have them in your mind’s eye? Can you see them?
Now hear the truth: God loves them as much as God loves you.
As difficult as that might be to conceive.
As much as we might want to place that thought farthest away in our conscious memory. God loves them as much as God love us.
Jesus actually says it out loud:
In Luke 6:27: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you….”
And again in Matthew 5 beginning with verse 43: “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
It might seem at times that God asks the impossible of us.
To see others as God sees them.
To love others as God loves them.
But God in and through Christ Jesus has brought us to the edge of the abyss of the impossible and provided the Holy Spirit to provide us the strength. The faith. Whatever we need to help us see as God sees.
Fix that person in your mind, the one who you struggle to love.
And let us enter together in prayer to ask the Lord to help us see with new eyes and by seeing, live into a new way of being in the world.
Let us pray…