C Easter 3 2016

Sometimes I am very slow to the party.
We should be singing Amazing Grace this morning because the story of Saul being knocked off his horse and being blinded for three days is spot on with the words, “I once was blind, but now I see!”

For the book of Acts, which was written by the same writer who wrote the Gospel of Luke, healing symbolizes salvation.
Luke was a physician, and he was interested in spiritual healing as much as physical healing.

Paul receives his sight back which is the physical, but the spiritual healing leads to his salvation.

The Risen Christ saved the wretch whose work was to round up and flog and/or murder the people of the Way (the name of the early Christians).

And even though Paul says some things that we disagree with, he is a huge reason we are all here today worshiping the living Christ.

Paul is converted to Jesus not Christianity!
He is still a Jew and still a teacher of Israel.
None of this is taken away.

His conversion is not the result
of anyone telling him he must believe
Nor did he hear a very persuasive sermon!
He had a real-life encounter with the Risen Christ.
His being knocked off his horse
was a ‘come to Jesus’ moment like few others.

Paul is changed!
But he’s changed over time…it isn’t a once and done thing.
It is 3 days and several years
before he is acknowledged as Paul the apostle.

And Paul’s life is converted for mission, not just for his own well-being and salvation.
This kind of change prepares one
to perform tasks and ministry for the service of God.

But there is more than one conversion in this reading from Acts.
Paul’s is seemingly the most dramatic and life-changing, but what about Ananias?
If that was me I would be just as overwhelmed!
I might not eat for three days either!

But, it’s so different.
“Here I am Lord, what do you want me to do?”
And then he pushes back…
essentially saying, “But he’ll kill me!”
He doesn’t need to see Jesus because he already knows Jesus.
He recognizes his voice.
He doesn’t need to be blinded in the process.
And he has a relationship with Christ that allows for conversation, for struggle, for resolution.
He knows the healing salvation that Christ offers and even though he is afraid, he is willing to act.
That’s important!

We often think that conversion is this once and done thing.
It isn’t…it’s a life-long process that weaves through out lives with twists and turns that we don’t and can’t expect to happen.
Ananias has already had a conversion moment…now he has another.

Ananias may not have gone down in history as being the point person for all of Christendom.
But if not for his listening and changing his mind on things, (which is what conversion is) we would also not be here today.

What this all really points to is that conversion requires action or call.

Paul’s ways and Ananias’ ways are different.
God meets us where we are and takes who we are to transform and heal us.
God finds us in all variety of ways.

If Paul can be baptized and begin to proclaim that Jesus is Lord after such an experience, then it’s clear that God can do anything.

If Ananias can get over his fear
and go into the heart of Jewish hatred
and lay hands on his enemy,
then it is clear that God can do anything through the actions of believers.

The same must be true for us.
Perhaps we need to be knocked off our horses and be blinded for a few days.
My guess is that most of us
have already had such an experience or we wouldn’t be here, now.

Instead, perhaps we should listen more closely to those places where we argue with God.

Where is it that you are being asked to heal and save someone?
That seems like such a tall order and if we only look to stories like this, then maybe we think it’s impossible.
But if you are a teacher, you do this with children every day.
If you are a parent or a care-giver, you do it 24/7 If you are a mentor, it’s easy.
If you are simply a guide along the way, like Ananias, Maybe he is our example.

If the goal of conversion is call then what’s your call?

Yesterday I was in Salem for the funeral of the man who was my priest when I was a kid.
He is my Ananias in a way. He may also be my Paul, but that’s another story.

I will never forget him and what he meant to me and all the kids in our youth group.
He was 98 when he died and one of his great fears was that he would outlive everyone and no one would show up for his funeral.
He left the church because he could not stand the thought of a woman priest, And yet he was buried yesterday with all the glory and passion that the Episcopal Church has to offer in it’s Easter liturgy of funerals.
He left on paper, but I doubt he truly left in his heart.

His call was to shepherd a bunch of crazy mis-fit kids and show them the Risen Christ. He did it in spades.
It was his calling.

I know he wrestled and argued with God mightily.
But, when push came to shove,
he answered the call and he taught me things I will never forget.

He taught us to love music

I know that we have had this uneasy relationship

One of those mis-fit guys

Amen.

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