Conversion x 2

Sunday, June 30, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Acts 9:1-19a

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

If you are someone who has from time to time felt like you are not good enough for God to use you in this world, then today’s story is for you.

If you are someone who has felt from time to time that the bad things you have done in your past disqualifies you from God being able to use you in this world, then today’s story is for you.

If you are someone who has ever felt an unwillingness or fear to take the risk of sharing your faith with someone who scares you or is different than you, then today’s story is for you.

In looking for bible stories where the unexpected happens, the story of Saul on the Damascus road is top five.

Let me provide just a little context.

The Jesus movement we call the church begins in Jerusalem with Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Thousands hear the message of Jesus and believe. And you know Newton’s third law of physics that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction so the Jewish leadership reacts, Stephen is stoned to death for preaching about Jesus, many of the Jesus followers are scattered out of Jerusalem and Saul is on the move. He wants to help stamp out this illegitimate movement that threatens his Jewish faith.

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul believes the Jesus followers are enemies and they need to be stopped.

The Damascus road is where the unexpected happens to Saul. He doesn’t know it yet but his life is about to change. Conversion happens on the Damascus road.

Do you know about the Damascus road? Have you ever traveled that road?

It is a road where the unexpected happens.

It is a dangerous road because what we believe, how we understand God and the all-important question of who is Jesus is often confronted on the Damascus road.

As he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

This is the key question as we consider conversion. Who are you Lord?

Have you asked that question?

Maybe you didn’t have the light from heaven surrounding you or the voice from heaven speaking to you but has Jesus ever intruded into your life without you recognizing him and you ask yourself, who are you Lord?

A couple of months ago I was at the Speedway just north of church gassing up my car. Minding my own business, in a hurry to get to the next thing.

In my own little world of worry and hurry.

All of a sudden a woman walks up to me and asks me to buy her some gas. She said she didn’t have any money and she needed to get home. Her daughter was in the car. I was so taken aback I just stared at her. I can’t tell you what my first thought was. Who does that?

I was simultaneously indignant and convicted. Part of my brain was screaming, just tell her no, ignore the need and get onto your next church appointment. Who is this, I thought to myself as I walked over to her car and looked at the situation.

I felt like something else had control of my body and then my heart kicked in, the converted part of me that knows Jesus. What if she did need help? You could do it Mark.

And the unconverted part of my brain thought, is this a scam? Am I being used?

Is this a God test I thought to myself? Who are you Lord?

I was bothered that I felt such tension over such a small thing that I had the capacity to do something about. But that is what happens when we live a guarded life isn’t it.

There are scales on our eyes. We are blind to others and we don’t see our ability to inject grace and compassion into this hard world we live in.

Who are you Lord? That question has been bothering me and I don’t always like the answer.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Conversion is when we see the answer to the question, who are you Lord.

When the scales come off our eyes and Jesus has taken up residence in our bodies the unexpected begins to happen to us and we are changed.

I’m still traveling my Damascus road. How about you?

The Damascus road is a dangerous road to travel. Saul needed to lose his sight before he could see. I think it is the same for you and me.

There is a second conversion in today’s story. Ananias is his name.

The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. He has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;

When God tells us to go to people we are afraid of, people who make us uncomfortable, people in need of justice and compassion or people who look and act differently than you and me, it requires another conversion.

It requires us to see with the eyes of Jesus and trust in his power to use you and me to help that person who barges into our world regain their sight. We do that thru the laying on of hands, literally and figuratively.

Ananias goes to Saul, perhaps a bit reluctantly, but he goes and he does what the Lord tells him to do. And Saul becomes Paul, God’s instrument to preach the good news out in the world.

It is an unexpected outcome. One that only God can engineer.

How do you know when you have arrived in Damascus, when you have traveled the same road Saul traveled?

You will know when you’ve had the second conversion.

You will know because you will no longer ask the question, ‘who are you Lord’. Instead you will simply say – ‘here I am Lord’. It can be a long journey for some of us – an ongoing road we travel.

The second conversion requires a giving away of our lives to Jesus – here I am Lord. But it also requires that we go where Jesus tells us to go. Even when we are uncertain, afraid or skeptical.

Because that’s what Jesus followers do. We no longer ask, who are you Lord.

We say each day, no matter our circumstances, no matter our failings or fears, here I am Lord, here I am.

Oh, and in case you are wondering. I listened to the Jesus voice at Speedway and I bought her some gas. I hope she got home.

Because that is where I want to be when I reach the end of my Damascus road.


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