The Rev. Jack Shackles. Jr. is pastor of Taftville Congregational Church.
Scripture: Acts 9:1-20 (NRSV)
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. Now 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. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 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. At this moment he is praying, and 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.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ 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; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’
Saul was a zealot who gave himself to a God of his own creation – a God who was vengeful and full of wrath. Saul’s God valued purity over compassion and vengeance over love. Purity and vengeance became Saul’s blinders. Saul was a “fiery defender of the purity of [his] religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.” Philippians 3 (Message). He could not see the God who was “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love”. Joel 2.
On the road to Damascus seeking Christians to arrest, Saul was struck stone-blind by the light of the One he chose not to see. In stone-blind darkness, Saul would find eyes to see the Christ who was and is. In darkness Saul the zealot was transformed into a Disciple of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit.
Saul was healed and the scales fell from his eyes. The zealot who was blind now had eyes to see the glory of the risen Lord. His transformed heart beat with the love of God. He would be known by his love for God and love for all God’s creation.
There are those today who still choose to be zealous defenders of the faith of the God they have created and chosen to serve. Like Saul, they are fiery defenders of purity. They are God’s soldiers marching as to war; a mighty army moving against those they believe would defile the Church.
Barbara Brown Taylor gives us two cautions:
“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix.
- Beware those who claim to know the will of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform.
- Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own.”1
Let us chose to be Easter people who have seen and know God’s love. Let us chose to be Gods’ disciples who serve all God’s beloveds. By this choice all will know that we are Christ’s Easter people.
1 - Barbara Brown Taylor, “Truth to Tell,” from “The Perfect Mirror,” copyright 1998 Christian Century Foundation., 89-92.
I have heard it said, God, that your love for the world is a love for everyone, everyone, and everyone. Fill our heart to overflowing with your Spirit so that we are enabled to share your love with everyone, everyone, and everyone. Bless us with eyes that see your risen glory in our world and ears that hear your truth for all. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those suffering or grieving in the San Diego area after a shooting Saturday at the Chabad of Poway synagogue during a Passover service left one dead and several injured
- For the people of Mozambique and Tanzania after Cyclone Kenneth devastated villages and continues to cause widespread flooding
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the arrival of May, and the green leaves sprouting everywhere.
- For the installation of Rev. Gordon Rankin, former CT Pastor, who was installed as Conference Minister of the New Hampshire Conference, UCC this weekend
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Niantic Community Church
Church of Christ Congregational UCC
North Branford Congregational UCC
North Greenwich Congregational Church UCC
North Guilford Congregational Church UCC
This Week in History:
April 30, 1789, (230 years ago) George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States of America. Washington was chosen by a unanimous decision by the 69 presidential electors. The Electoral College process now includes 538 electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.