Today in worship, we picked up in the book of Acts where we left off last week. Last week we read the end of chapter 8 and engaged with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Chapter 9 is well known as the first story in Acts about the conversion of Saul (who we know later as the Apostle Paul.)
This well known story is often used as both an example and an excuse as to who we are as a people that follow Christ. The road to Damascus and the blinding light that stops Saul in his tracks is an experience not every has personally. I have occasionally heard people say about their choosing faith in Christ, “well I didn’t have anything nearly as dramatic as a Damascus Road conversion,” as if Saul’s experience is more real or true than others.
I think I could preach several weeks on the ninth chapter of Acts. I didn’t mention it today, but it has been on my mind whether or not anyone would really want an experience like Saul’s or to a lesser degree like Ananias. Both men were confronted with their own exclusivity, their own stubbornness to be able to look past their own opinions and see others as beloved children of God. Who really wants Jesus to say “oh, by the way, you have been wrong and pig-headed. You need to stop what you are doing and go a different direction, with an open heart, an open mind and an open spirit.” If I were to tell the truth, that’s not on my bucket list….(that doesn’t mean I don’t need it anyway, I can be as stubborn as anyone.)
Today I focused on Saul and Ananias’ willingness to change their minds and to be wrong in what they have believed in the past. Certainly in our culture, changing one’s mind, doing a 180 degree change in attitude, belief and spirit is not usually applauded. That is unfortunate.
Saul’s change of mind and heart and spirit opened up the community of faith to those outside the Jewish tradition. Saul’s willingness to be open to all people was a game changer. I still feel like we need more of that willingness to be open and inclusive in the community of faith and certainly in our world.
This Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church will begin meeting tomorrow and one of their agenda items is to listen to the report from the Commission on the Way Forward and to make a final recommendation to the Special Session of The General Conference in 2019. That recommendation will be shared in July once it has been translated into the many languages needed to share with our world wide church. I am praying for our Bishops and for our Church in this time of anxiety and uncertainty.
You can find today’s worship service here. I am praying that God might change my heart, my mind and my spirit that I might witness in a way that offers love and grace to all.