“Who Are You, Lord?”
Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart Buisch Who are you? Simba, in the Lion King, says this to Rafiki, who replies, ‘the question is: who are you?’
Saul of Tarsus is such an interesting character. Many of us would shrink away from the idea that his life points to our lives. But it does. We spend our lives asking who are we? If we don’t it may be there is no time in between jobs, loves, distractions. I enjoy noticing the toys that appear when the garages on our street empty out when street parking becomes available. Even more think of all the ways that you can attach toys to the transportation you use. The amount of summer distractions often seems like it can’t be counted.
Doris Lessing suggests that middle age is when you look back at your growing up years with a searching eye. Some suggest that men in their fifties are building their empires. Jeremiah poses another idea that we need not miss, ‘these are the poor, they do not understand God’s ways’. Only if you have leisure, education, world experience can you know God. Is that true? Is Jeremiah right, can only certain ones understand the things of God?
Saul’s life and story screams out, WRONG. Saul was a studied perhaps we would say wise man like Ecclesiastes describes. His in-depth knowledge of things Jewish compelled him to wipe out this new faith tradition he was encountering. He went to the priests in power and received letters authorizing him to take prisoners of Christians in Damascus. On his way there he is stopped by a vision, a light, a voice that he and those in his group experienced. Curiously, he asks the question we reflect on today, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Why does he name the voice Lord? The answer he receives is even more interesting because had he made this experience up, he would not have named the voice Jesus. Then this one who is in charge, who takes the lead to get Christians, who has authority in a paper from a high priest, is now told what to do and discovers his sight is gone. The brightness of the light has removed his independence, sense of being in control, and ability to go where he wants.
Then three days of nothing, no sight, no food, no drink. Why? Did it take three days for this raging man to settle and hear the next steps. Was Saul being transformed in these days? Did it take three days for Ananias to agree to go and lay hands on him? A mentor of mine in college was quick to tell me in my very impulsive college days when I thought I had to make immediate decisions, ‘the Kingdom of God doesn’t move quickly.’ Today we know that while surgery can last 30 minutes to ten hours or longer the healing weaves and re-knits the ripped human body back together slowly. So also, the soul torn from its familiar ways takes time to mend, rehab to new ways and generally move forward in life enriching, healthy ways.
Saul, later called Paul, sat for three days. What would happen to us if we sat for three days and did nothing, ate nothing, drank nothing? What would be the journey of our thoughts? Would anything be clearer? In this election cycle one candidate for legislative office is asking people to fast and give the money saved to their campaign. Would we give up anything to elect someone to public office? The three days for Saul surely shifted his loyalties. What did the Spirit of God convince Saul of in that time? Curiously Ananias is sent to restore his sight. Ananias tells Saul that he was sent so Saul could see again and ‘be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Scales fell off Saul’s eyes but no reference to tongues, flames, or Spirit filling as we have read in the Pentecost account or the situation in Samaria. Yet Saul is clearly operating by the Spirit. He confuses the Jews in Damascus and now they are asking, ‘who is he?’ This turn of events now places Saul’s life at risk in Damascus. He escaped back to Jerusalem and the apostles and followers of Christ were unwilling to believe that he was safe until Barnabas stood with him and spoke for him to the leadership in Jerusalem. Ultimately, Saul was sent to Caesarea and Tarsus.
This text in Acts does tell us who Saul encountered.
Jesus, has an intention of getting the word out that there is life, wholeness, forgiveness, and freedom for all, not just Jews but also Gentiles and not just common folk, who may be accused of following any whim that comes along, but also those in power – kings.
Many of us are caught in the everyday like Ananias. We read the news, we keep up on events and we want to live a bit longer. We know where the danger is and where the freedom is. I wonder what God might ask any of us to do today that we would argue back like Ananias did? Are we aware of the headlines or the full story?
You see, what we read or hear and then believe discloses who we are. If in our prayer time we were to discover that our understanding of a situation is not the full truth, what would we do? Some people choose the church they attend by believing that the positions held by that denomination, congregation and/or pastor is the truth, the whole truth, so help them God. You see the real questions that this text and the whole of Scripture asks is not who is God, who is Jesus, who is the Spirit? The real question is who are you? Like Saul are you an organized in control individual who is headed in the opposite direction of your desire, or the opposite of what God wants?
Like Ananias are you someone who is quite happy to follow Christ as long as there are no risks? Could the voice of God in the quietness of your soul ask of you something that is daring, threatening to your well-being and could you have a tiny role in releasing the next great servant of God? Then would you disappear back into your everyday?
Maybe like Barnabas, you will be courageous enough to stand with the newest one who follows God. You will validate the movement of God’s Spirit around you. Your faith will be about today not just yesterday. Amen