For Church of the Cross
Ash Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Each time we revisit this text, we have all been awed by this story that I call the ultimate confrontation that is both profound and mysterious. It is not only a name changer in, in the tradition of Israel, Sarah, and Peter, but it is a life-changer.
How many of us have looked at our lives in the mirror and saw a life that you would like to miraculously have changed into someone else – younger, more vibrant, more healthy, more respected, and wake up some day with a new name, body and/or family –location. Wow! Be careful what we wish for? But what if we didn’t have a choice. What if some day, totally unexpected, God decided to change our name and life’s direction?
What if we had not choice in the matter? What if there was life’s “fork in the road” and we had just seconds to decide.
I believe the road encounter for Saul was not only unexpected – a combination of confrontation and epiphany, but both a name and life changer for Saul who would become Paul. Saul a trained and passionate persecutor of Christians, “…breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9: 1),” transformed to Paul, the greatest evangelist and writer of most of the Bible’s New Testament. This confrontation was not just a run of the mill either, as it was by Jesus Himself who said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” God Himself confronting Saul and not over persecuting Christians, believers, but persecuting Him, God. Also notice, this confrontation leaves no room for a response – this is one of those confrontations a mentioned before where we get a complete life makeover with no choice in the matter.
This story continues to be remarkable not only as it involves the transformation of Saul to Paul, but also it involves the life of someone that on the surface is more like us – Ananias. While Ananias is not the main character of the story, God makes it clear that he would use the obedience of someone else to complete the transformation of Paul.
Now I will admit that I don’t recall a situation when God ever knocked me off of my proverbial “horse,” I can bring to mind sometimes, and I have already shared with you my Jonah story, when God has asked me to do something that I didn’t welcome with a immediate response. So here is Ananias being asked by God to be the deliverer of Saul, and know enemy and terrorizer of fellow Christians – sound like the Jonah story to go and save Nineveh? With a little flashback to the story of story of Moses who hesitated to deliver the slaves from Egyptian bondage, Ananias was told by God to “Go.” At this point we pick up on the involuntary flavor of Saul proceeding to Damascus of all places, Ananias proceeds to do exactly as God had commanded. And we know that God’s plan is for good so we know right away that the outcome for Saul, now Paul, and Ananias is for Good.
The season of Lent is our “fork in the road” moment when seeks us be Obedient to his call for repentance and holiness. In other words, God is asking us to both come “clean” for all of our sins, even those we hide from others and even ourselves, and to choose a path of obedience to God’s claim on our lives – obedience and righteousness (holiness). Again, as we have already claimed Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we will not likely have our name changed and a complete makeover, but we can most certainly experience an Ananias moment when God anticipates we will respond to without his having to tell us to “Go.”
Yes, this night we can come “clean” with God, repent and remove the blinders that sin has placed on our eyes as in the case of Saul in his transformation to Paul, and proceed down the past of sanctification or holiness. As we come forward to have the ashes applied to our forehead, a completely voluntary act, we can step up to God’s plan for our lives to either retake or remake. We can humbly accept the role that Ananias was asked to take on and that is to be an instrument in God’s hands to help remake or transform some else’s life so God can transform yet another life. At least the process can begin tonight as the Season of Lent unfolds before you on your personal journey to the cross and then the resurrection. Will this season just be like another snowstorm to come and go, or will it be a “game changer” that will you ever so much closer to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.