Faithlife
Faithlife

On Our Way To Persecute

Notes & Transcripts

*EASTER 3, YEAR C,

APRIL 29, 2001 - AFTERNOON                                                                   

WEST MECKLENBURG CHARGE                                                                       

FIELDS UMC, EPHESUS UMC, FRIENDSHIP UMC*

THANK YOU

LET US PRAY

READ THE ACTS LESSON

 

ACTS 9:1-19a

The conversion of Saul 

9Meanwhile Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest2and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorize him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he might find.3It happened that while he was traveling to Damascus and approaching the city, suddenly a light from heaven shone all round him.4He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’5‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the answer came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one.8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand.9For three days he was without his sight and took neither food nor drink.10There was a disciple in Damascus called Ananias, and he had a vision in which the Lord said to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord,’11the Lord said, ‘Get up and go to Straight Street and ask at the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying,12and has seen a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’13But in response, Ananias said, ‘Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your holy people in Jerusalem.14He has come here with a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’15The Lord replied, ‘Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’17Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’18It was as though scales fell away from his eyes and immediately he was able to see again. So he got up and was baptised,19and after taking some food he regained his strength.[1]

          

SAUL WAS A RELIGIOUS MAN,

MOST LIKELY A WELL EDUCATED PHARISEE…

DEDICATED TO THE GOD OF HIS FATHERS,

THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, & JACOB.

HE WAS ANXIOUS TO STAMP OUT THIS NEW HERESY

CALLED THE WAY.

HE WAS EFFICIENT, METHODICAL,

COLD-BLOODED, AND DANGEROUS. 

IN OTHER WORDS

HE WAS PERFECTLY EQUIPPED

FOR HIS ASSUMED ROLE

AS CHIEF ANTAGONIST

TO GET RID OF THE NEW CANCER

THAT WAS GROWING INSIDE JUDAISM.

 

GOD, HOWEVER, HAD DIFFERENT PLANS.

GOD… OFTEN… HAS… DIFFERENT… PLANS.

SAUL WAS NOT SEEKING JESUS.

SAUL WAS SEEKING… THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.

SAUL WAS CERTAINLY NOT SEEKING A VISION OF JESUS.

HE WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED THAT AS BLASPHEMY

AND EVEN THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS

CLAIMED THAT JESUS HAD ALREADY ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN.

NEVERTHELESS, IT CAME…

SUDDENLY, AND POWERFULLY, IT CAME.

A LIFE CHANGING VISION WAS THRUST UPON SAUL…

A BRIGHT LIGHT, SO BRIGHT, SAUL WAS BLINDED…

AND A VOICE, “SAUL, SAUL…WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME?”

SAUL WAS MEANT TO LEARN

THAT BY PERSECUTING THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS,

HE WAS IN FACT PERSECUTING JESUS HIMSELF.

REMEMBER WHAT JESUS SAID TO HIS FOLLOWERS IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL:  /“In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”[2]/

SAUL, AFTER THE VISION, WAS NOW HELPLESS.

HE WAS LED BY HIS COMPANIONS INTO THE VERY CITY

WHERE HE HAD PLANNED TO BEGIN A NEW PERSECUTION.

 

GOD WAS ALSO AT WORK SIMULTANEOUSLY

IN ANOTHER MAN’S LIFE,

ANANIAS.

ANANIAS WAS A FOLLOWER OF JESUS…

ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS…

MAYBE EVEN ONE OF THOSE

WHOM SAUL HAD PLANNED TO ARREST

AND HAVE IMPRISONED.

BUT ANANIAS IS RELUCTANT, TOO...

TO FOLLOW GOD’S PLAN.

GOD ENTERS ANANIAS’ LIFE BY WAY OF

A POWERFUL VISION…

BUT ANANIAS HAD HEARD ABOUT SAUL

AND HOW DANGEROUS HE HAD BEEN

 TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WAY.

 

ANANIAS RELENTS,

PRAYS OVER HIS FORMER ENEMY,

SAUL’S SIGHT IS RESTORED,

SAUL IS BAPTIZED…

BECOMES THE GREAT EVANGELIST PAUL,

THE WORLD IS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN,

AND THE REST,

AS THEY SAY IS HISTORY.

 

BELOVED,

THIS IS OUR STORY,

WE ARE SAUL

ON OUR WAY TO PERSECUTE THE PEOPLE OF THE WAY,

EVEN JESUS HIMSELF.

 

REMEMBER,

JESUS HAS TOLD US IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL

THAT WE ARE TO VIEW

THE HOMELESS, THE NAKED

THE HUNGRY, THE POWERLESS, AND THE PRISONER

AS IF THEY WERE JESUS HIMSELF.

WHO AMONG US HAS NOT WITTINGLY

OR UNWITTINGLY DONE OR NOT DONE

UNTO THE LESS OF THESE…

AND THEREBY PERSECUTED JESUS HIMSELF.

SHALL GOD HAVE TO STRIKE US BLIND, TOO

IN ORDER TO GET OUR ATTENTION.

 

WE ARE ALSO ANANIAS IN THIS STORY.

(TELL THE STORY OF THE TWO PRISONERS ON A KAIROS WEEKEND EXCHANGING COOKIES.)

WE ARE BEING CALLED BY GOD

AS ANANIAS WAS CALLED

TO PRAY FOR OUR WORST ENEMIES.

WE ARE BEING CALLED BY GOD TO GO TO THEM,

AND TO LAY HANDS ON THEM,

IN LOVE, NOT ANGER.

WE ARE BEING CALLED BY GOD

TO PUT OURSELVES

IN HARMS WAY.

WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN

IF WE FOLLOW THAT CALL.

IT MAY MEAN, OUR ENEMY WILL RECOVER THEIR SIGHT.

IT MAY MEAN THE WORLD WILL BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN.

YES, THIS STORY OF SAUL AND ANANIAS

IS NOT ONLY THEIR STORY,

IT IS OUR STORY, TOO.

WE ARE ON OUR OWN ROADS TO DAMASCUS.

OUR NAMES ARE BEING CALLED BY JESUS.

JESUS IS QUESTIONING US AS TO WHY WE PERSECUTE HIM

AS WE PERSECUTE THOSE WE VIEW AS DIFFERENT THAN US.

GOD IS SPEAKING TO US IN OUR DREAMS,

IN OUR VISIONS,

AND THROUGH SCRIPTURE

TO TAKE A RISK,

TO GO TO OUR ENEMY

AND IN THEIR PRESENCE

TO PRAY FOR THEM AND OURSELVES,

TO LAY HANDS ON THEM.

GOD HAS PROMISED THAT IF WE WILL DO THESE THINGS,

IF WE WILL TAKE THESE RISKS,

THAT MIRACLES WILL HAPPEN…

THE BLIND WILL SEE AGAIN,

OUR ENEMIES WILL BE BAPTIZED,

AND THE WORLD WILL BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN ONCE MORE.

(IF THERE ARE CHILDREN THERE, ASK THEM TO COME FORWARD,

TELL THEM TO GO BACK OUT INTO THE CONGREGATION AND HUG SOMEONE WHO IS NOT THEY’RE PARENT AND EVERYONE THEY HUG WILL SMILE AND HUG THEM BACK.)

THE MIRACLE OF LOVE!!!

BUT HOW WILL IT ALL END?

(TELL THE STORY OF THE MOVIE WHERE TWO BROTHERS, ONE A PRIEST AND THE OTHER A NEW YORK CITY POLICEMAN, ARE SITTING ON THE STEPS TALKING…

THE POLICEMAN COMPLAINS TO HIS BROTHER, THE PRIEST,

 ABOUT HOW BAD THINGS ARE IN THE CITY. 

THE PRIEST REPLIES THAT SOMEDAY THINGS WILL BE BETTER. 

THE POLICEMAN SAYS, “OH YEA, WHEN?” 

THE PRIEST REPLIES, “AT THE END OF TIME.” 

THE POLICEMAN REPLIES SARCASTICALLY, “OH, SO SOON.”

SO SOON INDEED, IT MAY BE SOONER THAN WE THINK!)

REV 5:6-14

’6Then I saw, in the middle of the throne with its four living creatures and the circle of the elders, a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed; it had seven horns, and it had seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits that God has sent out over the whole world.  7The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne,8and when he took it, the four living creatures prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty–four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.9They sang a new hymn: You are worthy to take the scroll and to break its seals, because you were sacrificed, and with your blood you bought people for God of every race, language, people and nation10and made them a line of kings and priests   for God, to rule the world.11In my vision, I heard the sound of an immense number of angels gathered round the throne and the living creatures and the elders; there were ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands,  12loudly chanting: Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.13Then I heard all the living things in creation—everything that lives in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, crying: To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honor, glory and power, for ever and ever.14And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen’; and the elders prostrated themselves to worship[3]

THE CHRIST THAT JOHN SEES AND DESCRIBES FOR US IS NOT

IN THE GREEK, ‘AMNOS’, THE LOWLY LAMB

BUT ‘ARNION’ THE MIGHTY RAM…

NOT A MEEK SACRIFICIAL LAMB

BUT A POWERFUL RAM,

A RAM, NEVERTHELESS, WHO BEARS THE MARKS OF SACRIFICE.

IT IS HE ALONE…

WHO IS WORTHY TO TAKE AND OPEN THE SEALED BOOK.

WE, YOU AND I,

ARE DESCRIBED AS KINGS AND PRIESTS WHO REIGN WITH GOD.

EVERY TRIBE AND EVERY NATION WILL BE PRESENT.

AND WE ALL WILL SING GOD’S PRAISE.

Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.[4]

THIS SONG THAT JOHN HEARD BEING SUNG

IS THE SONG OF THE CHURCH.

WE ARE THE CHURCH,

WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST,

THIS IS OUR SONG.

Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.[5]

THE GOD WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND EARTH,

THE GOD WHO CREATED US,

THE GOD WHO CHASES AFTER US,

BEGGING US TO RETURN

TO GOD’S ARMS OF MERCY,

HEALING,

AND FORGIVENESS,

THE GOD WHO SENT JESUS TO REDEEM US,

THE GOD WHO SENT THE HOLY SPIRIT TO EMPOWER US,

THAT GOD

IS WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE AND WORSHIP.

Then I heard all the living things in creation—everything that lives in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, crying: To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honor, glory and power, for ever and ever.14And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen’; and the elders prostrated themselves to worship.[6]

HOW WILL IT END?

THAT’S HOW IT WILL END…

IN PRAISE AND WORSHIP…

AT THE FOOT OF THE THRONE.

WHEN?

NO ONE ON EARTH

OR IN HEAVEN, EXCEPT THE FATHER KNOWS…

BUT SOON, BELOVED,

SOON.  (TELL THE STORY OF AUNT JACQUELIN)

IF THERE ARE ANY HERE THIS AFTERNOON

WHO HAVE NOT ANSWERED GOD’S CALLING OF THEIR NAME,

IF THERE ARE ANY WHO WANT TO CHANGE THEIR LIFE,

FROM BEING A PERSECUTOR OF JESUS

TO BEING ONE OF HIS FOLLOWERS,

IF THERE ARE ANY HERE

WHO WANT TO GO TO THEIR ENEMY IN PRAYER,

IF THERE ARE ANY HERE,

WHO WOULD ONE DAY STAND AT THE FOOT OF GOD’S THRONE,

I INVITE YOU TO COME FORWARD DURING THE COMMITMENT HYMN.

PASTOR MCBRIBE AND OTHERS

WILL BE HERE AT THE ALTER TO PRAY WITH YOU

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY MADE A COMMITMENT

BUT WOULD LIKE TO REDEDICATE YOURSELVES

TO FOLLOWING JESUS,

YOU MAY ALSO COME FORWARD TO THE ALTER FOR PRAYER.

AND NOW UNTO GOD THE FATHER,

GOD THE SON,

AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT,

BE ASCRIBED ALL MIGHT,

MAJESTY,

DOMINION,

POWER,

AND GLORY,

THIS DAY

AND FOREVERMORE.  AMEN

 

                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

     


----

[1]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[2]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[3]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[4]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[5]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[6]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

RELATED MEDIA
See the rest →
RELATED SERMONS
See the rest →