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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Fall INTO Grace and a Leap of Faith

Acts 9:1-20
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?"
Saul 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 traveling 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, the Jew with Roman citizenship, the man who held Deacon Stephan's cloak while he was stoned to death by a mob, is holding a grudge. He wants these "followers of the Way" (not yet known as Christians) rounded up and made an example of. He isn't waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work of bringing these outlaws to justice. No. He went through his religious contacts to get written permission to round up the scoundrels. He is full of a particular kind of righteous fervor. He did not want the faith of his fathers perverted in anyway, and certainly not by someone who scoffed at the Law of Moses by associating with non-Jews and having unsupervised contact with unrelated women.

During the road trip he is stopped in his tracks by a blinding light that completely surrounds him. He falls to the ground, ducking for cover of some kind when he gets a very succinct question: Why do you persecute me? Even his traveling companions heard the voice! After finding that the question came from Jesus- he got up and followed the directions given to him. It is recorded that he had been blinded - but I also note that after that point he also seems to have been struck speechless. I am not certain about percentages in conversion or repentence or amendment of ways, although I suspect most come in a far more gradual, UNspectacular way than Saul's fall into grace, into the realization of the love of God through Christ. He was so moved that all he could do was to wrestle with his conscience, without eating or drinking, in Damascus in the home of a man named Judas.

Meanwhile, across town, Ananias - who belonged to 'the Way' - had a vision. God told him to go to Straight Street, enter Judas' house, find Saul and lay hands - hands of love and healing - on his head. You can hear him protest: "But isn't that the man who has been sent to round us up and take us to Jerusalem? He is our enemy and yours!" God simply asks Ananias to follow His directions.... and He will take care of the rest.

What a leap of faith it must have been for Ananias to go anywhere NEAR Straight Street, let alone meet Saul face to face and expose himself as a believer. Yet Ananias went above and beyond that. Ananias addressed him as "brother". Jesus asked him to do this and he was acting in faith. Paul immediately regains his sight and was baptized.

How do you respond to God's call and direction in your life? Have you had epiphanies or conversion experiences? Have you stepped out in faith... even with some trepidation? Have you had enough faith and grace to embrace an enemy with a pure heart?

This is the stuff of miracles. . . and examples of God's ever present, open invitation to go beyond our limitations and love limitlessly. Amen and Amen.


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