March 14 – 5th Wednesday in Lent
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read Acts 8 & 9
May God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit bless you as you let God’s will be done in your life. Amen.
My name is Saul of Tarsus or Paul of Tarsus, depending on if you are a Jewish citizen or a Roman citizen. I am both and I am here to tell you how my worldview has been turned around for the good, by God’s will being done in my life. You see I take Ha Shem, the King of the Universe, My Lord God, very seriously. I take the study of His Torah very seriously. So, naturally, I took the violations of His Holy Law and blasphemy very seriously. Unfortunately, I also took myself … very seriously. And with God looking down on us [flicks his gaze skyward for a second; shakes his head slightly no.] that doesn’t usually play out too well.
There are many Scriptures passages that I thought were written in support of me, in what I was doing and my worldview. The Holy Prophet Isaiah wrote: “In Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who walk in darkness will see a great light.” Now I thought that when it said “the people” it didn’t mean the Gentiles themselves. It meant the people of the Holy One, us Jewish people, who lived among the Gentiles in Galilee. And I thought that when it said “who live in darkness” that it didn’t mean that there were so many clouds that the sun didn’t shine; but that it meant rather that they were in the spiritual darkness of having departed from God’s holiness. So I thought that when it said, “have seen a great light,” it wasn’t just talking about light but the heat and fire of God’s judgment upon them? As it says later in the same chapter that they are: “destined for burning” and they “will be fuel for the fire.”
So I thought that by the grace of the Holy Lord, who is forever blest, that I was called to be that judgment—to bring that light and fire—upon those Galileans who blasphemed God, who thought their crucified criminal leader was equal to the Almighty One. Why I believed that the Holy Prophet Amos wrote of the coming judgment, when he wrote “Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord … for that day will be darkness, not light.”
When I read the words of that great warrior, David, as he talked about our almighty God’s Word and said: “Your Word is a lamp for my feet. It is a light for my path.” I thought I was on the side of King David and that God was on our side. The old king knew better though, and I should have known better also. A light for my feet? A lamp to my path? When the light appeared to me, it was so bright, so piercing, that I couldn’t see the path anymore or my feet. For I was blinded, for days!
When that light shone, I heard a voice and the presence of someone, with an “aha” as He searched me out and discovered me. It was a painful, harsh, blinding light that called my name over and over again, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”. [Reenacting, looking up, hands shielding his face] “Who are you, Lord?” I dared to ask. “I am Jesus,” came the dreadful reply, “whom you are persecuting,” he said.
The very blaspheming Galilean leader who caused all the trouble, I hated him and his people for their ungodly ways. By heaven, my anger burned with a heat and light…. or … I thought I was burning with heat and light from heaven. But my anger was as nothing now, faced with this true light, the light of God. What I thought was a holy righteous anger how seemed little more than an irritation, like the annoyance of being poked in the ribs, when you are sitting comfortably in a lounge chair.
And there was a smile in that blessed voice as he said to me gently, but irritatingly: “Rise and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.” All my proud ideas, my career plans, my self-image, came crashing down like a great big rickety house built on sand. And everything went dark; I could not see.
Yet my darkness was brought on by light … but what did I know of light—before this? What did I know of righteous anger? What did I know of holiness or justice or love? Nothing! The greatest, the highest, the most noble achievement I had managed before this was to be irritated by Jesus. To feel the Holy One, blessed be He, poke me in the ribs, this irritation from Jesus was angering me and yet, instead of going where He wanted, I’d kicked out, silly, educated, self-righteous, ineffectual man that I am. But little did I know that He was going to open my eyes and my mind to the truth found in the very words that I took so seriously, God’s Words.
“Blind guides.” That’s what He called us Pharisees—this Jesus who made the blind to see. That day my colleagues had to lead me by the hand to our accommodation in Damascus. On Straight Street! Straight as the way was, I still blindly bumped into everything. “It’s hard for you to kick against the prodding of God.” Jesus was my irritant. Deliberately. God’s irritant often pushes us into the right way, the right place where we need to be or at least that was what happened when I let God’s will be done in my life blindly.
The Apostle Peter once told me a story about when he got it wrong—Jesus told him about the cross and Peter tried to talk him out of it. “You’re too special and precious to die,” Peter had said. Jesus got angry. Peter said it reminded him of a weird episode the week earlier—Jesus healed a blind man, except—like Peter and like me—he could see, all though not clearly. Men looking like trees. The man needed more healing, more Jesus in His life. “You can have ears to hear but not hear,” Jesus used to say. You can have eyes to see and still not see. But Jesus traveled to where people needed healing. He sought me out to blind me so that I could really see how much I was in the darkness of sin and the world’s deceptions. Jesus seeks us out now and heals us so that our perverted worldviews wouldn’t be the focus of our life in the darkness of eternity.
How did I miss the Son’s resemblance of the Father? When our first parents sinned back in the Garden, God did not stand apart and judge them, but came back to them. He walked up and down in the Garden, asking that awkward questions: “Where are you?” And in our day, God does that again: walking up and down among us, asking, “Where are you?” How did I miss it for so long? He came looking for us, calling us. That’s Jesus. He walks straight up to you … and me … and He spits in the dirt and takes the mud and puts it on our eyes … and then … then … our eyes are opened and we see for the very first time, through the eyes of our creator the truth of God’s love for us. It comes as God’s will is being done in us, for it changes your worldview from us to the Cross of Jesus and God’s love.
When Ananias came and touched me and spoke God’s word over me, thick scales fell from my eyes and I had a completely different worldview, as I let the Holy Spirit open my heart and my eyes to see the truth of God’s Word. I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that day, which is what Jesus commanded us all to do as He said to all of His Disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18 – 20)
How I told you that I am very serious about Ha Shem, the King of the Universe, My Lord God, and I take the study of His Torah very seriously. So with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I now know that God’s will is being done through my life as I go about teaching His Word and the love, peace and joy that He wants His whole world to have. Blest be our Lord, the King of the Universe, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, whose governance there will be no end, for in the cross of Christ we can see His Glory now and for all eternity. That’s God’s will being done for your life and mine. Amen.
Let us sing, “In the cross of Christ I Glory,” hymn 427 verses 1 & 2