The Rectors sermon for March 11, 2018                                                                                                                                   

A Lenten Preaching Series:  THY WILL BE DONE

5 of 9:  God’s Will and My Worldview


Today is sermon number five in our Lenten preaching series: Thy Will Be Done.  The theme for today is God’s Will and My Worldview, and the key verse is:  “For three days [Saul] was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:9).


We are really covering a diverse group of individuals in this series, aren’t we!  Moses, David, Nathan, Mary and today we go back into the Old Testament to perhaps make a strange connection with our season of Lent.  Saul is the presenter of the day.  And in case you didn’t know this, whenever the Scriptures use numbers, there is usually a specific reason.  The number ‘three’ represents the Trinity, holiness, joy.  It actually appears 544 times throughout Scripture, some probably random, but most designated by God for an exciting purpose.  When the number is connected to an event,watch closely as the hand of God unfolds the event into something amazing!  The three-day event that we all remember is the three days in the tomb connected with Jesus’ crucifixion, and we know the joy at the end of those three days.  


Today we’re going to look a three-day event that happened a couple of years after the death of Jesus.  I introduce you to Saul, a one we might on occasion identify with:


“I took the Torah very seriously.  I patterned my life after it.  And I took violations of this Holy Law and blasphemy very seriously.  Unfortunately, I also took myself …very seriously.  There are many Scriptures that I thought were written in support of me.  The Holy Prophet Isaiah wrote: ‘In Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who walk in darkness will see a great light.’  Now when it says ‘the people’ it doesn’t mean the Gentiles themselves.  It means the people of the Holy One who live among the Gentiles in Galilee. And when it says ‘who live in darkness’ it doesn’t mean that there are so many clouds that the sun does not shine; it means rather that they are in the spiritual darkness of having departed from His Holiness.  And when it says ‘have seen a great light,’ what is that light but the heat and fire of his 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.’”


“By the grace of my Holy Lord, I was called to be that judgment—to bring that light and fire—to those of Galilee who blasphemed, who thought their crucified criminal leader equal to the Holy One of God!  And of that coming judgment, the holy prophet Amos wrote:  ‘Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord…for that day will be darkness, not light.’  And what about the words of that great warrior David: ‘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 than that, and I should have too.  A light for my feet?  A lamp to my path?  Oh, when the light appeared to me, it was so bright, so piercing, that I couldn’t see the path anymore. I was blinded.  For three days!”


“When this light shone, I thought I heard a voice or a presence, with an ‘aha’ as it searched me out and discovered me.  A painful, harsh, blinding light!... ‘Who or what are you, sir?’ I dared to ask.  And the answer was earth-shattering!  “I am Jesus whom you persecute,’ came the dreadful reply.  The very blaspheming Galilean who caused all the trouble!  I hated him and his people for their ungodly ways.  My anger burned with a heat and light…or I thought I was burned with heat and light.  But my anger was as nothing now, faced with THE LIGHT.  Suddenly, what I alwaysthought was a holy righteous anger now seemed little more than an irritation.  In an instant, my life’s work, my beliefs, my direction was turned upside down.  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!”


“My darkness, brought on by light…but what did I know of light—before this?  What did I know of righteous anger, holiness, justice, love?  Nothing!  The greatest, the highest, the most noble achievement I had managed thus far was to persecute what I didn’t understand.  ‘Blind guides’—that’s what he called us Pharisees—this Jesus who made the blind to see.  ‘Won’t they both fall into a pit?’ he had said. 


As I lay there, blinded by the ‘light’ my life passed before my eyes, all those persecutions I had initiated, others that I had taken great joy in witnessing… Those with me on that trip to Damascus helped me to my feet.  The voice—Jesus—told me to go to the street called Straight!  I was blind, and I was being guided by a voice, toward a different place, a new direction, the right way to lead my life…”


Years after that Peter had told me a story about when he got it wrong.  Jesus had told him about the cross and his suffering to come and Peter tried to talk him out of it.  “Lord, you can’t die; you’re too special and precious to die!” Peter had said.  And Jesus got angry.  Peter said it reminded him of a very strange episode that had happened the week before:  Jesus had healed a blind man, except—like Peter, like me—he could see, but not clearly enough.  Jesus asked the man what he could see, and the man said that ‘men looked like trees.’  The man needed more healing...more Jesus.  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 were… to heal them.  But he sought me out to blind me!  I didn’t know that was what I needed.”


“How had I missed the presence of my God in Jesus?  When our first parents sinned back in the Garden, God didn’t stand apart and judge, but He came back.  He walked up and down in the Garden, asking that awkward question:  ‘Where are you?’  And in my day, he did that again: walking up and down among us, asking ‘Where are you?’  How did I miss it for so long?  But he didn’t give up.  He doesn’t give up on any of us!  That’s Jesus!”


“While I was waiting in the house of Judas, Jesus spoke to a man named Ananias.  Jesus’ request scared Ananias to death!  ‘Lord, this person you want me to go to kills people like me!’  You see, the idea of ‘blindness’ can affect all of us!  Ananias did follow Jesus’ direction; he did seek me out, albeit reluctantly.  Ananias laid hands on me, and something like scales fell from my eyes…and I could see!   I was baptized into the fellowship of Jesus that day, and I continued my journey on to Damascus, but with a different purpose.  Now, I was to join the followers of Jesus, not kill them.   I was to preach the Gospel of Jesus to those who could not yet see.  And the real purpose of my life began…after I was blinded and my sight restored.  It was only then…that my eyes were opened and I could see…for the very first time!


Let us pray:
            Lord Jesus, do not leave me to my own understanding.  Let me now enter into that holy darkness with Saul, where my assumptions about what makes me right or good or religious can come under your scrutiny.  Show me where my vision is at odds with yours.  Cause the scales to fall from my eyes, that I may emerge from the dark, strengthened in my witness and utterly dependent on your grace.  Conform my mind and will to yours, Lord Jesus.  Amen.




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