The Rev. Malone Gilliam preached yesterday on the New Testament reading from Acts 9:1-20 for the Third Sunday of Easter. It’s the story of how Jesus visited Saul and asked him, “Why do you persecute me?” The light from heaven caused Saul to lose his vision for three days. Jesus sent a messenger, Ananias to restore Saul’s sight and Saul was transformed, no longer persecuting Christians, but instead immediately proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues. We know the converted Saul as the great disciple, “Paul”.
Malone shared that his faith story wasn’t nearly as dramatic; he grew up going to church each Sunday and reading the Bible throughout the week. I grew up in a different denomination, but I also went to church each Sunday; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself a Christian.
Malone continued that we can develop a “faith inferiority complex” when our story isn’t as dramatic as the one we read about Paul. Certainly losing your sight for three days and having it restored by a healing stranger is pretty dramatic and we may think our conversion doesn’t “measure up”.
It’s important to note the drama of what happened to Saul was important because it was NOT typical of how people usually became converts. Flannery O’Connor writes, “I reckon the Lord knew that the only way to make a Christian out of that one was to knock him off his horse.” But O’Connor goes on to point out that the main character in the story isn’t Paul; it’s God. Saul’s conversion was not something he decided to do on his own; it was God’s doing.
This passage in Acts rests in a series of conversion stories involving Samaritans and an Ethiopian. Following the story about Paul, Luke goes on to write about the conversion of a Roman centurion. When all are read together, it is more obvious that God touches the lives of unlikely people from diverse backgrounds in a variety of ways, but all for one purpose: to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. There is no one religious experience that fits all.
In Confirmation Class this Spring, we’ve had people share a brief story about their faith each Sunday. It is amazing that no two stories are the same. William Muehl commented, “The roads to Christian faith are as varied as the people who profess it.”
Let’s pray that God gives us the ability to see Him through our own story and that we are bold enough to share our story with others.
Blessings, my friend,
(click below for MP3 file)