This sermon began with a testimony given by a member of the church. She spoke about Jesus having the power to turn her life around.
Jesus can do that. Jesus can turn our lives around. He can change us, turn us from walking down the way of destruction, paths paved by death.
Jesus can change us; Jesus can turn our lives around even when we don’t know want or don’t even know we need to get turned around. That was the way it was with Saul.
Saul didn’t know he was on the wrong road. He thought that the right path was to follow the commandments of the bible, the laws and rules of God’s religion was the right and the only way. He thought the followers of Jesus were a threat to his faith. He believed that by hunting down these followers of Jesus, that he Saul was walking in the way of the Lord, doing God’s will. He didn’t ask God to turn him around, but to simply point him in the right direction and let him go on his mission of holy righteousness.
I can’t imagine what might have been going through his head and his heart that day on the rowd to Damascus when Jesus spun Saul right round, like a record, throwing him off his horse, causing not just his body to come crashing down, but his entire life and world. We can not say it too much. Saul’s life revolved around following God’s laws and commandments from the bible, from Deuteronomy, from Leviticus and more. It was through following those laws he came to know God, and now Jesus with that blinding light, knocking Saul off that horse, knocked him down, knocked down his faith, knocked down and turned his world around.
Jesus has a way of doing that, whether we are looking to be turned around or not. Whether it’s the rule of law or just the way we see things, Jesus is bound to mess with us. That’s what he did with Ananias. Ananias is a good man, he already believes in Jesus; he’s on the right path. Jesus wants Ananias to do more than talk, pray, and worship. Jesus wants him to take the risk to walk the walk. Ananias knows who this Saul is. Word has spread all the way to Damascus, probably to any place where the Good News of Jesus was preached, the bad news of Saul arresting people had spread as well. So when the Lord comes to Ananias and tells him to go to Saul, it’s understandable that Ananias would question Jesus’ direction.
Wouldn’t you? I know I would! Hey Jesus you want me to do what? Hey Jesus, i don’t want to offend, but maybe way up wherever in the heavens you are, maybe you missed it, but this guy–he’s bad news; he dangerous; he’s evil. He’s the bad guy, and you want me, you want us to go to him? Are your sure Jesus? Are you sure you’ve thought this all the way through, Lord?
Anytime the good news challenges us. Anytime the gospel of love and forgiveness pulls us to turn around, points us in a new direction. We too like Ananias can wonder. The church is in that place now. We are in that place now. Our world is changing, and Jesus is calling us to turn around and to not run away from the world, but to turn into, to turn and lean into it.
I remember one of the first times riding a motorcycle. I was riding a nice Harley, riding behind someone I liked, someone I trusted. That it until we had to turn, and we started, in my estimation, in my mind, to go down towards the ground. Every fiber of my being did’t want to get any closer to that road, so i shifted my wait, and I leaned away. We made the turn, a wobbly turn, and that was the last time I rode behind my friend. That was the last time she let me on her bike.
You see, we don’t mind a little bit of change in our lives, Lord, you know a tweak here and there, a little bit of a change around the edges or at the corners of our lives. Jesus just let us alone and we’ll work it out–we’ll come to church every once in while. We’ll give just a bit, a bit of our money, a bit of our time, a bit of ourselves, just enough, you know to make us look good, feel good about ourselves. But Jesus don’t ask us to really turn it around, don’t ask us to change too much.
We get used to the roads we are used to traveling, they are familiar, if not comfortable at least predictable, even if they do as lead to death. We get comfortable walking down the wide boulevard of anger or the narrow path of judgement. We know our way around. We know who to avoid, who to trust, we know we can trust people just like us, to walk with us. We want to walk down the paths of who and what we like, the way we’ve gone before.
That might have seemed to have worked, back in the day. Everything is like that whether its drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, buying clothes or cars, or our attitudes, our judgements, our anger, our grief, and hurt. It feels good, even just at first, and we get stuck. But God is in the business of change, And just as Jesus turned Saul around, just as Jesus turned Ananias, Jesus turns us today. That’s what all this forgiveness is, it’s the opportunity, it is the break, it is the push and pull to turn us around. To turn us towards one another, to push us to lean into our world, lean into our neighborhood, because turning us inside out, turning upside down and all around is what Jesus did and what Jesus is still doing.