A Blaze of Glory

Preached in Ankeny UCC June 8, 2014
Acts 2:1-21

Greater Than Can Be Imagined

Preached May 25, 2014 in Ankeny UCC
Acts 17:22-31

What I learned in Community

Preached May 11, 2014 in Ankeny UCC Acts 2:42-47

What Winning Looks Like

What Winning Looks Like

Sermon text: Acts 9:1-20

Preached April 14, 2013 at Cullowhee Baptist Church

This a rich text. It provides us with two different call narratives. The first and most famous is the call to Saul on the road to Damascus. This is, arguably, the second most important passage in the New Testament to the history of Christianity. Without Paul’s mission to Greece, it is hard to see how the Jesus movement would have survived in the West. And, narratively, the story is compelling; in America, we treat Amazing Grace like a Christian National Anthem, and that is simply Newton retelling this story with reference to his own life. We like the idea of renewal, the clear explanation that it is never too late, and we are never too far gone, to change our ways and come into the light.

But that makes it easy to ignore the call of Ananias, which is in many ways more compelling to us today. Because I don’t know that we get a better picture of the difficulty to us of following Jesus’s teachings in the New Testament than we get here. Ananias is called by Jesus to welcome Saul, baptize him and heal him. Ananias responds, “really? Saul? The guy who persecutes us and watched approvingly while they stoned our brother Stephen?” But Ananias, a faithful man, readily agrees and goes to find Saul. This is what turning the other cheek looks like. Wanting to let that man remain blind, but going to heal him anyway. This is the resurrection. It is as if Jesus says to Ananias, “what do you have to fear? Saul stood by at Stephen’s physical death, and that is the worst that he can do.” Resurrection is living without that fear, and instead embracing the hope that Saul could change. So as we go through life, and we fear those who could take our sense of self away from us, who could damage our pride, who could take the glory we worked for, we, too, can remember the resurrection and let go of the bitterness that comes from fear. This is what winning looks like. It means accepting the burden of sharing our grace with others, of knowing that we have some power and some choice to exercise. Winning is going to Saul, who so desperately needs help, and welcoming him. Winning is releasing yourself of bitterness toward others, even when it may be well-earned.

Delivery was again a little off. I had a strange adrenaline surge about 10 minutes before this sermon, so I was completely dry-mouthed at the start. I thought I did a good job of maintaining energy, but again felt that I was letting the message down somewhat by not doing more to build the message and by spending too little time on Ananias as resurrection renewed.