Oct. 11 lesson: Saul earns credibility


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Saul earns credibility

Sunday school lesson for the week of October 11, 2015
By Rev. Denise Walton

Lesson scripture: Acts 9:19b-31

This week I had the unique opportunity to visit a local church and join them in the community. This small but faithful congregation made their regular visit to the local nursing home. It was a joy to meet the residents, hear the pastor share, and sing with the members of the church the old songs of Zion. The most beautiful part of the day was to witness the nursing home residents join in the singing. It appeared that some had different levels of cognitive ability but when we sang “My Hope is Built,” “Victory in Jesus,” and “He Touched Me,” you could see the joy in their countenance. They remembered, and they sang to the glory of God!

In the setting of our text, Saul has gained credibility for his unceasing actions toward the destruction of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Saul was intent on searching out men and women who confessed the message of Jesus and placing them in prison. He enters Damascus with such intent and approaches the high priest for letters to provide permission to carry out his plans.

Saul was on the way to execute his plan, but God had another plan in Saul's life.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV

As I contemplate this Sunday school lesson, I continue to go back to Acts 1:8. As Luke unfolds the story in Acts, we are reminded that Pentecost has come, the Holy Spirit has come, and the Gospel is coming to Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea and the ends of the earth.

Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road is a turning point in his life and ministry. It is Saul who will take the gospel to the ends of the earth. The love of God in the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ can and will radically transform the life of the most resistant human being. If they receive and believe, no one is beneath the love of God.

As a regular part of my personal devotion, I follow the common lectionary reading. As a part of that discipline, I often review the lectionary readings on www.textweek.com. The readings include the ancient theologians and well as modern-day reflections on text. While this reading represents a former lectionary year, I enjoyed James Boyd's commentary on today’s scriptural lesson. Boyd served as Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Greek, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.

I was very familiar with the story of Saul and his conversion, but a lesser-known character was Ananias. Boyd describes the faithful response and conversion of Ananias. As I read, the commentary reminded that the transforming power of God affected Saul, his friends, and those who came in contact with Saul's persecution of the church.

Ananias - A Second Conversion

Dr. James Boyd writes, “Each of Luke's stories is particular. God is doing a new thing. Each story is God yet again making good on God’s promises. This story of Saul’s encounter with the risen Jesus on the way to Damascus was clearly a favorite. Luke tells the story three times in Acts (see Acts 22:6--16; 26:12--18). Like the series of speeches in Acts that repeat the same old story of salvation, the problem for the preacher is not the lack of material, but how to tell the whole story with the kind of imagination and vision that can capture and place our present stories within the grand story of
God's people from the beginning.”

Boyd further states, “The close parallelisms of the accounts of Saul and Ananias suggest that there are two call stories and thus, two conversions taking place here. To his obedient ‘Here I am, Lord, Ananias receives the same cryptic, ‘Get up and go,’ but with explicit instructions regarding the object of his mission: Saul (9:11). When the voice adds reference to Saul’s ‘prayer’ and vision of one coming to lay hands on him so that he can regain his sight, the narrative already anticipates the effective promises of God and invites us into a future that even Ananias is not quite ready to see. Instead Ananias responds, ‘I have heard from many ... how many evil things he has done.’ Ananias knows too much about the ways of the world and about persons like Saul. Even after the reference to God’s ‘name’ (9:14); even after the promise to Mary that with God ‘all words’ are possible (Luke 1:37), the past still seeks to define and control the present. But in the promise of God's word, then, as now, the ways of the world are being rearranged.”

Final Thoughts

I believe in this Christian walk we may forget who we are and what we are called to do. Allow the scripture readings this week to remind you of who you are in Christ and what you are called to do. We all have a story to tell. For some, it is a dramatic and powerful transformation and others a quiet, lifelong journey of discipleship. May the scriptures, worship, and the fellowship of believers remind us all that a change has come in our lives. That change is the radical, transforming power of God. To God be the Glory, great things God has done!

Rev. Denise Walton serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at denise@sgaumc.org.