A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Tale of Two Men... and of Us

Acts 9:1-19

In Acts chapter nine two men are, in a sense, awakened from the slumbering routine of their day in a startling way. Saul, public enemy number one, as far as the church is concerned, is traveling on the Damascus Road. He has orders from the religious authorities in Jerusalem to round up as many Jewish Christians as he can find in Damascus in order to bring them back to Jerusalem, presumably to stand trial for their newly found faith in Jesus, which as far as Saul, was concerned, was a blatant rejection of the ancestral traditions and a perversion of the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Saul had overseen the stoning of Stephen, a convert to Christianity, in Jerusalem, and now he was headed north, where it appeared that Christianity had made solid inroads in the Jewish community there.

On the way along with some companions, Saul is awakened from his own agenda and given another. He will become a member of the very same group he has been persecuting. He will become a follower of Jesus. He is led to Damascus as one struck blind and he waits for the new world that is in store for him.

In Damascus, there is a faithful disciple of Jesus, Ananias. We have not heard of this Ananias until now, and after the story of Saul's conversion concludes, we will never hear of him again. Andy Warhol said that everyone gets his or her fifteen minutes of fame. Acts chapter nine recounts Ananias' brief and famous moments.

Ananias is told that he must encounter this Saul and bring him into the faith through baptism. It is understandable that Ananias would be quite skeptical over Saul's conversion. After all, Ananias has heard of Saul and what he had done to the church in Jerusalem. What if this is a ruse; a trick of Saul's to infiltrate the church in Damascus in order to arrest the leadership and bring them back to Jerusalem? Just as Saul, Ananias is awakened from the routine of his life and called upon to be part of something larger, something that will change the course of Christianity.

Most commentators focus on Saul in Acts chapter nine, which is understandable. He is by far the most famous and most influential of the two men in our story. But it is unfortunate that often Ananias in neglected. He is a critical part of Saul's conversion. He not only initiates Saul into the Christian faith, but it will become his job to convince the Christians in Damascus that Paul's conversion is indeed real and that this former persecutor and now be trusted as a fellow disciple.

All of us love a good story; and in particular, we all love good stories told about people. We enjoy biography, which is currently one of the most popular forms of literature being written. We also like telling stories. American-English writer, Helen Rowland wrote, "Life begins at forty-- but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times." Perhaps the stories we tell say more about us than the people who are the subject of those stories. But we clearly pay attention to the lives of others. Jesus knew our attraction to story, which is why he so often taught about the great things of God's kingdom in story form-- and in the common everyday images of his worl-- farmers casting seeds, birds nesting in tress, and sibling rivalry.

What we must not forget as we reflect upon Jesus' stories and the story of Jesus, and the tale of Saul and Ananias in this story from Acts, is that each and every one of us is a story, and we are right at this moment writing the stories of our lives. Some of us are farther along toward the conclusion than others; still others are in the initial chapters. Wherever we are on this life's journey, each of our lives is a tale to be told; and most significantly, it must be a story in which our lives reflect the character of God.

We know that Saul/Paul was faithful in the writing of the story of his life, and it is probably safe to assume that Ananias did as well, given how he responded to the call of God in Acts 9. That is why we still tell this tale of these two men today. They instruct each and every one of us as we write the story of our lives day and day out.

What is our purpose as disciples of Jesus Christ? Have we discovered that purpose? What tales will people tell about us that will reflect that divine purpose that has been given to each of us? We won't get our name in the pages of the Bible, but we must never forget that the Bible is our story too. Each day are we living our lives in such a way, that if they ever added pages to the Holy Scripture, they would add our story too?


Country Parson said...

Maybe we could spend some time with Ananias. I think that too often we get the idea that if God would just talk to us in plane English, it would be a wonderful thing. But it seems that when God does that (in any language), it's often with instructions to do something inane and foolishly dangerous. Something like providing hospitality to a well known religious enforcer at whose hands one might suffer anything from kneecapping to death. Now and then God does not appear to show very good judgment, at least by our standards. Maybe it's better if we don't hear from him too often.

stephen said...

I really like this story because it shows how we all have a role to play. God could have just reversed Saul's blindness but He purposefully sent Ananias, I think to show Saul how God's power was at work through common men and women who were believers in Jesus. I also like the contrast between Ananias' faith in this story and how Jonah reacted to being a messenger to another group of scary people. Another sign of how the world had changed.

Allan R. Bevere said...


An intriguing observation.


Yes, God works through all who are willing.