Thursday, January 12th

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”  The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel…”  Acts 9:10-15


Sometimes, in the natural world, change comes quickly, explosively.  I was in Washington state the day that Mount St. Helens erupted.  I remember well the pictures of an entire mountainside changing forever in a matter of minutes.


Sometimes, in the natural world, change comes ever so slowly.  Anyone standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon marvels at the power of water and wind to sculpt such an immense path.  One molecule of water, one grain of sand, at a time.


Nevertheless, whether slowly or quickly, change is inevitable.


So we move now to the story of Paul.  God changed him in the wink of an eye.  One minute he’s a proud young religious hotshot off to make a name for himself by rounding up some heretical so-called Christians.  The next he is driven to his knees by a blinding light.  Three days later he is baptized and becomes the perfect champion of the faith as it moves into the Gentile world.


Ananias was right to be skeptical.  Some say that people never change.  Practical wisdom says that lasting change for people only comes with diligent effort over a long period of time.  We are all skeptical when someone tells us they have changed overnight.  We are all skeptical of whirlwind romances and “get rich quick” career changes.  Real change, we believe, takes time.


Or do we even believe that real change is possible?


For the rest of his life, as Paul traveled as missionary teacher and apologist for the faith, he told his story.  Over and over, to crowds in sanctuaries and before Roman authorities, he told the same story of how God changed his life.  Like the blind man in John 9, Paul didn’t and couldn’t explain the “how”, he could only bear witness to the “what.”  I once was blind but now I see!


We all have things we would like to see change in our lives.  We get frustrated by the slow pace of change even when we are working diligently to see such changes come.  And we get terrified when life shifts under our feet and our “landscape” is changed in the blink of an eye.  Faith tells us that change is possible, that God can do all things.  So we trust, and we act and we pray for the best.


Let us pray: Dear Lord, you changed Paul on the road to Damascus.  You shaped him over a lifetime of service and struggle.  May we embrace the changes that you bring our way.  The internal changes of growth and the external changes of life.  Mold us, shape us, sculpt us into the people you have created us to be.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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