Sunday, July 29, 2012

Acts 9:1-19 - Instruments of God

Have you ever been nervous about meeting someone for the first time? ask What were the circumstances? A job interview? A date you set up through the internet? Our story this morning is about Ananias meeting Saul for the first time. But, this is no ordinary meeting. Ananias was a follower of JEsus. And Saul was one of the most brutal murderers of Jesus followers. How audible do you think God's voice would have had to have been for Ananias to do something like meeting Saul....? Walk right into a lion's den. It's not surprising Ananias was a little hesitant about meeting Saul... Think he was a little scared, worried? Picture him on his walk to visit with Saul...

What was he saying to himself? What was he saying to God? Did he have a crisis of faith...? Would this be his last journey? How long do you think he stood outside the house where Saul was before entering? Did he practice what he was going to say to Saul? .....Saul you murderer...I mean Brother, Saul, Discerning God's will for our lives is challenging, and the story of Ananias shows even when we have a definite sense of something God wants us to do, we may not think it such a good idea. Behind all of the worry, Ananias had to trust God's calling. I met a missionary some time ago, Cris Chrisfeild, who was working in the favelas, the slums of brasil. He saw the way drugs and violence perpetrated by the drug gangs were destroying the community. One day he had a sense God was calling him to visit with one of the top drug leaders. After some investigation, he found out where the leader lived... and he went to his home. Chrisfield says all he could do was pray. He arrived completely unannounced. There were guards out and the place had tight security, but the way was made clear for him to enter. He walked into the home and found himself seated with the leader who was willing to listen of the way of love.... WHat does it take for us to have the courage necessary to encounter the forces which seek to wreak havoc on our world? The forces that destroy nature for the sake of profit. The forces that target the most vulnerable human communities. In what ways are those forces within our very selves, and we give into them time and again, ignoring, turning a blind eye to their devastating effects. In facing Saul, Ananias had to trust that God was at work for the good of the world. Ananias did not have the luxury that we the readers of this story have. He did not know of Saul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ananias did not know the leader of devastation was blinded through this encounter. And as was astutely observed at Bible Study Tuesday, perhaps it was necessary that the leader be blinded, so that he may learn to follow and then lead in a new way. Saul's heart was opened to receive Ananias....but all Ananias knew was that he had to trust that God was calling him to a seek reconciliation. He had to see beyond the murderous ways of Saul and past his own hurt caused by Saul, and see the essential goodness. THe first thing he calls Saul when addressing him is Brother. Who are those who have hurt us and all we can see is that hurt, rather than seeing their essential goodness, seeing them as brother or sister; mother or father, son or daughter. Ananias had to see beyond any distinctions between him and Saul, and acknowledge they both were created in the image of God, both of the same human family. THe first thing he calls Saul when addressing him is Brother. In what ways to we allow distinctions of race or class or gender or sexual orientation to separate us from one another? In this separation, we fail to see our common image as created by the One who gives us all life. Ananias' mission was one of reconciliation. A mission which began with the reconciliation between these two. The first thing he calls Saul when addressing him is Brother. How are we being called to a ministry of reconciliation? Who are those who have hurt us? Is God calling any of us to go to them and seek the way of healing? In the aftermath of the terrible shootings in Aurora, Colorado, by 23 year old James Holmes, there is much talk of the grief of the victims, gun control, and how to punish, Mr. Holmes. There is very little talk about how to bring about healing and reconciliation. But, I did come across one voice who was talking about reconciliation. Bud Welch lost his 23-year-old daughter Julie in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on April 19, 1995, which killed 168 people. After initially supporting capital punishment for his daughter’s killing, Welch later became a vocal opponent of the death penalty and actually opposed the death penalty for Tim McVeigh. Welch admitted right after his daughter was killed he wanted to find who the killer was, and kill. He now says, "I didn’t realize that at the time I was going through it, that what I was actually doing was quite normal. But I started having some guilt feelings about having all of this anger. Later, I was able to understand that that’s OK. I was able to start thinking more rationally about things and then became opposed to it." Welch thinks the death penalty in the Aurora case shouldn’t even be discussed, because he believes the death penalty is a political issue. Give people a time to get rid of their initial anger, retribution. Welch felt for the family of the shooter Mr. Holmes; and what they are be going through. He said it was horrific what the McVeigh family went through. Welch met the McVeigh family and describes them as a wonderful family. He met Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father and his youngest daughter Jennifer, about 40 months after Julie’s death. He says "[it] was a terrific healing process for me, to be able to extend a hand to them." Through telling his story, Mr. Welch has been able to talk about his daughter, Julie's life, and how proud he was of her. Bill McVeigh never has the opportunity to tell anyone what a great kid Tim was. A good military man who earned three medals for his service in Desert Storm, and came back with PTSD, which was left untreated. WELCH concluded the interview, sharing "I have a tremendous amount of compassion for the victims’ family members. (radio interview democracy now! July 23, 2012) There are those who are praying for Mr. Holmes and his family. I am reminded of Jesus words, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. How do we seek wholeness with such brokenness in our own lives and all around? It is suggested that we begin to empty ourselves of bitterness anger and hatred...and allow love to fill those places. In his vision, Ananias is told that Saul was to be an Instrument of God. Linda Rayney, a Master Musician and a lover of instruments told us at bible study Tuesday she names all the instruments in the church. She knows them intimately, treats them lovingly, with great appreciation. With each and every instrument she knows can come a beautiful sound; music which will glorify God. A common trait of most, if not all instruments, is their hollowness in some aspect of their being. They have to have space through which sound can be generated. Everyone get an instrument and play it. Imagine that instrument if it did not have a hollow space. Would you be able to play it? Without the brokenness in the life of Saul, he would not have a hole through which the Great Musician could play music. Ananias too, by listening and being open to God's leading, revealed the hole within himself through which the Great Musician was able to play. And as a result, the music of reconciliation was able to sound in our world... a story told across centuries, of the Reconciler of the world working through those who are open and willing to seek wholeness with others. TO seek unity and wellbeing for this world. Can we see ourselves and one another as Instruments of God? In all of our relationships, with those we are meeting for the first time, and with those we have know for a long time. may we be instruments of God's peace. With those who treat us well, and those who do us harm, may we be instruments of God's peace. Within our own biological families and within our religious families, May we be instruments of God's peace. Within our own divided hearts, May we be instruments of God's peace.. And in so doing, allow the music of the Great Musician who longs for reconciliation in this world between all peoples and within all of creation to make beautiful sounds. Is God calling you to visit with someone? What work of reconciliation is God calling you to do, today? Let us pray: Lord make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

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