Stopped in our tracks

Stopped in our tracks

The Conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1-9) | Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Saul, a persecutor of those of the Way (followers of Christ), was leaving Jerusalem where he had imprisoned and killed many and stood by as Stephen was martyred. He was heading to Damascus to capture others of the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem. While he was approaching Damascus a light from heaved flashed around him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice identified as Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Blinded, Paul was lead into Damascus; was without sight and fasted for three days. Here was Paul, completely convinced that he was doing the right things for the right reasons was stopped in his tracks and redirected. Not geographically redirected - he still ended up in Damascus but his assignment was changed. He was no longer on the mission the chief priest gave him permission for he was now being instructed by Jesus, whom he was persecuting.

I had the great opportunity to visit Israel earlier this year. One day we stood on top of a hill and peered down at the road that leads from Jerusalem to Damascus. As we looked down it was difficult to see the actual road, as a matter of fact our guide tried to make it visibly clear by saying – look do you see the top of that white car driving along – that is the road. It was very still and calm, we did not see any people only that one car. But what was most shocking was the reality that the Syrian and Lebanon border was only about two miles away from us.

There we stood two miles away from an almost nonexistent border of these two countries who are under civil unrest and political tension, I read that since March of 2011 this civil war has killed more than 140,000 people.
And yet there we stood viewing this still, quiet road - remembering Saul in route to destroy more lives and families halted by the voice of God, turned from the wickedness he thought was right to being the greatest missionaries of, “the One he persecuted.”

All over Israel we saw signs of fear and unrest, while we never felt unsafe or threatened it was there; walls, armed guards, broken glass - but we also saw so many placing prayer request in the nooks of the Western Wall, signs that read- pray for the peace of Israel. And fear and unrest does not just reside in the Middle East. We all live in the midst of brokenness and hope, pain and joy, death and resurrection.

We are often so passionate about our ways of viewing the world, what we consider right or wrong and our ideas of how things should be done that we miss what God is doing. May we be those open enough to be stopped in our tracks and turned from evil, violence and destruction to proclaiming hope, peace and whatever message Jesus Christ gives us – even if it is new or contrary to what we thought was right or were raised to believe.

Gracious and loving God, it was prophesied that you would do a new thing. Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ indeed new things were happening. You were teaching us how to love you, how to love others and how the grace of Jesus was now drawing all people unto you and breaking down walls that divide. Help us to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to the new things you are doing around us and the courage to go and proclaim your peace and good news. Amen.

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