Good morning all! Happy April Fools and first day of April!
Today’s scripture: Acts 9:1-19
9 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 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. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 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. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 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, 12 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.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 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; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
My call to ministry started with what I thought was a pretty bad joke. During my senior year of high school, my pastor (Hey Kate!) asked if I would preach on student Sunday. I agreed to preach that day. This meant that there were a few other students in the congregation that I had grown up with. As I was preaching, I saw my friend Gene (a big football player and all around awesome guy who in high school rarely came to church) move around. When it was time for the seniors to tell the congregation about what we were going to do in life, Gene popped up and said, “Courtney is going to make a great pastor someday. I just want to say that.” I was a little ticked at him. It distracted from what I had tried to preach and it wasn’t the plan in my mind. I hit him in the shoulder and told him that he was completely wrong. I thought it was awful of him to do that. Way to play a prank, friend.
A few years later when I was trying to discern what to do with my life, seminary was the only thing I got really lit up about. I didn’t know why but I knew that I had to go and do grad work in a seminary. But heaven forbid I become a pastor. That was not the plan. What a joke that would be!
A few years later, I yearned for a time when I would see God in the everyday moments and the extraordinary moments. I yearned for God to be not in books but right here…at deathbeds, births, over coffee, with the marginalized, and the everyday stresses and joys. But I would NOT be a pastor for longer than 5 years….
A few years later, I still feel called to this place. At each step, God has surprised me with my calling. I haven’t given you all of the details of my call and my transformation to where I am now but I think you get the idea. God is pretty dang hilarious. God keeps surprising us along the way.
Our scripture from Acts seems appropriate to me on this day of hilarity and pranks. It seems as though God is pranking both Saul and Ananias, doesn’t it? These calls to ministry seem so incredibly impossible that it can’t possibly be for reals! These calls are drastic, shocking, and really surprising to everyone involved. In fact, all characters really question the nature of God’s call. You want me to do what? That can’t be right? You want me to talk to whom? That can’t be right! You want me to go where? That can’t be right!
And then it is….the calling is shocking and real. The encounters really happen. The voice and blinding light are really there. The healing of Saul by Ananias is true and good. Saul’s conversion to Paul (from killer to preacher) is crazy and shocking but also lasting and true. In the midst of it, God is doing new things. Good things. Lent is about waiting for those shocking moments…much like Easter becomes the most surprising thing…..
Enjoy surprises today!
And yes, because I am talking about surprises…here is a great improv everywhere link…just for hilarity today. 🙂