Chapter 9 is one of the key chapters in the Acts of the Aostles for many. It contains that incredible conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road into the St Paul we all know and love. Todays reading is Acts 9:1-22
We start off with the man who was holding the coats while the men stoned Stephen, we start with a man uttering murderous threats to all who would follow Jesus. We start with a man who had obtained letters to imprison those same followers of Jesus using force if necessary. We end up with a man who preaches and teaches and then writes letters so significant they make up much of our New Testament.
I have been reflecting on the events and people within the early church as I have explored the Acts of the Apostles and have constantly been asking that question, what does this mean to us today. Today I feel strongly that our message is ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed”
I want to look at two characters in the account of the conversion. In this blog I will look at Ananias in part 2 we will take a look at Saul of Tarsus.
Ananias has been told to go and lay hands upon Saul to restore his sight, quite understandably he objects “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” Yet Jesus wants us to know, you and me and Ananias that there is nothing or no-one that cannot be redeemed and re-assures him “this man is my chosen instrument”
Perhaps it is no coincidence the name Ananias is the Greek from of the old Hebrew name hananeyah which means ‘God is merciful’ because it is the hands of Ananias that God uses as his instrument of mercy.
It is Gods mercy that says ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed’ – and hands are very interesting here, Saul of Tarsus is the man who has laid hands on the followers of Jesus – these were hands of anger, hands of brutality, murderous hands and yet Ananias uses his hands as the instrument of God’s mercy, his are holy hands, hands of prayer, hands of healing and hands of mercy.
The emotions of Ananias cannot be ignored either, what must it have felt like to be given the “Go and Pray for Saul of Tarsus” job. He is worried, he is in fear, he is in fear for his very life, he has been asked to pray for a known tyrant, a religious terrorist. Yet Jesus wants him to know that ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed’ and that fear is transformed to dutiful service and as the scales fall from Saul’s eyes to joy, the joy of healing and the joy of being part of Gods amazing story.
I believe that the same is true today ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed’ even in the midst of death and heart-breaking loss, or perhaps especially in the midst of death and heart-breaking loss. We have a God whole loves us, who sent his son to die for us, who rose again for us – why, to redeem us.
We need to listen for Gods voice in the situation we find ourselves in, listen to what God is laying on our hearts as a church and as individuals. As the nation and world moves towards recovery from these terrible times we need to pray for that redemption, for ourselves, our nation, our world and our church.
The hymn I leave you with for now is one I have shared before, but one you know well, and one that sings loudly of Gods redemption for us all.
Do watch out for The View from the Vicarage: Redemption Part 2 (Saul of Tarsus) later today.
Amazing grace How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The Earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Your friend and Vicar