Why Me, Lord?
(Acts 9: 1-20)
Why me, Lord? A question I’ve asked myself on several occasions after suffering some sort of unexpected setback, like being voted out of office not once, but twice. Through it all, I’ve come to learn that God has a plan. Unlike Saul or Ananias, God or Jesus doesn’t often speak directly to you making it clear what it is you are supposed to do. More often than not, God relies upon your faith to recognize opportunities for service along with the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
For example, that last time I was voted out of office, I thought I was retired for good and began my hobby of repurposing garage sale treasures. It wasn’t long before it was recommended to me that I take some courses through the Methodist Church that might prove beneficial to my church at the time. The course was in five parts and I enrolled for Cycle C which was Leadership in the Wesleyan Way. Several months later I completed Cycle D, Discipleship Systems. I still had no clue as to what I was doing until I cycled around to the first session which was entitled: Introduction to Ministry Overview. What? I went home and told Teresa and she asked what it meant. I told her I could be appointed to a church, to which she asked where. I told her I didn’t know, but possibly Alaska. She said: “Make sure you write!” I said, let’s see where this goes. I completed the cycles on preaching and the sacraments and was then certified as a Lay Minister. On some official form, I indicated a preference to be appointed to either my home church or a church within driving distance. I knew all the Methodist churches on the Olympic Peninsula had pastors, so I figured I wasn’t going anywhere, until the District Superintendent told me about Community UMC. I told him there was good news and bad news. The good news was that they knew me. The bad news was that they knew me and over 60% of them voted me out of office. It was one of those “Why me, Lord, moments when I thought I really wasn’t the right person for the job. Surely, there is somebody more well suited, or less objectionable. Well, here I am, two years and ten months later. You can’t argue with God, at least not with any degree of success.
And that’s where we find ourselves in our scripture reading for this morning with Jesus telling two God-fearing individuals they were going to be asked to do something difficult and outside their comfort zone, to say the least.
If you were here last week, you’ll remember we talked about the disciples all huddled up behind locked doors for fear of the Jews wondering what was going to happen next. Were the authorities hunting them? Would they be persecuted, jailed and/or executed? Well, fast forward to Acts, Chapter 9 and that is exactly what is happening. Followers of the Way who had been persecuted in Jerusalem began to flee to other cities where they might be safe, thereby avoiding arrest and imprisonment. Enter Saul the Pharisee who was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, who went to the high priest asking for letters to the synagogues at Damascus. Saul was hoping to find men or women who belonged to the Way that he could seize and return to Jerusalem to face charges.
You have to ask yourself, Jesus was dead, why would the Jewish authorities want to persecute Christians as far away as Damascus, 175 miles from Jerusalem? There were several possibilities. First, to merely seize the Christians who fled. Second, to prevent the spread of Christianity to other major cities. Third, to keep the Christians from causing any trouble in Rome. Fourth, to advance Saul’s career and build his reputation as a true Pharisee zealous for the law, and fifth, to unify the factions of Judaism by giving them a common enemy. Damascus was crucial because it was a crossroads on several trade routes. A perfect place to stop the spread of this objectionable movement.
We learn that as they were approaching Damascus a bright light from heaven flashed around Saul causing him to fall to the ground where he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Saul 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 to do. The men who were with Saul led the blinded man into the city where for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
We’re told there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias who the Lord visited in a vision telling him to go to Straight Street and, at the house of Judas, he would find a man from Tarsus named Saul. The Lord tells Ananias that at this moment the man is praying and has seen a vision of a man named Ananias laying hands on him so that he might regain his sight. Poor old Ananias recoils in horror as he has heard of this man and of the evils he has done to the saints in Jerusalem. Ananias is probably going into panic mode thinking, Why me, Lord? Can’t you send somebody else, like Bob over there? He’s not doing anything important. But the Lord said to him: Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before the Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. So, Ananias did as he was instructed, visiting Saul, and restoring his sight. Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized. We are told that for several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, where he immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” We don’t know, but you have to wonder if Saul questioned why he was being chosen by Jesus to spread the gospel. Surely, he thought, there were others more qualified and less objectionable that didn’t come with such heavy baggage. But Jesus knew he needed someone of Saul’s character and credibility to handle such a monumental task and, of course, he would suffer as Jesus told Ananias, but he could handle it.
I think the message here is that we will all be called upon to do things in the service of the Lord that we may not want to do, but do it, we must. God knows best and has our back. God calls us to commitment, not to comfort. He promises to be with us through suffering and hardship, not to spare us from them.
Sometimes God breaks into a life in a spectacular manner, and sometimes it’s a more subtle experience, like being moved around the board like a chess piece. God plays multi-dimensional chess. He’s on a level we can’t begin to comprehend. So, the next time God moves you in a direction you weren’t expecting to go, don’t ask: Why me, Lord? Ask, Why not me, Lord? What is it that you would have me do?
Please pray with me.
Have you decided to follow Jesus? Have you made that commitment? Because, if you have, there’s no turning back. When you’ve decided to follow Jesus, you put the world behind you and the cross before you, and there’s no turning back. When you’ve decided to follow Jesus, you may go alone as none will go with you, but still, you will follow Jesus because there’s no turning back. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.