[#pictureLent] Feb. 27: Holy Nonsense

By Esther Rodriguez
Trinity UMC, Gainesville, FL

First, read Acts 9:17-19

This passage of Scripture is in the midst of a famous conversion story and among a series of conversion stories that Luke, the author of Acts, shares with us. “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (v1) falls to the ground, blinded. He gets taken to Damascus to a street called Straight where he waits.

Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, receives a vision from the Lord that he is to go see this Saul, and lay his hands on him so that the blinded man’s sight may return. Ananias protests but obeys. As we see in the reading, God’s vision is fulfilled, and later on this Saul becomes Paul, an Apostle.

I’m not going to lie, I identify with Ananias. I distinctly remember conversations with a spiritual director and others where I was processing trying to inform God or give God directions about what God should do — what I perceived as right, fair, or even safe. Ananias immediately questioned God wanting to help this enemy.

Like maybe Ananias did, I quickly came to my senses again and realized that God’s mysterious ways are obviously better than mine. Like perhaps Ananias did, I came to the realization that God can and will use the most unlikely and nonsensical means for God’s glory.

What’s beautiful about our focus scripture is that Ananias the disciple does obey the command from God, and that makes all the difference. When Ananias follows God’s instructions, the enemy becomes a “brother.” When Ananias obeys God, someone is converted, is baptized, and celebrates in a meal. When Ananias follows God’s leading, God is able to use Saul-Paul as God’s instrument to bring Christ’s name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel — the Gospel is proclaimed and cultural and social transformation occurs. After this story Ananias slips away, but forever remembered as playing a part in this tremendous story.

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for being a God whose ways and thoughts are higher, purer, and greater than ours. Help us to trust your ways. Help us to embrace your vision — even and especially when it doesn’t make too much sense, and when it makes us uncomfortable. Fill us with love for our enemies. Help us to seek you, your word, and to follow courageously. Help us to receive your grace and thus be able to offer it to others. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who do you relate to in this story today and why?

  2. To what seemingly nonsensical thing might God be leading you? What enemy might God be inviting you to call brother/sister?

  3. How has following or not following God’s lead turned out in the past?