Acts 9:1-19 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. (Then God sent) 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.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
I can read this story again and again. It's one of those passages that reminds me about how God both interrupts and surprises us with something brand new that we never thought of before. Imagine being Paul- you are one of the most learned men on the planet- but also an expert in your field. In Paul's case, he was an expert in all things God- he was one of the teachers of the Jewish faith, a Pharisee, someone who normal people would go to when they had questions about religion. And everything Paul was doing to stop this new movement called "Christianity" was, according to Paul, what God was instructing him to do- he was both sincere and secure in his faith and in his actions. It would feel good to be so sure about everything wouldn't it? To know God inside and out- what you have to do to be in God's good graces and what you don't?
Except God wanted Paul to change his thinking. And God literally knocked him out to get through, because this was going to be something so different that what Paul was so sure he knew, it was going to turn his whole world upside down. Paul got up blind- walked around in the dark for a few days, meaning he understood nothing for a while- But through this encounter God opened a window in Paul's mind- and that's why I chose this passage for John. I never got to know him when he was a pastor, but I met him on CHristmas Eve my first year at Moorestown. And honestly, we did have much of a relationship outside our encounters and discussions at Barnes and Noble when I would run into him there. However, what I do know about him, is that he always left a window open for God to teach him something new! His love of learning and sharing that knowledge with others was broadly based- you heard his family talk about that love of poetry, literature, reading any book he could get his hands on. ANd I know lots of people like that, but so many of us go into our learning perhaps ready to build on what we know, but not ready to completely embrace something new. Not John- his spiritual and intellectual window was wide open for whatever God wanted to show him. The best part is that he modeled that openness for the rest of us. We got to witness first hand, someone who allowed himself to be changed. And JOhn, like Paul, did something with his revelations. Whether getting involved in activism, or preaching, or teaching, or writing- he found a way to impart his new knowledge on the world- oh what a gift! The thing we take home with us, aside from all of the parts of John he left with us, is the knowledge that this story of conversion happens to each of us, every day- not all of us get knocked out, like Paul, but we each have to opportunity to live as John did- with a window open. What better way to honor his memory that allowing God's spirit to turn our world upside down! Peace to you!