Sermons

Conversion of St. Paul (Transferred)

January 27, 2019

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

“Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.”

This is how the reading from the Book of Acts for this morning ends.  In this lesson, we find St. Paul recounting for King Agrippa his conversion to Christianity.  The lesson begins with St. Paul’s testimony that he was once a persecutor of Christians.  St. Paul says:   


"I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.   And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.  And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

We are familiar with the story that is told in the middle of the lesson – the blinding light, the voice from heaven which tells St. Paul:

“But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles -- to whom I send you  to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

This is all familiar to us.  But as I read this story anew, questions came to my mind – does a person need to be willing to be converted?  Did St. Paul have a choice?  How does conversion happen – in an instant?  Over time? 

I was reminded of one of my favorite movies – “Jesus of Montreal”.  In it, a young actor is given the task of “sprucing up” a play on the Stations of the Cross. 

The young man begins by going to the library to do research.  As he is reading through a book, one of the library assistant comes to him with a trolley filled with books which he requested.  “Are you looking for Jesus?” the assistant asks.  “Yes”, says the young actor.  The library assistant replies, “It is he who will find you.”

During the course of re-making the play on the station, the young actor gathers a band of disparate actors – each of whom has their own sins.  By the time they perform the play, they have all been transformed by their encounter with Jesus.

Sometimes, conversion takes time.  But then, sometimes it can happen in an instant.

In another one of my favorite movies – “The Apostle”, an evangelical preacher who is on the run because of crime he committed, decides to start again and put together a little church.  The Church grows in one month and they have a celebration.

As they are celebrating, a character who had visited the Church one evening and behaved ignorantly returns on the day of their celebration.  He returns with a bull dozer – intent on knocking down the little church.

The preacher puts his Bible down on the ground in front of the bull dozer.  The man who wants to knock down the Church says, “move that Bible, or I will move it!” 

As he gets out of the bull dozer and bends down to pick up the Bible, the preacher bends down with him, and whispers in his ear.  “I know why you are here”, he says quietly to the man.  And with only a few quiet sentences, the man is converted and becomes a member of the Church.

I guess what I am saying is that conversion takes many forms.  Sometimes it happens in an instant.  Sometimes it happens over time.  Sometimes we are willing, and sometimes we may go “kicking and screaming”.

And it may all depend on the person and how they are able to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  St. Paul needed a flash of light.  Others only had to hear their name spoken by Jesus.

How did you come to be converted to Jesus?  Is the process done?  Each one of us has our own path to Jesus, but we end up in the same place – as one of His disciples.  And we all have the same calling – to help with the conversion of others.

Remember the words of St. Paul:

“… I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.”  AMEN.