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Discipleship 101

Let’s think about Saul.  He was on his way to Damascus, acting as a leader in the movement for his people. For his God. He knew his theology, he knew what was right, he knew a lot of things.  He was travelling to Damascus where he was going to be a valuable addition in the fight to control the narrative of who God was, who God’s people were, who could access God, who could speak on behalf of God.  Saul was on his way to stop a group of disrupters, and blasphemers.  Saul was, to the point of violence, convinced that his way of understanding God, life, the world, was The way and it was his job to silence the voices that said otherwise.    

And then.  

Jesus happened.  

Light blinded Saul.  Literally, physically blinded.  He was thrown from his horse.  He could no longer rely on his own capacity to see anymore.  He was completely disoriented.   And then that voice, “Saul, why are hurting me?”  

Here in the dust Saul meets Jesus.  Saul is confronted by Jesus.  Saul is blinded by the truth - a scarred and risen Jesus.  He cannot see and must rely on others telling him of the reality around him.   And the first thing he is tasked with doing?   He is to go find, learn and receive from those whom he had hated minutes before.  

Give all your possessions, power, and privilege away. 

This shouldn’t surprise us.  Because this seems to be Discipleship 101, to those with something to lose.  Give all your possessions, power, and privilege away.  Become aware of how much you don’t know.  Then come and follow and learn.  First things first, we heard Jesus say to a rich young ruler.  

Beloveds, in the middle of a pandemic we are witnessing the largest protest movement for human value in our lifetime.   We are in the middle of a move of the Holy Spirit.  We are in the middle of Jesus knocking us off our horses, revealing our blindness to us in visceral ways, and can we hear from the living God, “Why are you hurting me?”  

It is worth remembering that everything in those letters of Paul’s that we call God’s Word are shaped by this moment of blindness, this moment of utter not-knowing, this moment of confusion.  

The white church, the culturally dominant and assumed theologically superior church, is in a moment of not knowing, being confused, of realizing the blindness and wrongness of our assumptions.  Assumptions that at best reflect the blitheness of our “let’s all get along” and at worst deny human value in the face of gaining power for our identity.    

The Spirit calls us forward into WHOLLY new territory. 

Friends, this is where the gospel gets its teeth.  Jesus reveals to us our blindness, by coming to us in one we had discounted, persecuted, ‘Why do you persecute me?”  And where the Spirit calls us forward into WHOLLY new territory, well, there the Spirit can move.   

The Acts 9 story continues. Ananias, who would have been on the receiving end of Saul’s certainty, education and rage had the Living Christ not intervened, is tasked with hosting this blind persecutor. Teaching him. Praying for him. Ananias is the body the Spirit used to reveal the truth about Jesus to Saul.  

Ananias prays, for Saul and for the Holy Spirit. THEN scales fall from Saul’s eyes.  Saul could not see truth until he was made aware that he was blind, until he knew how much he didn’t know. It’s a simple and powerful image. And it is for us today.

Saul then receives his baptism, his ordination and his SIGHT at the hands of one of those whom he had persecuted, Ananias.  From this point on, Paul pursues his ministry from the vantage point of the victims, from the view of understanding what reconciliation truly might mean.  

And then he opens his mouth, uncaps his pen and starts preaching.  

It’s foolishness – and Paul knows it. But it’s the truth nonetheless.

And what is he preaching – day in and day out?  He is preaching the good news of Christ crucified, Christ laying down his power, for the reconciliation of us all. Us to God, us to ourselves, and us to each other. Paul is about the cross because the cross was where God became one of the powerless. And one of the least. There is a foolishness to trust that THIS least-ness and powerlessness and kenosis is the truth of the universe, is the way to reconciliation, is the way back to our truest home. It’s foolishness – and Paul knows it. But it’s the truth nonetheless. THIS giving up of power is the power for those who believe.  


We are being asked, by the Holy Spirit, to listen to where these powers and privileges afforded to white bodies have eroded this gospel and diminished His body, His people.  We are being asked to listen to where the gospel has been reduced into a temple for success, not a way for the living God to make his home among us.   

We are being asked, by the Holy Spirit to learn about the ways power and privilege have functioned in a society built primarily only for whiteness, maleness and money and still does. A society the church has let itself be carried along for way too long.  And this will disorient us.  Like Paul, this will throw us right off our horses.  

We are being asked to feel the grief that leads to repentance.

And for those with some of these privileges, we are not being asked to feel fruitlessly guilty over past decisions and past understandings but we are being asked to feel the grief that leads to repentance. We are being asked to take fruitful response-ability and interrogate the assumptions we’ve received, to let ourselves be blinded.  To be quieted.  To stop talking.  

And then, dear church. 

We are invited,

To hear the voice of the Living, Wounded Christ.  

We are invited, 

To be led to, and truly hear from, those who God has raised to speak and descale our eyes.  

And we are invited to follow that Christ all the way down to the cross.  All the way down to the community of recovering know-it-all’s, discounted women, tax-collectors, the men who cannot walk any more, the healed up children, and the mothers who know God’s presence deep in their bodies, meeting with some bread and wine to sustain us, pronounce us, re-form us.

Getting knocked off the horse, blinded by what we thought we knew, and submitting to the healing touch and prayers of those we had never listened to before?  Well,  that is discipleship 101.  Everything we know about reconciliation and the cross?  It comes from THIS move of the Holy Spirit.

So come Holy Spirit, start with me.  

Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

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