I try to read some of the Bible each day. Sometimes I don’t get much out of it. Other times characters come to life and stir my imagination. That happened when I read about Ananias last week.
His name came up in the daily readings as our lectionary makes its way through the New Testament book of the Act of the Apostles. That book tells the story of the early church. If the book were a movie, Ananias would not even be considered for supporting actor. He gets a cameo role at best. He fails to qualify for Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame. You get the idea. But without him, or someone like him, the story of the church would be really different.
Here’s a recap of his story which you can find below. Ananias lived in Damascus, at the end of the road where Saul (henceforth referred to as Paul) had a dramatic conversion experience. On that road, Paul became a penitent former-persecutor of Jesus (which is one definition of a Christian, according to the theologian James Alison). Paul was struck blind in the conversion process and stumbled his way into town, where he starts praying. Ananias hears a call from God to go and bring healing to Paul. Ananias wonders if the call is a wrong number, as is true in many biblical accounts of call stories. Ananias knows of Paul’s reputation as someone out to get Christians. It was not safe to be around Paul. Ananias could not believe Paul could be changed. But God’s voice spoke of Paul’s mission. So when God told Ananias to go, Ananias went. He prays with Paul, helps him regain his sight, baptizes him, welcomes him into the community.
I don’t think we hear about Ananias again. But he’s been on my mind and in my imagination. I sense he has lessons for me this Monday morning. Maybe they’ll resonate with you as well:
Ananias says “Here am I.” Somewhere in his inner being there was a willingness to be of service, even if he has no idea what that would look like. In what sense can I say “Here am I” today?
He listened for God’s voice. Somehow he was paying attention enough to hear God ask him to do something totally counter-intuitive. What would it look like if I was that spiritually attentive today? How can I pay more attention? Some call it mindfulness.
He changed his own mind. At first, he was not open to going, but he was on some level a learner. Where do I find the courage and humility to recognize that a course correction might be in order?
He believed Paul could change, or at least, be changed. Do I deny the possibility that others can change? Or is it just easier for me to slot folks into categories?
He is willing to see possibility, no matter how unlikely that potential was. Do I have the trust and the courage to see a threshold where most people see a dead end?
He welcomes Paul, providing a pathway for Paul’s inclusion in the community. He could have tried to get revenge. He could have savored resentment. It was within his rights. He could have set up litmus tests. He could have stood in the way. But he opened the door. Where am I being called to that kind of ministry?
The fact that we know little about Ananias allows us to wonder, in a way that challenges our faith this morning. His story calls us to think about how we might be useful in someone else’s life, for God’s sake.
Who are the people who have been like Ananias for you?
Is there a way that you can be Ananias for somebody today?
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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