In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scriptures used and the message. Holy Communion is offered every Sunday. If you are worshipping with us online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, you are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.



God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*Scriptures this morning are from the NRSV.

Acts 9:1-20

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.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

So 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. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

L:  The scriptures of God for the people of God.

A: Thanks be to God.       

Message – Do You Hear What I Hear?*

Rev. Val

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do y’all remember that mid-sixties song by Buffalo Springfield?

There’s something happening here

But what it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop

Children, what’s that sound?

Everybody look, what’s going down?

If today’s story in Acts would have happened in the early 60s, the man with the gun would have been Saul of Tarsus, and the folks who needed to beware would have been the disciples and followers of Jesus.  Saul of Tarsus, who as it says in Acts 13:9 was also called Paul, was “the man with the gun” and an absolute loathing for the followers of Jesus. He made it his personal mission to find them and see them imprisoned, punished and preferably executed so they would be forever eliminated, eradicated, buried from memory just as their precious rabbi had been tried, punished, executed, and buried in that tomb. To quote Derek Weber, “His bloodthirsty nature and his zeal to purify [his] faith are in plain view. Our text today begins with Saul “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” The image is one of a mad bull, snorting after the cape-wielding adversary, a rabid animal panting after its prey. It’s not a flattering picture, to say the least.”

Saul’s zealous lust for eradicating anything Jesus of Nazareth from the face of the earth brings to mind those folks caught on cellphone videos calling in reports of “unsavory characters” of a different race or religion in their neighborhoods, community swimming pools, city parks, even when that “unsavory character” is an actual neighbor, a member of the community, a citizen. It reminds us of those who, in their self-proclaimed religious righteousness and too often from seats of civic and government power declare, threaten, demonize, and attack school boards and teachers for complying with and enforcing mask mandates, for teaching truthful history, and for legislating away the rights of entire groups of people that don’t conform to their rigidly narrow perspectives of acceptability because of who they love or how they vote or what their land is worth. Again, quoting Derek Weber, “It’s enough to make you hope for a flash of light from heaven and the voice that asks, “Just who are you persecuting?”

Saul, driven by what he was certain was righteous and carrying a letter giving him full authority of the religious leaders, was on a mission to hunt down the disciples when he saw that flash of light coming out of heaven that knocked him to the ground and heard that voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?”

Think about Saul’s question a moment. Most of the time when we hear a message about this passage, we hear that there is an identity issue in this text about who is Paul/Saul. But Saul knows the identity issue is, “Who is this Lord?” That’s his question when the light and voice come and knock him down. “Who are you, Lord?” He knows it isn’t about his identity. In that moment where he’s down on the ground, there is someone more powerful, more present than he has been, even in his search for meaning and purpose and the purity of his faith. Don’t read too much into the “Lord” in his question because he doesn’t yet realize whose voice he’s hearing. Read that “Lord” as sir or something polite, not a sudden statement of allegiance to the one whose followers he is on a mission to eradicate. His allegiance will come later. For now, Saul needs to listen.

The voice announces who he is – Jesus – and then tells Saul to pick himself up and go on into the city of Damascus where he’ll be told what to do next, and something happens that forces Saul to listen. When he gets up off the ground, he’s blind. His eyes are open, but he can’t see a thing and has to be led by the hand the rest of the way into Damascus. He who was so driven, he who was so sure, he who made distinctions, he who sized up the enemy at a glance, now has to be guided, now he has to listen to a voice other than his own.

Listening … I mean really listening … has kind of become a dying art, hasn’t it? Especially in this digital age where “reading” has become a new kind of listening? We don’t listen to hear. We listen, then react. We don’t read to understand. We read, then react? At best, we’re all often guilty of selective listening … of choosing to hear only those views and ideas that are at least similar to if not in total agreement with our own. But it’s listening to hear one another that is so very necessary for legitimate fruitful communication to take place.

Up until this incident on his trip to Damascus, Saul had been a selective listener. He heard only what his religious authorities and teachers told him and dismissed without a second thought anything he felt was contrary. I mean, Saul was an educated guy! His family was not poor. They were Jewish, but also Roman citizens. Saul would have most likely been taught by some of the best rabbis and other teacher and, as a Roman citizen, would have had the benefit of the Roman educators as well. Had he really listened to what Jesus had been saying, he … like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea … would have recognized the validity of it all, the truth of it all, would have recognized who Jesus was. But, until the point he’s at in our passage today, he hadn’t been listening to hear.

Last week, we heard how Peter and the others were hauled before the High Priest, the Council, and the whole body of Jewish Elders and were ordered to stop speaking about Jesus. We heard how Peter told the religious authorities he and the others were going to continue just as they had been because they were witnesses and were telling people the truth that they saw with their own eyes.

In his book, Bearing Witness in the Kin-dom: Living into the Church’s Moral Witness through Radical Discipleship, Darryl Stephens says that despite what we might think, being a witness doesn’t always mean speaking; that in fact, the moral witness of the church begins with listening. “To bear witness is to unburden our neighbors from the agony of an untold story. We are called to be present and attentive, to hear one another’s stories. And then, to care for that story as if it were our own.”

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. How can we be a witness to someone without knowing their circumstances, their issues, their story? How can we work against injustice if we don’t know the stories that led to and perpetuate that injustice? How can we know why someone is grieving or hurting or struggling if we don’t take time to listen and learn their story? And I mean really listen … not listen to respond … just simply listen? It’s in the listening that we learn who they are, why they are, and what they need.

Peter and the others could witness by telling the story that they’d seen and also because they had listened to what Jesus taught them. They learned by both observing and by listening to Christ himself and it was his story about which they witnessed.

What voices do we need to hear in order to hear the voice of Christ today? What voices have we silenced in our own certainty? What stories have been ignored in an age of shouting and anger? Do we know the Lord we seek to follow, the one whose name we take and whose path we follow? “Who are you, Lord?” is a question we need to ask as fervently as did the blinded, frightened Saul lying on the side of the road to Damascus.

Saul needed to listen to others who would help him know his own story or the new story that he was writing with his life even now. He was to be a witness to the one who called him, but he needed to learn that he finds that one by listening to many others. Those who will help him find his way on the journey begin with a question: “Who are you, Lord?”

Something important to note about today’s passage is that contrary to the point a lot of Sunday messages make about it, Saul’s name wasn’t changed to Paul as part of his transformation. Unlike Simon whose name was changed to Peter as part of his transformation or Jacob whose name was changed to Israel because he wrestled with God, the man we know as Paul, the writer of all those letters to the early churches, would continue to be called Saul by some and Paul by most.  

Why should we know that? Because, in that respect, we are like Saul, also known as Paul. When we experience a transformation through the saving power of Christ, our names don’t change. We are still who we were before the transformation, but yet not the same. And that can create a challenge. While we move on from our pasts to a new life in Christ, there are those who continue to remember us in our pasts and struggle or even refuse to accept that we can and have changed. Very often if we listen to them … I mean really listen … we find out we’ve done something in our past that has harmed or held them in their past. By listening to hear … by holding that space for them to tell us that story, their story, we have the opportunity to offer them healing, especially if their story warrants and apology from or forgiveness by us.

Even though Paul had been transformed, had been born new in Christ, even though the Lord had told Ananias to go and help Paul, Ananias was hesitant, frightened, and didn’t want to go. He only went because the Lord told him to. Like Ananias, the disciples were also suspicious of Paul and unwilling to just instantly accept his word that he’d met Jesus on the road to Damascus and had been transformed. Paul would have to prove himself and gain their trust and, even then, there would be times when one or two of them didn’t fully trust him.

It can take a long time … a lifetime even … to outlive the pasts associated with our names. Not in God’s eyes, mind you. He’s already forgiven and forgotten. The inability to forgive or forget is a human trait. We forget what is inconvenient or uncomfortable and retain that which makes us feel better about ourselves or empowers us somehow. We do this both individually and collectively. We push aside or suppress things we did before we knew Christ.

Societies tend to collectively forget the wrongs done to others in their name or to their benefit. A good example of that is the current movements to ban or otherwise prevent truthful history from being taught in schools or allow certain books to be available in school libraries. Some even go so far as to outlaw the truthful telling of current events. The laws in Russia regarding the war in Ukraine are a good example of that. The government has made it illegal to publish anything derogatory about their actions in Ukraine, has in fact outlawed any form of dissent.

And forgiveness is the same way. We forgive what is easy to forgive and we struggle to forgive what we deem unforgivable. Would that we could forgive and forget as easily and quickly as God. The best way then to prove to those who can’t seem to move out of our pasts that we’ve changed remains to prove it through our behavior. If they see Christ in us, they will be more prone to believe Christ indeed changed us. Forgiveness, especially seeking it, can also be a societal action. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” If, say, the people of the USA would truly humble ourselves, truly pray … not what we will God to do for us, but for forgiveness … and truly repent … change direction so that we are doing what  was commanded … serving the least among us, loving one another without judgment or condition … then God would hear, God would forgive, and God would heal our land … our society … our nation from the hate and division.

But, again, it all begins with being willing to listen for the voice of Christ … a voice that may come from very unexpected places or people and at very unexpected times in very unexpected circumstances. Because it is in the listening that we learn.

Let’s pray: God of Forgiveness, hear now the confession of our sins.

Our greed and our lust for power create enemies where we should find friends.

We fail to offer comfort and aid to those who are afraid and beat down by the burdens of life.

We are as blind and willful as Saul to the pain and the destruction of our wrongdoings and our well-meaning crusades.

Forgive us, merciful One.

Give us sight to see with your eyes, that we may bring hope peace to our world.



  • Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
  • *Adapted in part or full from Preaching Notes, Discipleship Ministries Worship Planning Series.

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