Friday 14th December
Who are you Lord? - Acts 9:1-6

'Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.''

At first sight, this may not be the most obvious Advent reading, but it has much to say to as we seek to live out our faith in an uncertain and troubled world. The Saul who set out for Damascus believed himself to be a devout man; it was the approval and authority of religious, not political leaders that spurred him on his way. His understanding of God's purpose, and his expectations of what God should be doing, significantly differed from what he saw happening around him.

His nation had become subsumed by the Roman Empire - the European Union of its day. They felt a loss of identity, which undermined a heritage that they believed to be a gift from God. Why was God not doing something? How could they restore their nation's greatness and dignity? How could they take back control? Opinion was divided on the matter, but for those who, like Saul belonged to the party of the Pharisees, the answer lay in a return to religious and moral orthodoxy.

This is why Jesus and his followers were such a problem for Saul. They undermined his vision of how God wanted things to be, and if they needed supressing in Damascus, or anywhere else for that matter, it was up to him to do God's work for him. Saul's behaviour is a sobering reminder to all of us, that even our religious activity, for all its good intent, can become a reaction to our own agendas rather than an expression of God's.

God was speaking. God was speaking through the messages and miracles of Jesus. God was speaking through the sacrifice of Calvary and the miracle of resurrection. God was speaking through the acts of the Apostles and the lives of the new believers. But Saul was listening to other narratives, albeit religious in tone, and it took an intervention of some significance to capture his attention.

The events that surround us may not leave us feeling comfortable; they may not conform with our religious expectations, but these are not the issues that matter. The questions of Saul must also become ours - who are you Lord? What would you have me do? Where are you and what are you saying amidst these circumstances that trouble me?

God whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, open my eyes and ears to what you are truly saying - AMEN

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