Today's Lectionary Text
Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself:
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently.
“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
“Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.
“With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
I was 13 or 14 years old when my youth leader asked me to take part on a leadership team. Ten to 12 of us went through training for several weeks and then were assigned a weekly task. Mine was to venture out one evening a week with two other youth group members visiting young people who had visited our church. Basically, our job was to talk about our faith.
The other two people in our trio were older than me, so they handled the talking those first few weeks. But one week, we looked at the names of people we would visit that night, and I realized it was the daughter of my science teacher. For the first time, I would actually know the person we were going to visit. And for the first time, my two partners decided it would be best if I did the talking.
Talk about intimidating! What if I didn’t tell the story correctly of Jesus dying for our sins? What if I missed a key point? What if I said something that made our visiting youth uncomfortable to the point that she wouldn’t come back to the church?
What if she just thought I was a nerd for talking about this “Jesus stuff”?
OK, so everyone in town already knew I was a nerd, but the point is I was fearful of saying the wrong thing.
When we arrived at her house, one of my older colleagues shared a calming strategy with me: “Just tell your story.”
Over the years, I’ve used this strategy many times. While I’m confident I would get the points of the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for all humanity correct, I tend to stick to my story. I share how my relationship with Jesus is a key part of who I am. It guides how I treat people, what I hope to share with others and what I strive to become as a person.
In this text, the apostle Paul is pretty much telling his story. He talks about his zealous protection of the Jewish Law and about how he used to treat followers of Christ. Then, he talks about his conversion while on the road to Damascus.
We may not all have a dramatic conversion story. I know I don’t have such a tale. But we all can share what Jesus means to us and how our relationship with our Savior makes us who we are and what we strive to be as Christians.
Think through your story. Think about how you would share it. You’ll find you can’t make an error if you stick the facts that you know so well.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, please give us wisdom to know when to share our story. And please grant us the courage to share our story so that others can begin writing their own narrative about a relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This Week's Lectionary
This Week's Liturgical Color