Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, 24th January, 2016
If someone asks you, 'how do you feel about change?' You
might give very different answers, depending on what is
happening to you at that time in your life. If
everything is ticking along nicely, we probably would not
want any change. If we are worrying in anticipation
of something we fear might happen, then we would probably
say, no change please. On the other hand we might be
having a bad time, and hoping or praying for change.
Each week, we find that we need to pray for the same
things – peace in the Middle East, an end to injustice and
a fairer world. Some things don't SEEM to change for
These are difficult questions, but what seems certain is
the urgency to pray to God. There are good things
which happen in the world too, of course. We need to
pray that we will always keep that urgency to pray, in
good and bad times. That we don't lose faith and
hope in God – either because we fall completely into
despair or because life becomes so comfortable that we
forget that we still must rely on God.
As Saul was walking along the road to Damascus, his vision
and understanding of the world and his relationship with
God changed dramatically. He did not seek change –
he thought that he knew he was on the right path.
However, Jesus sought him out to transform Saul, to
shatter his perceptions as illusions,
misunderstandings. This radical change doesn't come
about in Saul by his reasoning, it is miraculous, divine
action which makes it happen.
There is something fundamental in that – if God is to
transform the world, he must first transform the people,
from within. Saul becomes an instrument of God,
within the early church. He must first become
transformed from within, in order to then carry the Gospel
message into the world, transforming the hearts of people.
How often we realise that it is experience, not argument
or discussion, or reading about something which
transforms. Only by experiencing do we understand
fully. When you see it, feel it, only then does it
become real. All too often, the underlying cause of
evil is not empathising with someone else, seeing it from
their point of view. Where people carry out cruel
acts against others, they first de-humanise the
victim. The Wisdom of the Russian people shines a
light on this. The Russian word for the verb to hate
is 'ne-ne-veedet' – meaning, literally to not-not
see. (The Russian verb to see is 'veedet').
Saul himself is struck blind – Jesus is showing Saul that
he does not see. His bigotry, his certainty of his
understanding, his intolerance of others, separates him
from his Christian neighbours (who he regards as being
fundamentally wrong or bad). In this mindset, Saul
has separated himself not just from his neighbours but
also from God.
Later,as the Christian missionary, Paul, realising this
says (Romans 13:9-12).
The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You
shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not
covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this
word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no
wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of
the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how
it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For
salvation is nearer to us now than when we became
believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the
armour of light;'
In his letters Paul urges his readers and listeners to be
prepared for the second coming of Christ. This hope
and faith, which Paul has, he repeats. In 1
Thessalonians Ch 4:
For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the
archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will
descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise
first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be
caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the
Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.
The sacrifice which God made, through the life of the
Jesus, for the world – is the eternal promise. The
New Covenant. God knows and loves all his people.
Our hearts must be tender and warm to all, to allow God to
be alive in us.
But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.’
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
We must have courage and faith, in all
circumstances. To see that God is alive in the
world, and that there is a divine purpose. We, like
Saul, need to have the courage to open our eyes and see
the world as true Christians.