Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Fear or Trust?

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

October 19:

Call:       Acts 9: 1-4
Read:   Acts 9: 3-9
Text:       Acts 9: 10-31
Closing:    Acts 11: 19-26

                Fear or Trust?

Are you familiar with   "Five Guys?"

I am
And I am convinced that "Five Guys"
sells just about the best burgers I have ever had.

We first heard of the place
    When early in his first term, President Obama stopped at a "Five Guys" get some burgers

We first ate at one in College Park, MD in July of 2009
We were excited when one opened across from Kent State
    While Adam was doing graduate work there
And we were - and we continue to be - even more excited
That there is now one on Arsenal St. in Watertown

I get excited when I have the chance to eat at "Five Guys."
    [and am probably better off that there is not one in Potsdam]

Today I am excited,
But not about "Five Guys" and their burgers

No!  Today I am excited
    About "Two Guys"
"Two Guys" and their examples.
These two guys are among my favorite scriptural examples.
    We meet them both in the story of Saul's conversion
        Where both have essential roles
in his integration into the Christian community.

These "Two Guys" extended the right hand of fellowship
    To a man who had been the most ardent persecutor
        Of Christ's followers.
These "Two Guys" are Ananias and Barnabas.

Now, two weeks ago, I shared that of all the characters in the NT,
    (other than Christ)
I identify the most with Stephen
    The man whose outspokenness before the council
        Resulted in his death by stoning
    But also resulted in
the spreading of the word by the followers
who scattered to places other than Jerusalem.

However, this week I have had second thoughts about my statement.
For I realized  that I probably relate more to Ananias
even than I do to Stephen.

For while Stephen comes across as fearless
    Before his actions challenging the council
Ananias' fear is evident
    But he still acted as Christ wanted him to.

I never think of myself as fearless
    That's not an adjective I recall ever being applied to me
    I've heard "foolish" but never "fearless."
But despite my admitted and unhidden fear
I do often do   what I should do    .
    and     What I believe Christ wants me to do.
Before going any further,
let me clarify which Ananias I relate to.

It is not the one we met a few weeks ago
    Who fell dead at the apostles' feet
    After lying about giving all the sale proceeds to the church.
No! I don't relate to him.

And it is not the one we will meet near the end of Acts
    The one     before whom     Paul was tried
         The one who ordered Paul struck in the mouth [Acts 23-24]
I have no sense of relationship to him either.

But I do relate to the one we meet today
    As we begin to transition from
        "all Judea and Samaria"   to
the next geographical level of the Great Commission:
"the ends of the earth."

This is the Ananias who was called
to rid Saul of the blindness inflicted on him
as a part of his conversion experience
on the Road to Damascus

I certainly find it hard to not relate
to his fear when called to serve

But I also find it hard to not relate
    To his decisions to,
first, express his concerns to God
    And     then to do exactly as God had directed him to do.

To my mind, his story is a lot more like many of ours
than the much better known and more dramatic story
of Saul on the road to Damascus.
For in being witnesses and making disciples
    (Which is the consistent and repeated theme in Acts)
we may well be called to take the risk of witnessing to others
when that witnessing might not be popular
when people do not want us to do it
or when we might fear that there are dangers
    to us or to those around us.

And, in being witnesses and making disciples
    We may well have to choose what will control our actions
        Our human fear?     or our trust in God?

Ananias chose the latter.   I believe I would have as well.

With Christ's unequivocal instruction to minister to everyone
Including people we might be hesitant to be around
This is a story you and I must hear
This is a story we must remember
This is a story we must live            [Acts 9: 10-19a]

Do we really comprehend what Ananias was called to do:
    To go to Saul and enable him to get on with his life

Saul was the most aggressive persecutor of Christ's followers
    He was present at Stephen's stoning - and approved of it
    He had sought the authority to arrest the followers
        Not simply ordered to do so.
        It was his idea.    And he wanted to do it.
    His very reason for being in Damascus
        Was to carry out those arrests.

And now Ananias was told to go to where Saul was staying
    And to remove the blindness that made it harder
        For Saul to carry out that task.
A task , no intelligent Christian wanted Saul to be able to do.
And Ananias was an intelligent Christian

Ananias was not keen on what he had been told to do.

And thus when he heard God's instruction
his response was like what yours and mine would have been:
    "God, I have heard about this guy
    Do you know why he came to Damascus?
        Do you know the horrible things he has done?

Of course God knew.
But God's answer only compounded Ananias' confusion.
"This man is the agent I have chosen
to carry my name before gentiles, kings, and Israelites."

What??  That could not have made any more sense to Ananias
            Than it would have to you or me.

Not only was there no universal acceptance of the gentiles
    But by human standards,
there was no worse person for the mission
than this man who had been persecuting Christians

I said earlier,
    It is impossible to not relate to Ananias' reaction.

In fact,    I cannot believe that there is anyone in this room
    Who would have responded,
    "Great choice for the job, God!"

But Ananias' faith was so strong
    That he trusted and he obeyed.

The example of Ananias causes us,
to pause for a moment to consider two questions:
First,  If faced with that instruction
            What would we have done?

Second, Have any of us ever been in a position
            To convey Christ's love to someone
            Knowing that there was risk involved
        If so, what did we do?

But there is more to the story of Saul's conversion
    And the Christian community's reaction to it.
And so we return to the story
picking it up the story in the middle of verse 19 of chapter 9
    [Acts 9: 19b - 30]

Saul stayed in Damascus for some time.

People were amazed that the one who had come to the city
For the purpose of arresting Christ's followers
        Had now joined them in preaching the good news
        And so effectively that the Jewish leadership there
            Hatched a plot to kill him

But his disciples ...
    Note that!
    This man who was feared and had had no friends
had now been so effective that he has disciples
        Trying to learn from him

Anyway, his disciples helped him escape
By lowering him in a basket
through an opening in the city wall

Eventually, he arrived in Jerusalem
    And tried to join with the followers there

But, like those in Damascus, their initial response
    Was to avoid him - out of fear.

And this is where we meet Barnabas
    Who might well be the kindest man in scripture
    Who is the second of our "Two Guys,"
And Who, like Ananias
 is a person whom we need to watch and to emulate

Barnabas took Saul to the apostles
    (Peter, James, John etc.)
He told them about Saul's confident preaching in Damascus
    And with their stamp of approval
    Saul was able to mingle and preach in Jerusalem.

And again, his preaching was effective
And again, it got him in trouble
    To the point that his fellow believers
Had help him escape still another city
        Escorting him first to Caesarea
        And then sending him off to Tarsus.

But, at the time Saul left Jerusalem good things were happening.
    [Acts 9: 31]

That gives us a heartwarming ending to the story of
"Two Guys" who didn't make hamburgers
but who still fed the people by their faith and trust in God

You and I need to allow these "Two Guys"
to continue to feed us and inspire us even today

They should inspire us
To fulfill the Great Commission
    Which requires us to share Christ's story
even in situations which,   and with people who,
cause us fear or discomfort.

They should inspire us
    To live the Great Commandment
        Which requires us to love all
even in situations which,  and people who,
cause us fear or discomfort

They should inspire us
    To adhere to our baptismal vow
           Which requires us to put our whole trust
            Not in power, money, strength, or intellect
            Not in the goodness to others
But in Christ's grace
even in situations which, and people who,
cause us fear or discomfort

Anything less would mean what this week's Bible study says
    "making light of God's gift,
 and    what that gift cost the giver"

God's investment in us was his son who died on the cross
Our investment in him is our commitment
to overcome that fear or discomfort
by trust in Christ

And so with our trust overcoming our fear,
we close with prayer
That we will be like these "Two Guys."