God Calls Bums
He was killing people in the name of God. He stood by and watched as a man was hit over and over again with rocks. He smiled as the air left the man’s body, bruises becoming bloodied. He looked on and he smiled. He really believed that it was right to kill for God. He just stood by and watched as a man died.
Saul wasn’t just wrong, he was cruel. He was arrogant. He felt no compassion. He was a bad guy before God turned him around. I don’t think that he was the kind of guy you or I would have liked. He was like a hitman for Judaism. Kill the people who believe in Jesus, that was his conviction. He believed that he should murder people because they didn’t believe the right way.
Saul was so arrogant that the first thing Jesus does is blind him with light. Blind him. Let him go about completely unable to see. Make his dependent, humble, lost. When he realizes that he can see nothing without God, then restores his sight, but only after he listens and does exactly what God tells him to do. God knocks him off his horse, blinds him, gets him to listen, obey and finally heals him again. God takes an arrogant, self-assured jerk and makes him into a humble servant.
Most of us think we can’t do much for God. Heck, we can hardly get our own lives together. It’s hard enough to raise our kids or pay our mortgage or stay married. How can we do anything for God? God will have to wait until we can get our lives together. After all, who are we to try to help other people when our own lives are such a mess, right?
But God doesn’t wait for you to get your act together. God doesn’t wait for you to become wise or smart or peaceful or less confused. God wants you to serve now, before you figure it all out. God just wants you to listen and do what you are asked to do.
If you wait until your life is all put together well before serving God, you will never serve God. No, God calls people whose lives are a mess to serve other people whose lives are a mess. God does not wait for you to be all fine before you must follow Christ.
In fact, before Saul begins to serve Christ, he is blinded. He realizes that he can’t see clearly, can’t see anything at all. Certainty is taken away from him completely. The first criteria for Saul to become Paul is for Saul to get totally lost in the darkness.
You might ask yourself, how can I serve God when I have doubts? Or how can I help other people when my life is not very well put together? How can I help the poor when I barely have enough money myself? How can I counsel people when I can’t stop fighting? How can I help others find God when sometimes I don’t know how to talk to God myself?
I remember this beautiful scene in the movie Beaches. Bette Midler plays this middle-aged singer/actress named CiCi whose best friend has died. Her best friend left a six year old daughter and asked that CiCi adopt her little girl. After reading the will, CiCi comes to the bedroom of the little girl to tell her that she is going to become the girls new mom.
“Your mother said that she would like for you to come and live with me,” she says to the little girl. “And honestly, I don’t know what she was thinking. I can be incredibly selfish, I am a slob. Sometimes I have mean thoughts…honestly, I don’t know what she was thinking?”
The little girl looks up at Cici, shocked by her honesty, and says, “But do you want me?”
“Of course I want you!” CiCi says. “More than anything! But I just can’t imagine what your mother was thinking…I am not a good enough person to be your new mom.”
The little girl moves over to the middle-aged woman and begins to snuggle with her, comforted by the woman’s agonizing honesty. And the little girl asks, “Can I bring my cat?”
“You can bring any old thing you want…”
Jesus is going to ask you to serve the world for him. My people are hurting, he will say to you. And you, no doubt, will say, “But God, you can’t possibly want to use me? I am such a wreck. Don’t you want to find someone better? Someone who can balance their checkbook? Someone who has more patience? Someone who can do it better?”
And Christ will say, “No. I chose you. I chose you will all your foibles and faults. In fact, I may even use your foilbles and faults if you are humble enough to be honest about them. I will use your mistakes, your arrogance, even your failure. That is the stuff I work with.
I will ask you to follow me as I asked Paul, as I asked Peter, as I asked Abraham and Jacob and Esther. I won’t wait for you to be brave or to get your act together. I don’t have time for that. My world is broken. I need you to follow me now.
There is only one question that I will ask of you. It is the very same question that I asked of Peter. It is this…
Do you love me?
If you do, then do not think of yourself. Do not think of your gifts and abilities, the things you have done wrong. Stop looking at yourself and look to me, says the Risen Christ. Look to me.
Do you love me? IF you do, then your way forward is clear. Feed my lambs.
If you love me, then take care of my little ones. All who come to you for help and assistance, serve them, love them, help them. And in the midst of your service, I will transform your life and fill you with joy. You will become my disciple, like Peter, like Paul. You will become great. Because of me.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead