“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:1-6)
Before we get started, I have to tell you I love the word “Meanwhile” here. It is a reminder to me that God’s Spirit works at various places and with various people at the same time. God’s Spirit is not limited to one time and place but exists everywhere, available to anyone who professes and believes in God. While God’s Spirit is working other places, God’s Spirit is working with and to Saul who will become Paul. And working in those who will receive and teach Saul/Paul what is means to be a follower of Jesus and God, and not a persecutor.
While the Revised Common Lectionary focuses on the first 6 verses of chapter 9, and is inclusive of verses 7 to 20 which continues the story of Saul’s changing into Paul.
“The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
From that moment on, Saul/Paul was as zealous in preaching about God and Jesus as he was in persecuting the followers of Jesus. Saul becoming Paul changed his focus and perspective, but not his conduct and personality. Paul was called to a particular ministry that he was well suited for. But not all missionaries and preachers of God are like Paul. For different aspects of God’s intent in the world different types of people are called – people like you and like me. We are not “Pauls” – we might not want to be nor should we be. God uses people where they are and how they are, preparing them for the call and nurturing them on their journey. Everyone of us is a “meanwhile” in the story of God. May you, beloved reader, play your part. Selah!