Calling someone to ministry is a holy mission
Calls to ministry rarely happen alone. Samuel needed Eli. Timothy needed Eunice and Lois. Saul needed Ananias. Before Ananias could be involved in God’s mission for Saul, the Spirit had to convert Ananias.
In the lectionary text for this Sunday from Acts 9, we read about three conversions—Saul’s, the Damascus congregation’s, and Ananias’s.
Ananias lived just outside of Damascus. Going down to Straight Street to worship with fellow holy ones (9:13), I imagine that he had been up all night worried about his family. The persecutor Saul was about a day’s journey away. He was planning to enter their Sabbath service to catch the followers of the Way in the act of reciting some of Jesus’ words. The fellowship of disciples in Damascus was also a fellowship of fearful followers.
The rabble of the “holy ones” or “saints” can cause all sorts of anxiety. The world of religion can be just as full of rumors as the partisan, violent society we inhabit.
In the Bible, however, the rabble of rumors is God’s alert system that God’s about to call persons. Before Joshua entered the Promised Land, rumors spread among the people: “You know what they say about the Promised Land? There are giants over there!” When Ruth walked into Bethlehem, the people whispered about her. I’m sure the same was said about the Samaritan woman in John 4 and the adulterous woman in John 8. The same thing happened to Saul. Ananias imagined the worst was about to happen to him; Jesus intervened so that the gospel could continue unhindered.
How did Ananias change? God “spoke in a vision” to Ananias and gave him a new dimension to “holy ones.” Holiness is humble service to a perceived enemy. By God’s standards, holiness is not a location; it’s a mission. It’s not a privilege, it’s a purpose. Ananias needed to cut through the innuendo and just go. Holiness is action and behavior rather than fearful paralysis to rumor and innuendo. Ananias just needed to walk a few blocks to welcome a new member.
On Tuesday night, we’re welcoming prospective students to a “Taste of Northern.” They will observe a class, eat pizza, and learn more about our great seminary. Just as each one of them is contemplating a call of God to Northern, so each prospect has someone else in common. Every person called by God has an Ananias in her life. Someone who labeled, prejudged, or even wrote off her life. But God intervened and converted an Ananias to accompany her through her call.
You can become someone’s Ananias today by helping your church examine your definition of holiness. We aren’t holy because we withdraw from the world, hoping that God will destroy the bad people. We’re holy as we follow the resurrected Christ wherever he goes. Holiness sends us to the very people (we think) are against us. Without this kind of mission, holiness becomes self-righteous sectarianism. Holiness with mission becomes transformational evangelism.
This week, walk a few blocks down Straight Street. You might find the road leads you back to someone God has already converted. He might be waiting for an Ananias to welcome him home.