Summary: A crisis can affect us all - but God is the master of the crisis. (originally used in the context of a healing service)
The English language is constantly changing. Not only are new words added, but words change their meanings. In one such word is the word ‘crisis’. It is a word that we frequently come across in the newspapers, or on the television news. There is a crisis in the government, or in the health service, or in the relationships between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. In this context the word crisis means a problem. But the original meaning of the word crisis is a turning point, with the origin in a word meaning decision. And I suppose the logic of this is that the problem creates the need for a decision which leads to a change of direction.
Although the word crisis is in our newspapers or in the news reports, crises are not limited to the high and mighty. We all have them. And in our reading today, we see Saul (or Paul as he became) at a crisis point. The crisis point of the Damascus Road.
So what can we understand about this crisis point on the Damascus Road? As you will remember, Paul was travelling between Jerusalem and Damascus. Now Paul was a Pharisee. And you may remember from our look at this before Christmas that the Pharisees were very committed to their faith, to Scripture and to the protection and preservation of Jewish tradition and religion. And as part of that heritage Paul was doing what he thought was the right thing to do. He was on his way to Damascus to try and bring under control what he considered the heretical Christians. Paul was a man on a misssion. But suddenly he was brought up short. He was brought to a full stop. And that’s what a crisis does. It brings us up short. It brings us to a full stop. Far too often in our lives we are thundering along in our own direction. We are thundering along doing what we think is right, possibly for all the right reasons. And then a crisis comes. A crisis can take many shapes and many forms. It may be the death in the family. It may be a difficulty in family relationships. It may be illness. It may be a natural disaster. And we are brought up short. What is a crisis for me will not be a crisis for you. What is a problem for me will not be of any consideration to you. But these crises from time to time affect us all. SO I think the first thing we need to understand is that a crisis can affect us all.
Secondly we see that often a crisis is needed for God to a break through. For despite Pauls position and heritage as a Pharisee, God needed a crisis to get through to him. And it is often the same for us. It is in the problems and difficulties of life that we seek God. I think it was William Barclay who said that ’pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world’. And it is just as true for us sometimes as for those who claim no faith at all. For despite our knowledge and love of God, we frequently find ourselves on a different route to the one that he would choose for us. And we frequently find ourselves in a situation where we are deaf to God. We frequently find ourselves in a situation where God has to use a megaphone to get through. A crisis is often needed for God to break through
As you will know, the concept of the Damascus Road experience has entered the English language and culture. The idea is that the sudden breaking in of the bright light results in an immediate change. However what we see here is that this isn’t quite true. We see that Paul fell to his knees. And following that, we see is that there was a period of time following the experience that Paul had on the road. In v 9 it says that for three days Paul was blind and neither ate nor drank. I get the feeling that this was a time that Paul was using to try it makes sense of his situation. Paul was left in a position where he was able to rethink his understanding and his beliefs. Possibly the blindness was caused by God so that he couldn’t be distracted. And so thirdly, we need to respond to the megaphone of the crisis. We need to respond appropriately to the way God is trying to break though to us. And so may be for us when we hit these crisis points, we need to spend time on our knees as we try to make sense of the situation. As we try to get to grips with whatever it is that is going on. As we try to understand whatever it is that God may be trying to teach us in this situation.