Summary: Paul was converted by Jesus, but he needed Ananias too
Sometimes a Minister can be too busy - with Church Buildings to care for, and money to raise to run and repair them - with meetings to attend, and an area to minister to, he can be too busy. Too busy for his family, too busy for his Congregation, too busy for God.
I say this with feeling, for that’s how it was with me at times, before I retired. And that’s why when I was a Minister leading a Church (I’m Retired now...... I think!)I enjoyed my holidays so much, because they stopped my BUSY NESS, and gave me time to be with the family and time to think and to listen to God. Yes, so often it was when I was on holiday that I heard Him most plainly, and those times fed me spiritually, and gave me new things to say about Him in my Sermons.
For instance there was the time when we visited the Holy Land. Actually we had two visits, one for a day from Cyprus. I’ll always remember it, because when we boarded the coach after landing at Haifa, we were told that, before we arrived at Jerusalem, we would stop for refreshments at a cafe dedicated to "The King". I was intrigued to think that in the land of the Jews, a cafe would be dedicated to Jesus - but it wasn’t. It’s walls were covered with pictures of "Elvis Presley" - he was "The King"!! I spent the majority of our 30 minute loo stop escaping from the blare of Elvis’ music (sorry Elvis lovers!) walking towards and up the slope of a small hill near the cafe - and as I did so I found Jill doing the same. And that’s where both of us discovered we were sharing a sense of expectancy. The feeling that Jesus could walk over that hill was very strong. Despite all the problems of that war-torn land, and despite Jerusalem’s commercialisation we still had a powerful sense that Jesus walked this very earth that we were walking on.
When we visited Jerusalem the second time some years later, I was feeling spiritually dry and barren so I went there with a sense of anticipation of the renewal of His presence, but Jerusalem was a disappointment - I didn’t find Him there. The days went by and my sense of disappointment grew. On we went to Massada, swam in the Dead Sea, crossed the border into Jordan to Aquaba, then the Rose Red City of Petra, and on to Mount Nebo where Moses stood to survey the Promised Land - but there was no promise there for me. We crossed back into Israel to Lake Galilee where we stayed at Tiberias for a few days days, and visited the Mount of Beatitudes ( I could really imagine Jesus standing there with the crowds below him as they sat and listened to the challenge of His message).
But it was at Nazareth that it happened! We were standing outside one of the Church of the Annunciation listening to our guide drone on about how the Church was built, and what it was made of. Bored and listless I wandered away from the crowd into the Church’s beautiful interior, and as I did I heard music, then singing. I stood and looked down at a Minister celebrating Holy Communion in English, and, as the familiar words rang out, and as the people sang God’s praises, I felt the presence of Jesus - for the first time since we’d arrived in the Holy Land I felt the presence of Jesus. He became real again to me in the prayer and praise of His people gathered to worship Him - and I too joined in the worship and sang praise to the Living Jesus who can still be found there in His Holy Land. But then it struck me - I really didn’t have to travel all that distance to find Him - I could find Him just as present at home amongst people to whom prayer and praise is real.
That was something I needed to learn - something which brought my faith back to life - but so easily forgotten for a Minister who was usually too busy for the Presence of God.
A few years later Jill and I embarked on a series of holidays following in the "Footsteps of St. Paul". We started, of course, at Athens, where I was thrilled to stand on Mars Hill and preach at the place where Paul had stood to preach to the Athenians. However, I have to confess that my congregation was a disappointment - not one of them responded to my impassioned message, possibly because my congregation was just a flock of sheep!
But as we moved away from Athens and went on coach trips to Corinth, Epidaurus, and Delphi, an overwhelming impression began to grow in me, an impression confirmed on a later tour of the Seven Churches of Asia, an impression of the vast distances this little man, Paul, had travelled to bring his message of a Galilean Carpenter who had been crucified and had risen from the dead, to bring abundant life to Jew and Greek alike.