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THIS LENTEN ROAD The Road To Damascus

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Prelude

Drama

The Journey Begins ... a responsive liturgy

L  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but

will have the light of life.”

C Come, let us turn to the Lord, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.

L  “I will lead the blind by a road they do not know. I will turn the darkness before them into light.”

C You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand

are pleasures forevermore.

L  “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

C He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

L  “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,

 I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

C Oh, send out your light and your truth; let them lead me. In the path of your judgments,

 O Lord, we wait for you.

*Hymn of Praise           # 350   Open My Eyes That I May See

Invocation Lord’s prayer     Turn to us again, O God of our salvation, that the light of your face

may shine on us.  May your justice shine like the sun; and may the poor be lifted up.

Turn to the Lord ... Abide With Me

Turn to the Lord; repentant, seek his face,

For God abounds in steadfast love and grace.

They shall not perish who in Christ believe,

But everlasting life they shall receive.

Responsory Psalm ... Psalm 51:1-13

L  Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant

 mercy blot out my transgressions.

C Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

L  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

C Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,

L  so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

C Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

L  You desire truth in the inward being. Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 

C Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

L  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones which you have crushed rejoice.

C Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

L  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

C Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

L  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

C Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Offering Deuteronomy 15: 10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

Prayer              Be pleased, O God, to accept this offering of our money as a symbol of our love

and devotion to you.  Give to those who spend it grace to use it wisely for the extension of you

authority in this place and throughout the world.  AMEN

*Prayer Hymn    ................. Take Up Your Cross ... O dass ich tausend Zungen

Take up your cross and walk, believing,

This Lenten road our Savior trod,

His help and steadfast love receiving,

The blessings of the Son of God

Freely and graciously bestowed

On all who walk this Lenten road.

Take up your cross, your burden bearing.

This road you need not walk alone.

Christ is beside, the burden sharing;

His yoke is light, his mercy known.

Your Savior eases ev’ry load

Of those who walk this Lenten road.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus;

This is the way your Savior leads,

Where from our sin and guilt he frees us;

His blood for sinners intercedes,

Opens the way to heav’n’s abode

For all who walk this Lenten road.

Prayer

Even in the darkness of this Lenten season, Lord Jesus Christ, shine on us with the brilliant light of

your all-knowing presence. Show us where we have sinned, in thought, word or deed, and move us

by your Holy Spirit to true repentance.

Remove from us all self-righteous arrogance, or ignorance of the seriousness of our sin, that we may

 come before you honestly, confessing our trespasses and seeking forgiveness for the sake of your holy, innocent suffering and death on our behalf.

Lead us then in the way you would have us go. Show us what we must endure for the sake of your

name, and give us the faith and humility to accept your holy will.

Move us to deal in love with all our sisters and brothers in the faith, and to reach out our hands in

welcoming acceptance of all who join us in our faith in you. Make your church an instrument of your

saving, loving, caring will. Regard with compassion all who call upon you in any kind of adversity,

and move us to join them in prayer and to deal with them in action, that they may find comfort and help.

Everywhere in the world, grant to those in positions of authority the wisdom to act as your representatives, agents of peace and justice for all.

And when the time of our Lenten journey is completed, continue to lead us into the joys of the

resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

*Hymn of Praise                                # 369      I Can Hear My Savior Calling  

Gospel ... Acts 9:1-20

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high

 priest 2 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. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and

heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

 The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be

 told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard

 the voice but saw no one. 8 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. 9 For three days he was without

sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord

 said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 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, 12 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.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from

many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has

authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 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; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my

 name.” 17 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.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes,

 and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he

 regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately

he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Sermon            THIS LENTEN ROAD            The Road To Damascus

      Does the road to Damascus seem like a strange place to begin a Lenten journey?

      The incident that occurred there, after all, took place after Lent, after Easter and the Ascension,

 in fact. It’s almost like beginning the story at the end, reading the last chapter of a book before

reading the first. If you had asked the arch-Pharisee Saul, who was traveling that road with letters

 from the high priest—letters which gave him authority to capture and bind any Christians he

 might find in Damascus—whether this might be a good place to begin a Lenten journey, Saul

 would have laughed … or scowled. “I’m not going to begin the story of Jesus and his followers,”

he would say; “I’m going to end it—once and for all!”

            “The way” in which Saul was headed at the moment was to arrest those heretics and teach them

 a lesson—the way the Christian deacon Stephen had been “taught” when Saul was part of the

company that dragged Stephen outside of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. Surely God must be

pleased with such dedicated zeal!

      That’s the way Saul set out to travel the Damascus road. He knew where he was going, and he

knew what he was going to do when he got there.

      Is that the way you are approaching the season of Lent this year? You’ve been this way before;

you know what to expect. Wednesday’s ashes are gone, and in 40 days the whole business will

be over. And so we travel along the way from Christmas through Epiphany … and next comes

Lent … and then …

      And then a blinding light flashes around us. Wait a minute! Lent is a season of darkness, isn’t it?

 A time of somber shadows. Christmas is a time for light, what with all those candles and angels

and shining stars. And Easter, when it comes, with its brilliant resurrection sunrise shedding

light on all around—Easter is certainly a season of LIGHT. But Lent?

      Yes, Lent—a celebration of the time, in the very, very beginning, when the Lord God confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, trying to cover themselves with fig leaves and excuses, but unable to do so … because the light of God’s terrible interrogation was shining on them: “What have you done?”

      That’s the blinding light in which Saul found himself on the road to Damascus, a light that

 knocked him off his high horse and left him cowering like Adam and Eve: “Saul, Saul, why

do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul cried. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”

 came the reply.

      we to have persecuted the Lord Jesus  Christ, “by what we have done and what we have left undone.” And that means that the bright light of God’s righteousness is shining on us as well: “Why are you … persecuting me?” “When do we persecute you, Lord?” we cry. – “Whatever you have done (or not done) to one of the least of these my brothers or sisters, you have done (or not done) to me,” comes the reply. “Why have you

disobeyed me? Why have you lied to me? Stolen from me? Bad-mouthed me? Ignored me?

Been unfaithful to me?” “When, Lord? When?” we cry. “Whatever you have done (or not done)

to one of the least of these my brothers or sisters, you have done (or not done) to me.”

      That’s the road Saul was on, and that’s the road we find ourselves traveling, too. “Repent!”

the season of Lent calls out to us as we hurry by. Literally, the word repent means to turn around,

 to change directions. Think for a moment: What would be the opposite of “Why are you

persecuting me?” The opposite of persecuting Christ is probably serving  him, don’t you think?

      “Get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do,” Saul was told.

What he was told to do, was “to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and

before the people of Israel.” Quite a turnaround! The persecutor was to become one of the

persecuted. Saul of Tarsus would be known to history as St. Paul.

      Are you ready for that kind of journey? That’s where this Lenten road leads!

Closing Stanza ... Abide With Me

Turn to the Lord; repentant, seek his face,

For God abounds in steadfast love and grace.

Your sight restored, bear witness faithfully:

“Once I was blind, but now, behold, I see!”

*Hymn of Response                 # 350   Open My Eyes That I May See

Benediction                     (Proverbs 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:21; Matthew 16:24)

L  “I have taught you the way of wisdom,” says the Lord. “I have led you in the paths of uprightness.

 When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble.”

C Christ himself suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps.

L  “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

By Arden and Peter Mead. Art by Sally Beck. © Copyright 2004 by Creative Communications for the Parish, 1564 Fencorp Dr., Fenton, MO 63026. 1-800-325-9414. www.creativecommunications.com. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.

Ash Wed./Damascus Road    FF-P/FF-M

 


Acts 9:2       Saul (later called Paul) was so zealous for his Jewish beliefs that he began a persecution campaign against anyone who believed in Christ (“followers of the Way”). Why would the Jews in Jerusalem want to persecute Christians as far away as Damascus? There are several possibilities: (1) to seize the Christians who had fled, (2) to prevent the spread of Christianity to other major cities, (3) to keep the Christians from causing any trouble with Rome, (4) to advance Saul’s career and build his reputation as a true Pharisee, zealous for the law, (5) to unify the factions of Judaism by giving them a common enemy.

Acts 9:2-5   As Saul traveled to Damascus, pursuing Christians, he was confronted by the risen Christ and brought face to face with the truth of the Good News. Sometimes God breaks into a life in a spectacular manner, and sometimes conversion is a quiet experience. Beware of people who insist that you must have a particular type of conversion experience. The right way to come to faith in Jesus is whatever way God brings you.

Acts 9:3       Damascus, a key commercial city, was located about 150 miles northeast of Jerusalem in the Roman province of Syria. Several trade routes linked Damascus to other cities throughout the Roman world. Saul may have thought that by stamping out Christianity in Damascus, he could prevent its spread to other areas.

Acts 9:3-5   Paul refers to this experience as the start of his new life in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:15, 16). At the center of this wonderful experience was Jesus Christ. Paul did not see a vision; he saw the risen Christ himself (9:17). Paul acknowledged Jesus as Lord, confessed his own sin, surrendered his life to Christ, and resolved to obey him. True conversion comes from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and leads to a new life in relationship with him.

Acts 9:5       Saul thought he was pursuing heretics, but he was persecuting Jesus himself. Anyone who persecutes believers today is also guilty of persecuting Jesus (see Matthew 25:40, 45), because believers are the body of Christ on earth.

Acts 9:13, 14          “Not him, Lord; that’s impossible. He could never become a Christian!” In essence, that’s what Ananias said when God told him of Saul’s conversion. After all, Saul had pursued believers to their death. Despite these understandable feelings, Ananias obeyed God and ministered to Saul. We must not limit God—he can do anything. We must obey and follow God’s leading, even when he leads us to difficult people and places.

Acts 9:15, 16          Faith in Christ brings great blessings but often great suffering, too. Paul would suffer for his faith (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). God calls us to commitment, not to comfort. He promises to be with us through suffering and hardship, not to spare us from them.

Acts 9:17     Ananias found Saul, as he had been instructed, and greeted him as “Brother Saul.” Ananias feared this meeting because Saul had come to Damascus to capture the believers and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem (9:2). But in obedience to the Holy Spirit, Ananias greeted Saul lovingly. It is not always easy to show love to others, especially when we are afraid of them or doubt their motives. Nevertheless we must follow Jesus’ command (John 13:34) and Ananias’s example, showing loving acceptance to other believers.

Acts 9:17, 18          Although there is no mention of a special filling of the Holy Spirit for Saul, his changed life and subsequent accomplishments bear strong witness to the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in his life. Evidently, the Holy Spirit filled Saul when he received his sight and was baptized. See the second note on 8:15-17 for more on the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:20     Immediately after receiving his sight and spending some time with the believers in Damascus, Saul went to the synagogue to tell the Jews about Jesus Christ. Some Christians counsel new believers to wait until they are thoroughly grounded in their faith before attempting to share the Good News. Saul spent time with other believers to learn about Jesus before beginning his worldwide ministry, but he did not wait to witness. Although we should not rush into a ministry unprepared, we do not need to wait before telling others what has happened to us.

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