“Saul asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’”
Acts 9:5 (Common English Bible)
The most frightening thing about life today is that it is organized around political ideology instead of God. The rhetoric of the major political parties in the United States seem to give scant attention to what Christ would have us do and be as a people of God. As a nation we must address looming issues such as the treatment of aliens in our land, the use – or not – of torture upon our enemies, and the care of the disenfranchised and poor among our nation’s citizens. Republicans and Democrats, as well as the smaller political parties, each cast their own vision for this great nation and either abuse the scriptures to support that vision or ignore the Bible altogether. The great truth that is missed is that when we try to do without Christ, we collapse.
That towering figure of the New Testament, Saul, who would have his name changed to Paul, offers the much needed corrective to the current rhetoric: “Who are you, Lord?” This question takes Christ seriously. It is a question that offers the promise of a fresh vitality for our churches and strength for our nation. But it is a question that must be asked honestly and with a humility that recognizes that every conviction we embrace may be changed. Notice in this Bible narrative that when Saul asked the question, his name, and his whole life, was changed. Old convictions were put to death. New convictions redirected his life. One result of his changed convictions is our New Testament. Nearly two-thirds of the New Testament is the witness of Saul’s changed life.
A great difficulty today is the lack of humility. Everyone believes that they hold the corner to what is right and, therefore, desire to foist their deeply held convictions upon another. The result is a good deal of heated bluster and few who are listening. What is absent is a word from the Lord. That word, the word that Christ speaks, is left in the pages of a closed, and ignored, Bible. It should be little surprise to anyone that churches are being deserted and that few people pray with any sense that Christ matters. There may be a polite nod in the direction of Christ by politicians and political parties but, if pressed, many will softly say that the issues which confront our nation today require more than the polite Christ of the scriptures.
Engraved upon brass and fixed upon the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach are the words, “The pulpit must be the grave of all human words.” These words of Edward Thurneysen simply assert that our words, human words, have no place in the witness of the Christian Church. As a people of God, our life must not be shaped and directed by political ideology or human reason. When the Bible speaks of God’s people as “holy,” it isn’t making some claim to our perfection. Quite literally, the claim made by this designation is that we have been separated from the world and are given new marching orders. We are a people of God. It is a call to take Christ seriously in our lives. And it begins, as it did for Saul, with the question, “Who are you, Lord?”