Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.[a] So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
I want to tell you a story. I want to tell you my story. I want to share with you how my story intersects with Paul’s.
I am a cradle Methodist. I was born at St Joe’s. My daddy was serving a 3 point circuit in Leicester. I began my life of regular church attendance when I was about 2 weeks old. I grew up in parsonages in rural WNC and South Ga. I grew up going to VBS and Sunday School and Children’s Choir. I grew up knowing that Jesus loved me. I cannot remember a time when I did not know that Jesus loved me.
I was saved when I was 10 years old. I turned away from my life of sin……
Well anyway I remember that at a revival in Fall of 1974 I felt my spirit jump. In Romans Paul writes, “His spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are children of God.” That’s what happened to me at that revival. The Holy Spirit touched my spirit and I felt it. I had always known that Jesus loved me but now, IT WAS PERSONAL.
And so I continued to grow I was always in church, always knowing of God’s great love for me.
In high school and college I went to Sunday School and UMYF and Youth choir, I even played the piano in church on occasion. All the things a good Christian does. I was a good enough kid, a preacher’s kid and so I had a little something to prove. I had a little fun on Saturday night.
I got married right out of college and was a single mom by the time I was 27.
As an adult I taught Sunday School and VBS and I led the Children’s choir. I sang in the chancel choir, cooked family night supper. All the things a good Christian does — and whatever I wanted on a Saturday night. Jimmy Buffett says “there’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning” and I held that line.
Then one Sunday at Montmorenci UMC, a small church in Candler, something happened. It was youth Sunday. A young lady offered the sermon that day. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember that she was wearing a Burger King crown. At the end of her message, she took that crown off her head and laid it on the altar.
And it was like a light shone down on me from heaven. God thumped me on the head and woke me up. I knew at that moment I had never done that, I had never laid down my crown. I really loved my crown. I earned it. It was shiny and had all the jewels of my accomplishments. I was a single mother with a credit score over 800, I owned my home, I took cool vacations and I was doing all the things a good Christian does.
I loved my crown…..
So I took it off. I took it off and I said yes to God.
Paul was not concerned about whether or not God loved him. He was one of God’s chosen people doing the things that God had told him to do. He was on his way to being a Pharisee. He knew God loved him.
N.T. Wright says of Paul’s Damascus Road experience, “It confirmed everything Saul had been taught. It overturned everything Saul had been taught. The law and the prophets had come true, the law and the prophets had been torn apart and put back together in a totally new way.”
Everything was exactly the same AND everything was completely different.
Me and Paul, we weren’t worried about whether or not God loved us, we knew that God did. We were doing all the right things.
But it’s not about what we were doing, it is about what we are willing to give up.
We had to give up our crowns.