HEROES: Moving From Got to Get – Paul: When the Scales Fall Away

HEROES! What and who are they? What can they teach us? Why do we seek them? Are there any, anywhere around here? In a month that invites us to give thanks, why not give thanks for heroes? These are probing questions. Where can we go for help? Let’s try Webster’s. Hero: a mythic, strong figure; illustrious warrior; one of marked courage or daring; one admired for character or achievement. The news, our families, music offer up our troops, our doctors, sports stars, “the wind beneath my wings”. Lots of us learn electronically. Heroes is a TV show. A total eclipse shadows the globe, producing a multitude of everyday people with special powers. An Indian genetics professor believes people with fantastic abilities live among us. An indestructible high school cheerleader. A Las Vegas single mom of amazing strength – and a dangerous mirror image. Her genius son can interact with electronic machinery. A detective hears others’ thoughts… to good use. A Japanese manipulator of time can change the future. A congressional hopeful can fly (eat your heart out, Ben Cardin).  His dreams crumble when he can’t stop his kid-brother-nurse-who-absorbs-the-powers-of-others, from exploding over New York City. Shall I go on? Maybe not! But do get this: their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world… Now, if we’re talkin’ world-savin’, I don’t wanna settle for a dry dictionary/personal experience alone/TV fantasy. I prefer faith. I trust in Bible believing. I long for heroes who hail from the heart of heaven. How about you?

I confess I didn’t know. Did you know the word hero never appears in the Bible? Not in Hebrew, Greek or English. In fact the English letter combination appears only in the words treacherous, heron and the name Herod. Depressing! Yet the Bible is filled with heroes. The concept’s there from Joshua’s “mighty men of valor” to the long list of those who “live by faith” in the NT Letter to the Hebrews. 1. Scripture conceives heroes as those who have moved from got to get in their lives. They get converted! They live for God not because they feel they’ve got to, but because they grasp the joy that they get to! 2. They really get it that it’s not all about them. (They get out of the way.) 3. They come to see in a new way. 4. They live into a new day, by God, in Jesus Christ. And they invite/enable others to do so. 5. What appears as abandon/sacrifice to others, to them is all gain!

Enter: Saul. He’ll become Paul. A hero, for heaven’s sake! We have much in common with him. More than we know. Bad English, but true. Saul never didn’t know God. He grew up wanting, and wanting to please, God. Does that sound familiar? He soaked up a faith that left him largely in charge of his own salvation and left him headstrong and heart-determined to see that others saw things as he did! ‘Might be a little of us in this too. To this point, Saul’s tried to be good. But he’s no hero! And then, on that road to Damascus, snap! “A flash of heavenly light. Saul on the ground. ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’… ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Rise, enter the city. You’ll be told what to do.’ …Saul rose, blinded. They led him by the hand into Damascus.” He’s told there. “The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road… sent me (Ananias) that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately the scales fell from his eyes. 

Saul becomes Paul. Now, I tell you a secret. Let the scales drop from our eyes, and we just might become heroes ourselves! We might get converted. We might live for God not because we feel we’ve got to, but because we might grasp the joy that we get to! Saul’s eyes were fine, but he was vision-impaired, blinded, long before the Damascus Road. The scale built up-&-up a long time. His was a faith of obligation. God needed to be pleased. Following rules released God’s love and assured his saving power. Does your faith live in shadows like these? Is there some scale on your soul? When you come to the Table, as we will today, do you come feeling obliged, or invited? Privileged or compelled? Are you like the young Martin Luther? He passed out at the Table, overwhelmed by the weight-of-it-all. Or like the little girl here a few communions ago? She understood only a little but showed us so much of the joy. She took the cup, drank to the full, used her lacey sleeve to wipe her lips and settled back with a long, lovely, “Ahhhh!” 

Scale on the soul. Saul made it all about him. Paul made it all about Christ. The converting light made all the difference! I believe ‘most everybody here is convinced, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” But are we converted to living with a Savior who shows God, not “weighing our merits, but “pardoning our offenses?” The scale falls away when Jesus comes into your heart to stay. We can’t wait to “do” because of what God has done. Saul becomes Paul. What next? He rose and was baptized. He spent time with fellow believers. Then he went to those who’d not yet come to Jesus saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And all who heard him were amazed….” So began a hero’s journey we too can share. 

Here’s the thing. Paul and all those heroes Linda lifted from The Hebrews Letter share an eye-opening with God. It’s what gets heroes started. Thereafter it’s all about God, not about them. Time after time, Paul says and shows, “Not I, but Christ in/through me.” “What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” II Cor. 4: 5 It’s a new day. At least 7 times Paul will be jailed for Jesus’ sake. And yet, what seems abandon/sacrifice to others, to Paul is all gain! 

Now, I’m not askin’ anybody here to go to jail for Jesus today. (Though somebody might.) But I am uplifting the simple notion that all true heroes (in Bible terms) begin with an experience we too can share: stopping in our tracks when Christ’s light flashes for us. And finding out faith is joy not drudgery; permission (look what all we get to do, for heaven’s sake, e.g.), not punishing obligation. The message here is liberating. All we count as risk is really freedom… because we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We’re not told that our faith life, family life, job life or community life will now be easy. But we are told we can stand in the same line as Paul. And all the other heroes who echo his words. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; carrying Jesus’ death in us, so Jesus’ life can be seen in us by everybody else.”    II Cor. 4: 7-10

By Webster’s, the Web, the Tube or the Talk around the club room, classroom or training room, we may never be heroes. But in Jesus Christ, we can see heroes, we can be heroes, serving a Savior, confirmed on the cross.

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