Pentecost 6 (NL4) John B. Valentine
Acts 9:1-19 July 17, 2022


Any of you know what a “Transformer” is?

No ... NOT one of those electrical contraptions which transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another atop your neighborhood telephone pole!


• One of those little plastic toys that have been all the rage among the 5 to 8-year-old crowd for the past quarter century ...

• One of those ingenious gizmos manufactured by Hasbro which ... to all appearances ... is just your standard run-of-the-mill action-figure.

A Transformer is a little toy which looks benign enough ...

until such time as it is plunked into the hands of a first-grader ...

whereupon ... by means of a series of pulls and twists and flips and clicks ... it is TRANSFORMED ...

from some sort of vehicle ...

into a flying-killer-attack-weapon alien-cyborg whatchamacallit.

I’ve been reminded of the wonder of Transformers ... and Power Rangers and Go-Bots and To-Bots and the like over the course of the past month ...

Because a couple of our grandsons were up visiting for three weeks while their mom was filling in as our Preschool Summer School teacher ...

And every morning I’d find them in the living room ... with their eyes glued to the TV ... watching cars transform onto robots ...

And every evening when I got home ... I’d find them twisting and turning plastic parts from cars or critters into monsters and beasties and the like.

Anyhow ... “Transformers” are popular ... and have been for quite some time ...

Precisely because they transform!

They’re fascinating precisely because the whole idea of transformation is fascinating.

You have any doubts about that claim???

You want to guess about how many of just those Transformer toys and Power Ranger toys and the like have sold worldwide in the past twenty-five years?

Upwards ... apparently ... of like THREE BILLION!

+ + + + +

But ... you know ... it’s not just that kind of Transformers and their curious transformations that people find fascinating.

For years ... for centuries ... for millennia now even!! ... stories of transformation which we just read has captured the imagination of the church ... and in a very real way captured the imagination of the world.

You know something of that story?

• How this fellow named Saul ... who later will go by the name of Paul ... is doing everything he can to silence those who would say that Jesus is the Way?

• How Saul has this “Damascus Road” experience in which he encounters the very same Jesus whom he’s been denouncing?

• How Saul’s blinded and humbled and transformed into a primary instrument by which God will go on to grow ... rather than exterminate ... the church?

Come on ... folks! Even if you don’t know that story ... or can’t quite recall the details maybe of that story ...

I guarantee that you know something about what happened on that ‘Damascus Road’ and this account of Saul’s conversion here in Acts chapter nine.

In fact ... you’ve probably witnessed its retelling dozens ... if not hundreds ... of times! Really.

Any of you seen any of the Terminator movies ... wherein the “governator” is transformed from Sarah Conner’s persecutor into her protector?

If you have ... you’ve seen something of Acts ... chapter nine.

Any of you seen ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ... wherein the Beast is transformed by the love of Belle?

If you have ... you’ve seen something of Acts ... chapter nine.

Any of you seen one of those old cowboy westerns wherein one of the fellows wearing the black-hats realizes the folly of his ways and switches sides to become the defender and companion of those wearing the white hats?

If you have ... you’ve seen something of Acts ... chapter nine.

You see ... this first part of Acts chapter nine is maybe the foundational cultural narrative upon which all of our other “transformation” stories are based.

• It’s a powerful declaration that God can change things that we might believe to be unchangeable.

• It’s a beautiful testimony to the fact that God doesn’t give up on people we might have given up on long ago.

• It’s a wonderful reminder that hearts do change ... that lives do get re-oriented ... that transformations can and do occur ... to the glory of God!

+ + + + +

But the story of transformation I want to consider for just a little bit here this morning ISN’T the story of Saul’s transformation that we heard about.

You see ... as fascinating as the story of the transformation of Saul is ... I suspect that a lot of us would say that it’s not really “our story”.

As great as Paul’s transformation story was for Paul ... and as good as it was for the church ...

It’s a story that many of us can’t relate to.

I’m fully aware that there was no Damascus Road experience for some of us.

• No blinding flash of light.

• No voice from heaven.

• No wrestling with spiritual issues for three days.

• No date to which we can mark the beginning of our journey with Christ Jesus our Lord.

We read this story ... and we get a bit jealous ... and begin to question our faith ... and feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.


You see ... just a little bit further down ... there another story of a second transformation that takes place in that same chapter ...

The lesser-known story of the attitudinal transformation of a fellow named Ananias.

Look at that story again:

There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias.

Jesus spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”

“Yes, Lord?” Ananais answered.

“Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”

Ananias protested, “Yeah, right, Lord! You can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”

But Jesus said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to Gentiles and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for - the hard suffering that goes with this job.”

So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes - he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.

Is Ananias transformed? You bet he is!

Maybe not in quite so dramatic a way as Saul was ...

Maybe not with a blinding flash of light and a voice from heaven ...

But his attitude is transformed by God in such a way that he is able to make a difference in the life of a person who ... of his own accord ... he wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot-pole.

And in so doing sets off a chain-reaction that has been reshaping relationships for the past two thousand years!

+ + + + +

What is the first thing Ananias did?

He LISTENS ... doesn’t he?

Now granted ... most of the time ... most of us think that ‘prayer’ is “talking to God” ... telling God about our problems, our concerns, our fears.

But remember .....You don’t learn anything when you’re talking. You only learn when you’re listening.

And Ananias’ ‘transformation’ begins to happen in conjunction with his daring to “stop, look and listen” to God’s perspective on things ... as opposed to just trying to get God to see things from Ananias’ point of view.

Then again ... what else does Ananias do?

He is LOYAL ... loyal to the guidance of God ... isn’t he?

Not that he didn’t have his doubts ... but he still what he was asked!

It’s one thing to hear God’s voice. It’s another thing entirely to be loyal to that voice and obey it!

(Or have you never disregarded that voice which says “This is wrong. Stop now.” ??)

And then ... Ananias dares to LOVE.

He goes out on a limb ... and calls Saul ‘brother’ ...

And his own attitudinal transformation becomes the medium of the transformation of Saul.

In listening ... and being loyal ... and daring to love ...

• Ananias’ own world ...

• And Paul’s world ...

• And our own world ...

Are all turned upside down.

Transformed even ... into the Kingdom of God.

+ + + + +

So maybe the question we ought to ask ourselves today is not the once-in-the-past transformation question ...

As in “when” we might have become a Christian ... or “how” God at some point changed our life-directions ...

But rather “How is God transforming us even today?”

Or maybe “Are we daring to listen enough ... and be loyal enough ... and loving enough ... to allow ourselves to be transformed by the amazing grace of God?”

“Transformers” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship celebration on July 17, 2022 — the 6th Sunday after Pentecost.  The text upon which it is based is Acts 9:1-19.  To access a copy of our worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order.20220717.fold