Easter 4C’22
1 May 2022
Acts 9.1-20
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>


All-seeing God, remove the obstructions that cause us not to see you, our neighbor, and ourselves the way you do, heal the distortions that thwart your will, and guide our feet into the Way of peace. Amen.

What’s in a name? Well, a lot! Go on-line to babynames.com and you will see what I mean. Most names have some sort of national origin, and each one, has a meaning. Many names have meanings that can give someone a name worth living up to like John, a Hebrew name that means “God is Glorious” or Amy, a Latin name that means “Beloved.” You will also find that there are some nice sounding names that have some very unflattering meanings. I found some these on a website called “scarrymommy.com”[1]

There’s Courtney, an English name that means “short nose”

Giselle a German name that means “hostage”

Mallory a French name that “unfortunate” or “bad luck”

Portia you were thinking ‘ah, I’ll bet it means precious’ no – it’s a Latin name that means “pig”

Caleb is a Hebrew name that means “dog”

Tristan a Welsh name that means “noise and sorrowful”

Then there’s Kennedy a lovely Irish name that means “ugly head”


Saul, that we hear about in today’s reading from Acts, had a Hebrew name meaning “asked for or prayed for.[2]This name belonged to the first king of Israel, and was the man that the people clamored and asked for to be their king. Saul was a man with a reputation that certainly preceded him. He had the both the right pedigree and the right credentials. He came from a prominent and religiously devout family, was highly educated, and a member of an exclusive inner circle of high-powered religious leaders called Pharisees. He showed his devotion to God (or so he thought) by going after Christ’s followers and seeing to it that they were either imprisoned, or executed. He was present for the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in short, he was the original middle eastern terrorist, and believed he was following God’s will and being the person, he was supposed to be. He was also egotistical, prideful, larger than life, and saw himself as being ‘in control’ and a really ‘big deal.’  He thought he was living his best life, but it was a false life as he played the role of his false self. The irony of religion, as the noted author, Martin Shaw puts it, “is a great place to hide from a religious experience.”[3] Saul was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong. Would his “True Self,” the Self that God intended for him to be, ever see the light of day?

One fine day, while he was on his way to Damascus, to confront and capture more Christians, Saul was given a genuine religious experience. He is literally ‘blinded by the light’ and falling to the ground hears a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Saul, the man ‘in charge and in control,’ who saw himself as being a big deal and standing up for God and defending the true faith, had suddenly been struck blind. Now, what had been true all along became evident – he was not in control, but was totally dependent upon others for help. Saul’s ego “the one everyone had clamored for” had finally met its Waterloo. What a gift!  God was doing a new thing in his life but he could not yet see it.



He had been grounded by God as he sat on a Damascus floor pondering all these things, he was given a vision he could only see after being blinded. In his mind’s eye he saw that there would be a man named Ananias that would come to his aid. At the same time, Ananias (a Hebrew name meaning “God has given”) was being instructed by God in another vision for him to go to Saul and restore his physical sight. But Ananias was resistant, Saul’s reputation had preceded him and he reminded God of how much evil Saul had done in the name of God to the early followers of Christ. He could only see the evil in Saul, but God saw something entirely different, “he is an instrument whom God has chosen to bring his name before Gentiles and kings, and the people of Israel.”


Ananias goes to him lays hands upon him, and calls him by a new name – “Brother Saul.” A family name, a relational name revealing that Saul was a member of God’s family who had been chosen to fulfill a much different purpose than the one he had picked. as the hymn to be written many years later Amazing Grace says,I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!” His sight is restored! He gets up and is baptized by Ananias and his New Life as a follower of Christ begins in earnest. He begins sharing this message that “Jesus is the Son of God!”


Later more would be revealed to him that he was not to take the message of Christ Jesus (the name Christ means king!) to his fellow Jews, but to the Gentiles. People who previously were seen as being unclean and unacceptable to God were now to be invited into the Family of God!


On Saul’s first missionary journey that took him to the island of Cyprus his message of the Good News found in Jesus Christ takes root and is accepted by the leader of the Proconsul. His calling to the Gentiles had been powerfully confirmed! To mark this Saul, starts referring to himself as Paul (a Latin name – a Gentile name) that means “Little, Small, or Humble.[4]   So Saul the “really big deal” becomes “Humble Paul.” From now on, Christ was the Star of the Story that he would now be telling!


Later on, Paul would write these words in a letter to the first believers at Ephesus:


Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds…22You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


He could write these words for he had lived these words:

From Saul to Brother Saul, and from Brother Saul to Paul.

High and Mighty Saul was called to live closer to the ground as Paul


I submit to you my brothers and sisters that although we might not experience the sudden jolt into reality that Saul did on the road to Damascus, we are nonetheless, on the road of transformation from the old self to the new self – from the false self to our true selves.


          I’ll close with the following words from Cardinal John Henry Newman:


“Fear not that your life should come to an end, but rather, fear that it should never have a beginning.” Amen.

[1] https://www.scarymommy.com/baby-names-unusual-meanings

[2] ” https://www.etymonline.com/word/saul

[3] Shaw, Martin, Courting the Twin


[5] Ephesians 4.17,22-24