The Conversion of St. Paul
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul comes next Thursday, Jan. 25. There is more in the New Testament from Paul than from any other writer and his words have influenced the shape of Christian faith and theology probably more than any single figure other than Jesus Himself.
Paul’s writings are in the form of “epistles” (a lengthy, formal letter) mostly to various churches that he had started. Paul would visit a city, say Corinth or Ephesus, or sometimes a whole region, like Galatia, and there he would preach and teach. Over time he would gather a community of believers in Christ and form a church. He would then train leaders and leave this fledgling church, moving on to new areas.
As time went on, he would hear reports back on what was happening in the various churches. He would then write to them, encouraging them where they were doing well, correcting where something was misunderstood, or chastening as needed. These epistles give us a living picture of the dynamic community of Christian believers in the very earliest days of the church.
The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, give us four accounts of the life of Jesus, each distinct in emphasis and style, but between them giving us an dependable picture of Jesus for faith to take root. Through the words of Paul to a variety of Christian communities, each struggling with their own issues and their own particular settings, we get a wonderfully broad and multifaceted picture of the community of believers that Jesus left behind. I suspect Paul had no idea the influence he would have, but that is often how God works.
This Sunday, the third Sunday after the Epiphany, we will hear more stories of people responding to God’s call, Jonah in the Old Testament and in the Gospel lesson, Andrew, Simon (later renamed ‘Peter’), James and John. I suspect none of them knew what would come of their choice to follow Jesus.
As we give thanks that each of these followed Jesus in their own lives, remember that we never know what will come of your choice to follow Jesus. Give thanks this week for those who have gone before and for the privilege of being another called by God to follow Jesus. You might even use the Collect below as it prays beautifully about out call. Even if no one ever writes a book about you, God will use you!
Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The column originally appeared in the January 21, 2018 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.