Jan 25th Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Jan 25th Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Jan. 25th
The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25th is the day the church commemorates the conversion of St. Paul, which is recorded in Acts Ch. 9. This day also marks the end of the Christian Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which begins on the 18th when we commemorate the Confession of St. Peter.

Why do we celebrate the Conversion of Paul? First and foremost we can consider that the Pharisee Saul who we know as St. Paul, was the one who most clearly , and copiously, explained to us what it meant that this Lord Jesus Christ had come into the world. It is through Paul, and I believe through the work of the Holy Spirit and the Revelation of Jesus Christ which Paul received throughout his life, that we are told what the life, death, and resurrection means. We are told through Paul what happens to us through our Baptism, we learn from Paul that we are given a new life when we are claimed by Jesus Christ. The Gospels tell us what Jesus Christ did. Paul is the person who helped us understand what all that Jesus did meant and means for us.

Also we remember that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul’s mission was to the people who were not of the House of Israel and were not Children of Abraham. That means that Paul’s mission and work was to us. Most of us are not and were not Jewish. But Christ showed Paul that this life of Jesus was not just for those who always were God’s people (and always will be). But that this life of Christ is one which all are welcomed to and that all people regardless of where they are from, what their background is, or who their family is – all are welcome to this life of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus called and chose Paul, for this mission of letting us understand that the life of Christ and the Church of Jesus calls to all people. It is because Jesus Christ used Paul that you and I can call ourselves Christians today. Paul was also the one who helped us to understand that it was in this baptism that we are literally grafted into the promised that God originally made to Abraham. Paul is the one who helps us see that Christ has made us and made us part of the eternal covenant that God made to Israel.

Paul is an important person. We celebrate what he did after his conversion, but I believe that the story of his conversion itself is full of the good news of Jesus Christ for us. Because knowing what, and who, Paul became we can see the great miracle of what Jesus did in calling to follow.

The miraculous thing about Paul is that he was not, nor did he have any interest in being a Christian before Jesus Christ showed up. I’ve said this is sermons when talking about Paul, that the Pharisee Saul was the bad guy. According to Acts 9, Saul receives letters to go to Damascus for the purpose of arresting any followers of Christ, and to try and stamp out any sparks of Christianity there.

Paul tells us of his life in as a Pharisee that he was responsible for dragging people from their homes, putting Christians in chains, and supporting the authorities in their decisions to put Christians to death for blasphemy. Before Jesus shows up, Paul was really on the other side he was the guy trying to destroy and to break down – to stomp out the first shoots of the new church trying to root in this soil of the Holy Land.

When Jesus shows up all of that changes. We hear in Acts that Paul is struck blind by the glory of the Lord. Jesus shows him the truth, that he is the way and the truth and the light. Paul is literally blind and sits in darkness for three days and neither eats or drinks. What we can take from this is that this Revelation for Jesus so shook Paul that he was simply blown out of the water (as it were). Everything that Paul had ever believed, ever followed, ever known was simply turned upside down and on its head once he met the living Lord Jesus Christ.

Understand that Paul wasn’t trying to destroy the church because he was especially sadistic or mean. He was a faithful Jew, a zealous and devoted Pharisee. To him these new Christians were heretics. People who were a threat to the true faith of Abraham. So Paul was zealously doing what he thought he should, trying to stamp out bad thought that, he believed, endangered the faith. So he pursued with ultimate fervor these people who he thought were a threat to the truth of God and who he probably thought were truly of the devil.

Then he meets Jesus. When he meets Jesus he sees that Christ is the truth that Paul thought he had been defending. Christ’s presence flips a switch in Paul, and completely turns him around. Paul thought he was working to defend the honor of the eternal Lord God. But when he meets the eternal God in Christ Jesus our Lord, he realizes that he was all wrong.

In the grace and mercy of God, Jesus sends Ananias for the purpose of baptizing this man, and welcoming Paul into the eternal life with Jesus. Jesus could have wiped Paul out, he could have caused him to fall over dead. But, instead, Jesus Christ claims the enemy and makes him the great defender of the faith.

Now that is a good story. But for you and I there is a lot of power in this conversion of St. Paul. Because, and I know some of you have heard me say this before. None of you are as bad as Paul. None of you were trying to destroy, kill, and tear down the church. Everyone of us has things we have done, every one of us has committed sins that we regret (if you don’t think that you do then you are lying to yourself). But none of us were ever as bad as Paul. But what did Jesus do with the one who was trying to kill the saints? Jesus made him a saint.

Jesus called the enemy, the broken, the lost – and put him on the right path which is the one of following Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus did that. Paul was trying to tear down, Jesus claimed him and then used Paul to build up the church for his time and for all time.

What that says to me, and what the conversion of Paul should say to all of us is – that you are never too lost for God. You are never so bad that God is ever – EVER – going to turn away from you. I don’ t care how mean and nasty you think you are – you ain’t got nothing on Paul. Or the other saints of the Bible who God claimed, turned, and used for his purpose. Like Moses who started off his life murdering and Egyptian, or Jacob who started off his life stealing his brothers birthright and lying to his old blind father, or David who God blessed and protected but then turned from God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband Uriah killed. All of these are ones that despite their sin and their initial short comings and the way that they messed up and did very ungodly things – God used them and turned them to his purpose.

The point of Paul and all of the Bible is that God will and does forgive and turn you. So no matter what you have done – I hope that Paul can hold up to you that this life with Jesus is for you. Jesus called Paul and Christ is calling us – all of us each and every moment deeper into his life and closer to his heart. We follow by trusting him, and loving and caring for others, and letting Christ be the difference in our lives. WE get to be people who love this broken world. People who can look at things like the conversion of St. Paul and say that all things are possible with God.
Know this, that the same Jesus Christ who turned Paul around, is the same one who is with you, and loves you, and will never abandon you. The same Jesus who calls us to follow.

Feast Day of the Conversion of St. Paul
2012

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