Apologies for the light and late posting, still getting through the Holiday hubbub and preparing for next week’s big debut of the podcasts and more and better content.
But I’ve also been thinking about transformations and how eager everyone is at the start of the year to turn themselves into something new and better. While that is obviously the goal of this site as well, I can’t help but think of the Bible’s most Extreme Makeover…
Saul of Taurus, move that bus!
New Year’s has me thinking of Paul’s conversion, but only because Christmas had me thinking about Stephen. The day after Christmas is traditionally the feast of Stephen (Sing along to Good King Wenceslas!) – the first Christian martyr. There is a great – and stunning – scene in The Bible miniseries in which the young and eager Stephen is stoned to death by a mob stirred up by Saul.
This is the depth of where Paul is before he is transformed: someone we could truly call evil, sneering and cheering on the deaths of these new believers. He is as far from a Christian, let alone as Christian hero, as anyone could be.
And yet, his radical makeover happens. And what a model for the rest of us.
I have been guilty of overlooking Paul as merely the writer of the Epistles, who has been good at laying out the structure of our faith, but whose own story takes a backseat to his letters. While sometimes I think we give the words of Paul more weight than we give the words of Christ, we shouldn’t overlook either story.
Christ is the model, but Paul is the man, most like us, whose sins could not have been darker, but still basked in the light.
In our effort to resolve to have a better year, there is no better story to take to heart. No matter what we may have done and the ditches we have fallen in, Paul’s ditch was deeper and deadlier.
There is a great poem about Paul’s conversion by the British poet John Betjeman, which is a great study of how we can take the story to heart, let it embrace our moments of doubt and move toward newsness.
I’ll leave you with that.
The Conversion of St. Paul by John Betjeman
What is conversion? Not at all
For me the experience of St Paul,
No blinding light, a fitful glow
Is all the light of faith I know
Which sometimes goes completely out
And leaves me plunging into doubt
Until I will myself to go
And worship in God’s house below —
My parish church — and even there
I find distractions everywhere.
What is Conversion? Turning round
To gaze upon a love profound.
For some of us see Jesus plain
And never once look back again,
And some of us have seen and known
And turned and gone away alone,
But most of us turn slow to see
The figure hanging on a tree
And stumble on and blindly grope
Upheld by intermittent hope.
God grant before we die we all
May see the light as did St Paul.