Recently Saint Paul Church celebrated Saint Paul. Why, you might ask? Because Saint Paul (and Saint Peter) are remembered on June 29 in the church calendar. What’s so special about Saint Paul. Is it that he, like other saints, is perfect? No, that clearly is not the case. Not at all. He’s not a saint, and neither are we.
Consider this, Paul, by his birth name of Saul, is mentioned a few times in the book of Acts. He is first remembered for his participation in the stoning (read murder) of Stephen (my namesake) in the seventh chapter of the book of Acts. Saul is there as Stephen is killed. Next Saul is remembered in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts for going from house to house hunting (really) Christians. Finally, in the 9th chapter of the book of Acts, Saul seeks warrants to hunt Christians in Damascus. He is taking his quest beyond Israel. Saul is hunting Christians and there’s no bag limit.
On his way from Jerusalem to Damascus, Saul is struck by a bright light, like lightening. When he asks what is happening, he hears Jesus’ voice in the midst of it all. Saul at long last realizes he’s been persecuting the very Son of God. He realizes the error of his way and follows Jesus.
Why do I share this story of Saul and Saint Paul and St. Paul Church? I share this because we are living in stressful and difficult times — like those of the early church. We are living in a time in which we simply don’t know what is going to happen next. The news is full of surprises ranging from statues toppled, looting, rioting, protesting, to Russian bombers and murder hornets. We just don’t know what’s going to happen next. Yet I say to you that while we don’t know, God does!
Saul did not change to a believer named Paul on his own. He changed because the Lord was at work in a mighty way. We do not gather to worship Paul. We gather to worship our Lord who works through us all, even zealous Saul who eventually became Paul.
Saint Paul is a story of redemption from a bad guy Saul who hunted Christians to a good guy Paul who preached the good news of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for all. Paul wrote many of his New Testament letters from a prison cell. Hard times are not a new thing for Christians or for the world. Yet we persevere like our great nation. We shall overcome as we, all of us, gather together in Christ Jesus.
May you know the Peace that surpasses all understanding, the Peace of Christ Jesus our Lord!
Rev. Stephen Reed, pastor, St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall.
Chaplain, Fairbanks Police Department
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith Section on July 10, 2020.
Married 25 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting