Tuesday, December 7, 2021


Paul is difficult to leave out of a series about people standing as bulwarks of good Christianity.  Many people would argue with his inclusion, especially women. Yet we're stuck with his canonized writings in the Bible.  Was Paul perfect?  Not by a long way!. But there is a quiet melodic tune that wafts in and out of his writings, which captures a deep essence of what the Christian life is meant to be. That essence is love as the fundamental basis for any beloved community. He says it best himself in 1 Corinthians 13: Love never ends.

What we know of Paul is that he started out life as a stalwart Jewish leader with the name of Saul.  He was also a Roman citizen, which was not the most common combination back then. We first find him persecuting Christians; rounding them up and sending many of them to almost certain executions. It is only his transforming run-in with a blinding light on the road to Damascus that he becomes Paul and almost everything about the prior Saul falls away and a new human being puts a heavy hand on the wheel of the Christian bus.  Were it not for this changed person, fully in service to God in Christ, I wonder if Christianity would have spread like it did.  Would it have remained under the purview of the Jewish establishment without him?  We can only speculate on what that fallout would have been.

Paul has his thorns, his warts, his misogyny, and his remnant of loyalty to Empire but he unlocks a language about the demands and powers of love in the Community that the Church still struggles to get its head around today. 

We talk in Advent about preparing the way.  Paul prepared a way, a divine calling, for the church to love extravagantly -- there is neither Jew, nor slave, nor male or female... no principality or power... that separates us from the love of God. The Empire church, the Patriarchal church comes along behind him and, seduced by power and money, allows itself to get pulled onto a road that sweeps it toward perdition. Yet that Pauline melodic calling to love has kept inserting a guardrail step by step through the centuries pushing the Church to its higher potential. 

The hymn says, "Love came down at Christmas."  Love continued after Christmas with people like Paul. 

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