I often wonder if Paul’s contemporaries doubted his sanity; or, at the least, wondered that he made up what he said had happened to him.
“You say you met this Jesus on the road that runs up to Damascus?” some may have inquired.
Others may have mocked him, “What did he look like? He was executed years ago.”
But Paul is nothing if not tenacious. He will not let his experience or his vocation slip away. The resurrected Lord has spoken his name, that he knows for sure. And even if his skeptics doubt the experience, they cannot long question the fruit of Paul’s calling.
Because of his call, Paul willingly suffers just as Jesus had. His fearlessness comes not out of naïveté but out of courage. He plans to witness to Christ’s power to change lives even if it costs him his safety, his home, or his life.
Once he has heard the call, Paul can even forget the past, his guilt, his obsession with saving himself by practicing the law. Now he sees the prize, an all-surpassing life in Christ. And through his witness, people down through the centuries have been drawn to listen.
So Paul’s life itself became a sign of what people who did not know Christ for themselves could hope for. Is my life, and my congregation’s life, such a sign?
How is my life a witness to my calling in Jesus Christ?
The Decalogue in Exodus 20 need not be considered a litmus test of righteousness or religious purity but rather a declaration that lies near the heart of the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel. The Torah is the way the people say yes to God’s saving initiatives. Psalm 19:1-6 links the gift of the Torah to other acts of divine creation. The balance of the psalm celebrates the strength and beauty of the Torah and moves the reader behind the Torah to its Giver, thereby proclaiming the gospel of the well-ordered life. In Philippians 3 Paul speaks of himself as leaning into the future in response to the manner in which Jesus Christ has invaded his own life. The parable in Matthew 21 presents a direct and bold affinity for living in accordance with the gospel, producing “fruits of the kingdom.”
• Read Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20. If you are unable to live out the Commandments, which ones would you remove from the list?
• Read Psalm 19. If you monitored your speech for a day, how would you describe the tone and content? What one gift would you petition God for?
• Read Philippians 3:4b-14. How is your church and its people a sign for those who need hope and new life?
• Read Matthew 21:33-46. Where in your church, among the members and in the various meetings and activities, have you seen evidence that folks “have forgotten who owns the vineyard”?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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