Working through the Acts of the Apostles we have found ourselves in Chapter 9 at the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. In the first part of this blog published earlier The View from the Vicarage: Redemption Part 1 (Ananias) I reflected on Ananias, now I would like to spend some time with Saul of Tarsus himself.
Our scripture reading is Acts 9:1-22 and our subject is the message ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed’
In Saul of Tarsus we have a man who has got it wrong. In the letter he would later write to the Galatians he puts it like this “ For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:14-15)
The way he had understood the world, the way he had understood Judaism the way he had persecuted the church, the pride at his advancement in the ritual and religions of his fathers – he had things upside down, Judaism is religion of a loving God constantly intervening with love and a people waiting for the messiah. Saul is a man of violence particularly against those who would follow Christ Jesus, although at the time we know this for him would be for blasphemy as the truth had not been revealed to him.
We find the truth in the story of Saul of Tarsus is that ‘there is nothing that cannot be redeemed‘ the beauty in Paul was always there, he was created in the image of God and set aside for the work God called him to. If we read on in Galatians Paul says “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him” (Galatians 1:16)
The very persecutor of Jesus is prostrate in front of him, the one who would use is name as a curse in one of his murderous threats now uses it as the highest word of praise and worship.
God created Saul of Tarsus, he created everything around us, he created you and me and what is even more special is that we are made in his image. In the world in which we live we must continue to pray for that redemption – for that goodness and beauty is there at the heart of everyone and everything. Just as St Paul writes that God set him apart in his mothers womb, so he as ordained all things in his name for beauty and for glory. Sadly just like Paul we got it wrong, usually over and over again, often several times a day (and that’s just me.)
We are now looking in the COVID19 world to a brighter future with the peak passed. We all need to play our part in the recovery of what we have lost, not just in the last few weeks but the things we lost in the busyness of the world that we have found again in the last few weeks. We need to recover our identity as those who follow Jesus Christ just as Saul did when he became Paul, we need to remember ‘that there is nothing that cannot be redeemed.’
I leave you with another favourite hymn of mine, written by William Rees in the Welsh Revival it beautifully sums up the love and grace that is there to renew us and redeem us if only we let it.
1 Here is love, vast as the ocean,
loving-kindness as the flood,
when the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
throughout heav’n’s eternal days.
2 On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God’s mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
poured incessant from above,
and heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.
3 In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting
as I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and pow’r on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.
Your friend and vicar