Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 21: Year 2
“Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ The tribune replied, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’ Paul replied, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.’ When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:” (Acts 21:27 to 40)
This passage gives us insight into the education of Paul. He is fluent in both Hebrew and Greek and yet thought to be Egyptian by the Roman tribune who arrested him. When permitted to speak Paul tells the people who he is and he tells how the Risen Lord met him while on his way to Damascus. This Damascus conversion of Saul to Paul will be reported at least three times in Acts. It is in Acts 9: 3, here in Acts 22:6 and again in Acts 26:12.
We know that God does not call the qualified but rather, qualifies the Called. Even so, at least in Paul’s case, God, in Christ Jesus, reaches into the life of some well educated people who have strong faith and redirects them. This was Paul’s Conversion which is celebrated on January 25 each year. St Paul’s in the Pines Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina normally celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul on the last Sunday of January each year as a way to celebrate the birthday of the parish which was received into the Diocese of East Carolina in January of 1964.
Paul, like some of us today, was blessed to have been afforded an education. Too often however education can squeeze God out. Ironically people can get too smart for God, or so they think. On the faith side, I can say that I have met, and am still in the inner circle of many very well educated people in a wide range of disciplines, (doctors, philosophers, and scientist), who are people of strong faith. Paul was such an educated man but he was misguided. The one thing he had going for him was his faith in God. Everything in the scripture supports Saul or Paul as a Pharisee, zealous for God as he understood God to that point.
Learning, like faith, should never stop. Just when Paul thought he knew everything, our Lord Jesus stopped him in his tracks. He had a “wake-up” call. God in Christ Jesus uses our faith as the path to our hearts. If we first believe in God, God will come to us in revealing ways. We will have our own conversion story. And, like Paul, we should tell it as often as we can.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John