Monday, January 26, 2009

Paul's Conversion

"And immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored." Acts 9:18

Some people can be moved to compassion and tears quite easily. Others need huge signs in order to even begin to pay attention. This sign spans the wide expanse of the front steps of Widener library. All but the center section of steps is roped off, the rest being completely cover with snow and ice, completely treacherous to even the spry and athletic. With all the warnings, it is obvious that people have not only tried to climb the steps, but possibly also tried to sled down them. The need to be oblivious to the real world, and above the fray of average human kind seems part of the DNA of students and faculty alike here. Smart people seem all too often captivated by their own rightness. And yet they can fall down steps and miss the signs and wonders right before them. They can be, and are, as insecure and lost, broken and downhearted, isolated and ashamed as any other human being. The bravado and brilliance masks enormous need.

Saul/Paul was one of those brilliant religious wonders who knew himself to be above the fray of ordinary people. He sought out the followers of Jesus to persecute as a lion stalks the prey. He thought them weak and misguided, sentimental and dumb. He knew the right way and his understanding of the scripture and the law was flawless. And Jesus had to blind him on the road and make him completely dependent on the care and touch of others in order to bring him around. Saul/Paul had a change of heart, because of the compassion of Christ, who would not let him go despite his cruelty, vanity and obliviousness. And Christ's compassion does not end with Paul but extends to all of us, no matter how thick, troubled or misguided we might be.

Today, I want to follow Jesus as one who knows what I lack, as one who sees the signs and heeds the warnings. I want to follow him as Ananias did, who, when frighted by the hideous behavior of Paul, still reached out and touched him in Christ's love. I ask only to be a instrument of God's love breaking forth. May we all this day have the courage to be foolish and needy for the Gospel. May we have the guts to be less brilliant and more compassionate. May we invite God to use us this day for the sake of the whole world.

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