Shalom and a very good morning to you. I hope the colder weather these few days have not impacted you to much. Though we have to delay our physical coming back to worship in the Cathedral, we thank God that we can still worship together through the streamed Services.
The Opening Prayer
The night has passed and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day and new week; so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, whose apostles Peter and Paul glorified you in their deaths as in their lives: grant that your Church, inspired by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, who caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: grant that we may follow him in bearing witness to your truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
Our Bible Reading this morning is taken from 2 Corinthians 11:22-29. Paul writes:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?
Imitating St. Paul
Yesterday, we celebrated our Patron Festival. If you have heroes of faith, I am sure St. Paul would be counted as one of them for he is one of the spiritual giants of the Bible. In fact, he would well qualify to be the greatest of all the spiritual giants of the New Testament and maybe the greatest Christian ever. God used him to write almost two-thirds of the New Testament and through it lies the basis of most of what we know and practice in our Christian faith.
In addition to his writings, St. Paul lived an exemplary life as a disciple and apostle of Christ. St. Paul not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. He almost singlehandedly brought the gospel to the know Roman world through his three missionary journeys. In order to achieve that, he endured an incredible amount of sufferings. You heard what they were in the Bible passage read just now.
I know, it is scary to hear what he went through. This is even more staggering when we consider his upbringing. In his epistles, St. Paul tells us that he was a full-blooded Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. A Roman citizen by birth from the city called Tarsus located in Cilicia, Asia Minor. He studied under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem to become a well-known Pharisee and member of the ruling body of Israel, the Sanhedrin.
In the book of Acts, we read that he mercilessly seeks out Christians to persecute. However, on his way to Damascus to bind Christians to throw in prison in Jerusalem, he powerfully encountered Jesus Christ. His life was completely transformed from being a persecutor of Jesus, to a preacher of Jesus. While the rest of the eleven original apostles’ ministry focus was to the Jews, Jesus has specifically commissioned St. Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles.
I learn three lessons from this,
1. No One Is Beyond The Saving Grace Of God
If God’s grace can reach down to such an enemy of Jesus Christ, there is hope for the worst of us. No matter how unworthy, hard-hearted, unresponsive, difficult or even anti-Christianity you think someone is, God’s grace can reach that person. Don’t give up. Pray for them. Be a good witness to them. Witness to them. The powerful grace of God can still transform their hearts.
2. God Can Use Anyone
Of all the people that God could have used to bring so many people to Him, he ironically chose St. Paul. He used that man who had been actively and violently persecuting Christians. If God can use someone like St. Paul so effectively, He can use any of us. The question is not whether you are able BUT whether you are available for God to use. The question is not whether God is able to use you the way you want BUT whether you are available to let God use you the way He wants to.
3. God Can Use You As You Are
God has orchestrated every detail of your life from the day you were born, as He did for St. Paul. God has made you to be exactly who you are through your background; your upbringing; your physical, emotional and physiological makeup. God knows you thoroughly and there is nothing in your life past, present or future that He is not in total control of. You are unique. You are special and you are beloved in His eyes. Come as you are. As the Psalmist said “My sacrifice, O God, isa broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
I want to end by saying that I am glad for what St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1. He said, “Imitate my example, as I imitate the example of Christ.” Wow, you mean it is possible to follow the example of this super-giant of faith? Indeed, it is possible. St. Paul assures me that I can in my small way follow Jesus Christ by putting my feet onto his foot-prints in front of me.
Let us Pray:
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. May we rekindle the gift of God within us.
Thank you for sharing this time with me.
Have a wonderful and blessed day living for our Lord Jesus Christ following the footsteps of St. Paul.
Goodbye and see you next Monday.