The Conversion of the Apostle Paul.
Scripture for the week:
“Never trust anyone who is absolutely certain …” said a former colleague of mine, in a different career.
The conversion experience of Saul (who later became known as Paul) is, amongst other things, a story about confronting certainty. Saul was certain that he was doing the right thing, to protect his faith against corruption by dubious mavericks from Galilee – and yet his certainty was dismantled in the flash of a moment.
Those who yearn for certainty – understandably in a time of rapid change and much uncertainty – may find this hard to swallow. Yet humanity’s spiritual quest for understanding has to be taken in a spirit of innocence and openness.
Marcus Borg, the theologian and scholar who died last week, was once asked, “How do you know you are right?” He answered, after a pause, “I don’t know,” identifying himself with the rest of the spiritual pilgrims who approach their lives as journeys of discovery, walking humbly with God, to quote the prophet Micah.
Marcus Borg also wrote, “Imagine that Christianity is about loving God,” and not about self. This is, first and foremost what we gather to express together in worship. Focusing on our relationship with God, we build the foundations of community and nourish that community of faith spiritually.
The body that we build is one that is intended to tackle God’s work. We also build individuals within community. The process of living in a manner that centres more deeply the Spirit within our lives takes time, and needs collective support.
The uncertainties of life can drag us down, but we have to remember that the Church has had to deal with this countless times in the past. With God’s Spirit to guide us, we can at least journey in hope.
When we are bothered by lack of certainty, we can, in humility, gratefully recall that the indefatigable little man who became the Apostle Paul had his certainty turned upside down in a dramatic manner. Journeying in humility and uncertainty may not be so bad after all.