By Scott Baker
The writings of St. Paul of Tarsus make up a goodly portion of the Christian Scriptures known as the New Testament. In most Bibles the title page of each of his writings introduces the text with the heading, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, or The Letter of Paul to the Corinthians; and so on. In his book “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years,” Diarmaid MacCullogh contends that without the pervading peace provided across the Roman empire (Pax Romana), and a fledgling postal system which that peace allowed, Christianity would have never existed in the form that we have come to know it. Paul was able to send his mail all over the Mediterranean region and communicate to his newly formed churches and to Timothy, his protégé.
I remember a priest friend of mine once commented about Paul’s letters, “Have you ever thought that when we read Paul’s letters, either by ourselves, or in church, what we are doing is reading someone else’s mail?”
It was such a novel notion to me when I first heard it, that I had to laugh out loud. Having been raised in the U.S and taught that not only was it rude to read other people’s mail, it could be a crime, I felt a little taken aback by his comment. Here we are Sunday in and Sunday out gathered to listen to 2,000-year-old correspondence; in short, to listen to other people’s mail read out loud.
One could argue that Christians are deeply indebted to the postal system. So, the recent news of our United States Postal Service being front and center should resonate loudly in the ears of Christians (considering our history). Regardless of where you come down on the issue (politically speaking), the appreciation and support of our postal system certainly has roots in the emergence of the largest religion on the planet.
Personally, I think of my local mail carrier. The way I imagine it, he must feel like a child caught between his two parents on the cusp of divorce. It must be terribly difficult for him to get up each morning knowing that he is going to be entering a very charged work place indeed. I have to admit, until the recent kerfuffle making the current news, I haven’t given much thought to my neighborhood mail carrier at all. Just so long my mail arrived, and in relatively good time and in good condition, I didn’t give it, or him, much thought. However, I’ve been thinking if I should make a special effort to express to him how grateful I am for his service and to show him my support any way that I can. Who knows, it might just make his job a little easier and his return to the post office after his rounds a little more bearable. I think today, by way of showing my thanks, he will find waiting for him in the mailbox a cold bottle of water just out of the fridge with a note of thanks. After all, it’s the least I could do.
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.