Published 5:35 pm Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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By Scott Baker

As I write this article, it is the feast day of the conversion of Saint Paul. Many may know the story of Saul (later Paul) on his way to Damascus to arrest and bring to trial any of the followers of Jesus when he saw a blinding light at midday. The light caused him to fall to the ground in shock and awe. He heard a voice from heaven, as it is conveyed in the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles, saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He (Saul) asked, “Who are you Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do.” (Acts 9:4-6) To describe what followed in Saul’s (now Paul) life would be a gross understatement. He went from “breathing threats of murder against the disciples of Christ” to actually joining their ranks. In fact, if it were not for Paul, many theologians argue that Christianity would look vastly different than it does today. In addition to his many writings, his devotion and indefatigable drive to spread the message of the gospel is awe-inspiring to this day.

As we make our way through 2021 perhaps this year, more than any in the recent past, would be an opportune time for a conversion in our own lives. I look at the conversion of St. Paul and wonder how is God calling me to change? Perhaps, even to make an about-face in my life. With this year of COVID-19 and the many disruptions in our lives, from economic, health, politically and communally, we are at the right nexus of our lives for a change in our behavior toward a more wholistic, healthier and, dare I say, holier existence.

If any of us have spent a modicum of time with the news that has bombarded us, it seems to me that many in our world, in our communities, perhaps even in our families, could benefit from a conversion experience. One that calls us to work toward unity and wholeness. One that calls us to work toward the greater good and the edification of our world. One that is centered less on self and selfish aims and desires and turned toward uplifting others and working to make our world a better place to live.

Paul certainly thought he was working to do that very thing. When he writes his letter to the church in Galatia, he speaks of the “fruits of the Spirit.” He urges the Galatians to cultivate the fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” all of which were a contrast to the reports he had been receiving indicating they were living in the exact opposite of these virtues. If we are converted to these virtues it would be a conversion on par with St. Paul. I know I could do no better work than to cultivate these fruits in my own life. I am convinced that St. Paul’s conversion was just not for his own life, but was seen in the world in which he worked so diligently to share in his experience way back on that road to Damascus. His conversion converted his world. I hope ours does as well.


FATHER SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact him at 757-562-4542.