Summary: Dramatic monologue, done as if Paul himself were preaching, with references to all of the Pauline corpus. P A U L equals Pray, Avoid, Understand, Love. Next to last sermon for this pastorate.
Caris kai eirene, carix kai eirene. Jesous cristos soter kurios. En Cristw, en cristw.
Here! You challenge me? You challenge my presence and my right to speak? Am I not an apostle?! Am I not, though born of the wrong parents, nonetheless one whom God has chosen to proclaim His unsearchable riches? You will not set me aside! You will not forget what I have done among you! You will not! Imitate me, hold fast to what I have taught! Do I not have this right?
And yet, how foolish I am to boast in this way! How foolish to claim anything at all for myself, for I am the chief of sinners, among those whom God has chosen to save. And I am the very least of the saints whom Christ has brought into His church. I must correct myself – imitate me, where I have imitated Christ. Hold fast to what I have taught, where it has lifted up Christ and Him crucified.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. I write to you, beloved Takomans, just as once I wrote to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Philippians, to say nothing of the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Thessalonians. And, oh yes, the Galatians, and my beloved brothers in the Lord, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. I write to you, and with my own hand, not through Tertius or other scribes, so that I may strengthen you and make sure that you know my heart. See with what large letters I write my own name – P A U L – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, a preacher of the good news, a teacher of the way of Christ, and a shepherd to His flock. This is my word to you today, for I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, and there is now ahead of me an open door, wide open for other ministries. But today I must speak with you and must lay open my heart to you, Takomans, my joy and my crown, my beloved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I am the very least of all the saints. But to me was this grace given, that I might make you see the mystery of the plan of God. Together, today, let us see how through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might be made known. Let us see what must be cherished. Let us see, from the eyes of this the very least of the saints of God.
You do know the story, do you not, of how I came to be in this place? Do you remember how I was inclined in another direction, but how God, in His grace, arrested me, and turned me around? You do know how I was en route to Damascus, that great city of learning, that seat of skepticism, but years ago the Lord interrupted me and gave me a new focus, to bring the knowledge of Christ to you. And surely you also know that during the early years I was sometimes in the desert, struggling to understand my call, working to discern your needs? Did you know those things, did you see them? But whatever I may have suffered was for your sake, and I am fully satisfied. I have been paid in full. For to me to live is Christ and to die, that would be even more Christ. For I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
I long ago determined that if I were to stay and minister among you, it would be on the basis of doing my utmost to be honest, without pretension of any kind. As God is my witness, He has provided for my every need through the abundance of His riches in Christ Jesus. Oh, the matchless power of our Christ, who can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine!
I, Paul, was born as one out of due time. Who would have imagined that at my age, and my being of the tribe of Benjamin and not of your tribe, I would have been heard or followed? But there are some reasons for the joy of these years. Today I would underscore them with you, so that whoever comes next, whether a Timothy or a Phoebe, whether a John Mark or a Lydia, or maybe the team of Aquila and Priscilla – so that whoever comes next, you may go from strength to strength.