Summary: Dramatic monologue as if Paul were speaking: a farewell address, focused largely on Philippians, but drawing from much of the Pauline literature. A play on Paul’s name: Pray, Avoid, Understand, Love.
Paul, servant of the Gospel, to all the saints in Gaithersburg: grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus. And I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened among us has turned out to spread the gospel. For God is my witness, that I …
What?! You challenge me? You challenge my right to speak? Simply because I have been imprisoned? You say I have respect neither for the law of Caesar nor for the traditions of the elders? Brothers and sisters, am I not an apostle?! Am I not one whom God has chosen to proclaim His unsearchable riches? Do not forget what I have done among you! For if I have taught you amiss, God will be my judge. No, I have taught you of Christ. I long for you all with the compassion of Christ Jesus. Dare I say it? Hold fast to what I have taught you!
Oh, my soul, how foolish I am to boast in this way! How foolish to claim anything for myself, for I am the chief of sinners. I am the very least of all the saints. I must correct myself: hold fast to what I have taught if I have lifted up Christ and Him crucified, for in Him, by Him, and through Him is all truth.
So I speak to you, beloved Gaithersburg, just as once I wrote Philippi and all the others. I write to you, and with my own hand, not through any scribe, so that I may strengthen you and make sure that you know my heart. You know me as Paul, a preacher of the good news, a teacher of the Way, and a shepherd to the flock. But yes, you are right; I am a prisoner – a prisoner for Christ. A prisoner IN Christ.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, and there is now ahead of me an open door. So I must lay open my heart to you, Gaithersburg, my joy and my crown, for to me was this grace given, that I might make you see the mystery of the plan of God, how through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety is made known.
You do know the story, do you not, of how I came to be in this place? Do you remember how I was moving in another direction, but how God, in His grace, turned me around? My family had seen to it that I learn the ways of the fathers; they gave me many privileges. We were a prominent family in the city of Tarsus, even acquiring Roman citizenship. My family’s efforts were not in vain, for I turned out to be a Pharisee among Pharisees, the scion of the tribe of Benjamin, in all things most zealous. I turned out well, as my culture would see it.
But the Lord Jesus turned me around. I was en route to Damascus, that great city of learning, to root out the followers of the Way; but the Lord turned me around and gave me a new focus, to bring the knowledge of Christ to you. It was life-changing. I did not understand it for a while. For a time I was in the desert, struggling to understand my call.
Did you know those things, did you see them? It 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. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but 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.
You see, I was born as one out of due time. Who would have imagined that at my age, and my not being of your tribe, I would have been heard at all? But we have learned together. Today I would underscore some of my most important themes, so that you may go from strength to strength.
See with what large letters I sign my name, my beloved, so that you will know that every word in it I stand behind! Let my very name carry my message.
My Hebrew name was Saul, but when I turned around to follow Christ, I used my Roman name, Paul. A word, by the way, which means “small” in the Latin tongue. Small, for I am “the very least of all the saints”. My new name begins with the letter “P”. Pi in Greek. I want the letter “P” to remind you of prayer, the power and the possibility in prayer.