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Sermon, 5th Sunday of Lent

St. Paul’s Church – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The Rev. Robert Griffith
The Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 25, 2007


“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We find God’s people in a predicament in the context of today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah 43. Isaiah chapters 40 - 55 take place during the middle of the sixth century B.C. The northern Jewish kingdom of Israel ceased to exist long before, and people of the southern kingdom, Judah, are languishing in the Babylonian exile. God’s chosen people that lived in the Promised Land were now aliens in a strange and pagan country, taken captive by a foreign power. In 586 B.C., the City of God, the holy city of Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Babylonians. The royal line of David came to an end, and Solomon’s glorious temple lay in ruins and ashes. The people of God were not able to practice their religion, as God had given it to be practiced. The temple, the very dwelling place of God on earth, was gone. The peoples’ rebelliousness separated them from their God.

All that they had known was no more. Nothing left. It surely must have seemed to many that their God had abandoned them. Perhaps, even, that the gods of Babylon were stronger than their own God.

As they lived in exile their children grew to know the “old country” and the “old ways” only in stories. The new generations did not know the glories of their former country, the splendor of worship in the temple, and the promises of their God in a land flowing with milk and honey. As best they could, some kept the traditions alive through the oral history and by the words of Moses and by way of the prophets.

Sermon - Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Carroll St., Brooklyn
The Rev. Robert Griffith
January 28, 2007

The Conversion of St. Paul and our Own


Today we are celebrating the Feast day of the Conversion of St. Paul. It was actually January 25, but because St. Paul is our Patron, today is the day were we do-it-up-right.

What was so significant about this conversion we heard of in the readings today?

Who was this man, called Saul and later Paul?

Saul was born in the Roman city of Tarsus making him an honest Roman citizen. This becomes significant as we follow his life through his conversion through his ministry and into his imprisonment in Rome. At his circumcision, he was given the Hebrew name of, “Saul.” At the appropriate age, his parents sent him off to Jerusalem to study the Law under he great Rabbi Gamaliel. It seems that Saul was a prodigy who had the attention of the leaders of the Jewish people.

We are introduced to Saul at the stoning of St. Stephen, the martyr, when Stephen accused the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish religious leaders, of betraying God. In Acts 7, we find this, listen:

When they [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

At this point, the persecution of the followers of Jesus began and they were driven out of Jerusalem. Saul comes up again in Acts 8 & 9 and this is what is said of him;


“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”

And again -

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

I suspect that if he were present in our day, he might be referred to as a religious terrorist.

However, Saul was not by any means uncultured or ignorant. He was educated in the best Roman and Jewish schools. He was fluent in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, at least. He debated philosophers in Greece, and he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous for service to God.

That was Saul, before his conversion.

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