Robert and Paul
Both saw the light on the 25th January. Robert in more conventional fashion because he was born on this day in 1759; Robert Burns that is. Burns’ Night (rather than ‘Day’, interestingly enough) is a time for reciting Burns’ poetry, singing songs, and recalling the Immortal Memory.
A man with a colourful life and an even more colourful imagination. His works are among the most read and celebrated throughout the entire world, especially where Scots or their descendants are to be found.
The Church also celebrates on this day the Conversion of St Paul. Hot on the heels of those dastardly Christians, Paul was on the way to Damascus to arrest and detain anyone who would profess Christ as Lord. He was rather rudely interrupted by a powerful light.
He was thrown to the ground while a voice spoke to him and declared that it was Jesus, whom Paul was persecuting. The light was so bright that it blinded him, and it wasn’t until Ananias came and prayed over him that he regained his sight. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not I who live but it is Christ who lives in me
All the time Paul is writing to the communities he founded, still blazing in his mind is his being blinded by the light. Such was the intensity of this encounter between Christ and himself that his old self was burned away.
The new man, Paul the teacher of the nations, was born. For the rest of his life, he would expend incredible energy preaching the Gospel and instructing others on what life in Christ means.
Barriers between Jew and Greek, slave and free, rich and poor, tumble, as people embrace the newness that Christ brings.
That other great stalwart of the Scottish Canon, ‘Amazing Grace’, comes to mind. For this is grace, to be amazed at the possibilities that God gives and inspires in us. To take our experiences and not only make sense of them but to make them the very engine of our and others’ transformation.
We might wish for peace, harmony, fellowship, but only the amazing grace of God can bring that about. Grace works on anyone and through everything. As Rabbie Burns declares that A Man’s a Man for A’ That, we believe that it is God’s grace that finally brings about the wish ‘That Man to Man the warld o’er, shall brithers be for a’ that.’
For all of us there are defining moments, pleasant or otherwise. Which one dominates your thoughts just now? Think on it and present it to God who will transform it.