February 2021

 

 

Rev Scott writes…

25th January, is the day the Church celebrates the conversion of St Paul

The Damascus Job

A reimagining of Acts 9

Saul could weep with joy. He’s got the Damascus job, and boy, does he need it. But Saul doesn’t weep about anything, not even a decent contract to make new tents for a whole nomadic community.

It’s a good job, the Damascus job. Saul was lucky to hear about it. The right place at the right time, that’s Saul’s philosophy. That’s how you make money – keep your ear to the sand and plenty of good cloth and wood in your truck and you won’t go hungry.

And that Stephen business. That was a good job, too. Saul only got a few coppers for keeping watch while that loudmouth nutcase was murdered, but it all adds up. Easy money. Like the extra money he earns for grassing up those weird followers of … who is it again? That’s it – Yeshua. Some bloke who did magic tricks then rose from the dead. Whatever.

Saul stares at the half dozen nutcases wailing over Stephen’s grave in the olive grove, and spits in the road. Maybe he should save the next gobful for more Yeshua-men. He grins. Yeshua-men. What else would you call the gullible?

Damascus could be lucrative. Plenty of Yeshua-men for the taking there. His face twists as he imagines them skulking in the synagogue and poisoning the Jews with their resurrection rubbish. Just a letter from the high priest in Jerusalem and he’ll have authority to get them arrested. And earn even more cash. Man cannot live by tents alone.

He could use some help though. A bit of local backup. The Yeshua-men might talk a good game of love and peace but a sharp sica in the guts would put him out of tentmaking for a while. He starts up his Toyota pickup and roars away in a right u-turn back into Jerusalem.

An hour later Saul has the letter from the high priest. He also has two shifty-eyed chancers, one fat and one thin, who fall for his promise of a few shekels between them. He’d found them hanging around the square outside the synagogue. They’re none too bright but they’re not here to discuss the finer points of Torah law. He hears them exchange monosyllables in the back of the truck as he studies Google Maps on his phone. Damascus is 308kms and 4 hours 16 minutes away. It’ll be nightfall when they arrive, but that’s his business. There’s no wife around to complain anymore.

The radio is on and the evening sun burnishes the inside of the dusty cab a deep gold. He leans an arm on the sill as the tarmac of Highway 35 slips hypnotically beneath him. This is the life – free, single, and earning his way. And preserving his beloved Jewish ways from those crackpot upstarts.

The road to Damascus is long and twisty and boring. An odyssey through parched fields and wilting olive groves with only the odd gas station or industrial unit to add colour. Saul glances in his rearview mirror. There’s certainly no colour coming from Laurel and Hardy in the back. For the first time, he wonders about them: their lives, their homes, their families. He shakes his head and glances again in his mirror. Night has fallen and they’re just shadows. Probably a good thing …

A sudden light bathes the inside of the cab and Saul slams on the brakes and braces for the impact. But it’s not a truck barrelling towards him. It’s not that kind of light. It’s everywhere at once, without a source. It fills his whole vision with a fierce, brilliant intensity that swells and burns through his eyelids and searches – no, rinses – his mind. And there’s a voice. He can hear those two yelling in the back, but it’s not them. It’s one voice, and it seems to be inside him. It’s not fierce like the light. It’s soft and gentle but it fills his mind and it sounds somehow hurt.

‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

He tries to look through the windscreen but his vision has melted to this burning whiteness that surrounds him, holding him within its centre. He reaches blindly, expecting to feel fire licking through the glass. But the windscreen is cool and solid. ‘Who are you?’ he moans.

‘I’m Jesus, who you’re persecuting. But go to the city, and you’ll be told what to do’.

Saul opens his mouth to speak but his words are snatched away. He hears his door open and feels cold night air and his arm roughly grasped.

‘Hey man, what happened? Why d’you slam on like that?’

‘You coulda killed us’.

The light …’ mumbles Saul, trembling.

‘We heard someone, but we didn’t see no light’.

Yeah, sounded like one of them megaphone things …’

Saul blinks to clear his vision. But still the all-encompassing whiteness fills his eyes, his head, his mind …

And out of the whiteness Saul sees a man with his hands held out before him. An old man with a kind face, but his eyes are deep like wells. And as he approaches with raised hands, a name echoes repeatedly in Saul’s mind …

Saul tries to tell his two companions what he’s heard but it won’t come out. Shock has taken his voice and his body is gripped in seizure.

‘He’s in a bad way, man’, one says. ‘Looks like a stroke or somethin’.

‘We’d better get him some help’, says the other. ‘Can you drive?’

‘No. Can you?’

Cursing, they roll Saul over to the passenger seat and somehow lurch and screech the last few miles until there’s a heart-stopping bang and a squeal of brakes. The door shrieks open and Saul hears a distant exchange of raised voices until all goes quiet and his arm is gently held and he feels soft breath on his ear.

‘My name is Judas, my boy. Come into my house’.

Saul opens his mouth again but the name won’t come out and all he can do is moan and shake. His arms are held and he is carefully walked like a child as that soft voice gently cajoles him. The smooth tarmac beneath his feet changes to a dusty path until he feels the warm breath of freshly cooked food on his face. He is eased into an armchair and as his traumatised body sinks in the fabric, his eyes and mind are filled with that impossibly swelling brightness that draws him like a tranquil pool of light.

Judas tries to persuade Saul to eat and drink, but all he wants is the brightness that surrounds him. He’s drawn to it. It calms him, and he feels as if he knows it, like a friend. He even feels a need to pray to it. And he does so, quietly but fervently, for three days until he senses a presence next to him.

He stiffens. This isn’t Judas. He knows when Judas is here. The room seems to shift and he can detect the whiff of his body in the air. Now there’s a stillness and a smell of something fragrant, like spices. He feels a cool, calming hand rest on his.

‘Brother Saul, I am Ananias. I’ve been asked to see you by Yeshua, who appeared to you on your way here’.

Please note: Scott is available to contact Sunday—Friday.

His details are on the back page.

He feels the cool hands rest on his head, and the bright whiteness that bathed Saul for three days fills with colours and shapes. And as his eyes open, he sees little white forms like butterflies flutter away from him and he hears a faint tinkling noise, like music, as they fall at his feet.

‘Regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit’.

Saul stands and weeps for the first time in years. But no one can tell because Ananias baptises him too.

 


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