There’s an Old Testament Saul and a New Testament Saul and both go through dramatic changes. The Saul of the Old Testament is chosen to be the first king of Israel. Prior to that they had been led by prophets but the people want a king who will help defend them and provide for them so they eventually prevail in their pleadings with God. God picks out a man who will lead them best. Saul is tall and handsome and the people immediately respect him. As the country is preparing for a battle, the prophet Samuel tells Saul to meet him at an appointed place so that a proper sacrifice may be offered to God to insure success on the battlefield, to show that all things should be to God’s glory and not just his own glory. Saul travels to the agreed on place and waits for Samuel but Samuel is late. Saul bides his time but fears he will lose the advantage of surprise in the battle if he does not attack so he offers the sacrifice to God himself. It’s the prophet’s job to do that but Saul is trying to show proper respect, even if impatiently and selfishly. Samuel is furious when he arrives, tells Saul that this act will not be forgotten and that someone else will be made king because he has acted improperly.
Saul’s reaction is to be more and more fearful. David begins to rise in power, the story clearly indicating that he will replace Saul as king, and Saul cannot stand the thought of losing his kingship. He tries on several occasions to eliminate David. As the story progresses, David marries Saul’s daughter and eventually takes over the kingdom. Saul is given the kingdom but is so afraid of losing it that he makes decisions which guarantee he will lose it. All his decisions are based on fear, the fear of losing what he has, the fear of someone else taking his place. Fear often leads to self-centeredness. And that fear changes Saul’s entire life.
The Saul of the New Testament experiences myriad changes but his seem to go in the opposite direction. Saul is the great persecutor of the followers of Jesus. He witnesses many executions, even seems responsible for a number of them. After Stephen is stoned for his beliefs, Saul expects an uprising and travels to Damascus to squelch any revolution which may occur. On the way he is struck blind by a great beam of light and the voice of Jesus addresses him in a remarkably compassionate way. It is clear that, like the Old Testament Saul, he is going to lose his way of life but this Saul embraces that change in a trusting way. Rather than getting lost in fear, Saul embraces the change as a new way of life. He senses the inevitable and gives in to it. Rather than digging in his heels and fighting against the change, he trusts that God will bring about what is best through this change. He sees what is beyond his control and lets go of that.
Saul, in the Old Testament, is faced with inevitable change and despairs. Saul, in the New Testament, is faced with inevitable change, and goes with it.
How is it that we can be so very threatened by loss yet so very hopeful when we experience loss? Probably we are all familiar with the despair of losing something dear to us and the great hope that comes when we have actually lost something we didn’t think we could live without. All too often, when we have a great deal, we live in a protective mode. Here I sit in the midst of tremendous blessings, day in and day out, and what plagues me is an overwhelming sense of responsibility. How can I keep it going? How can I make it better? What will be required of me today to preserve all that I have – my home, the church, my family, my security, my health? As I read about the Old Testament Saul it hits me that, in all my attempts to protect and improve things, I’m not exactly enjoying them nor am I acknowledging them as gifts from God. When I get in that protective mode, I am acting like all this is mine and I have to make sure it lasts. Newsflash – it won’t last because nothing does, so what is all this clinging good for? Clinging makes gratitude nigh impossible.
The New Testament Saul has it all taken away – his authority, his power, his little kingdom – yet he goes toward the light instead of hunkering down in his dark fear. What am I afraid of losing and how might I go toward the light of Christ instead of living only to protect my little world? What am I clinging to – my own little world or the bright kingdom of grace through the love of Christ? With that love I can live without anything or with anything. Why do I keep holding on to the anythings which really are nothing?
Thanks be to God who is seeking to change me.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Hello to Caitlin Gilliam
Having previously announced Worth Stuart’s call to join the Diocesan Staff and his departure from our staff on July 31 as our Director of Youth Ministries, we are now pleased to announce the hiring of our next Youth Minister, Caitlin Gilliam. Caitlin is a life-long Episcopalian, grew up outside Nashville, is a 2010 graduate of the University of the South – Sewanee, and has, for the last three years, been the Youth Minister at Holy Trinity in Auburn. Caitlin will join our staff on August 1. If you wish to welcome her by email, her address is email@example.com.