Eulogy for Paul

(At first I thought about expounding on Paul’s theology, on the great quantity and quality of letters he left behind, and on the churches he planted.  But those great accomplishments are what we remember Paul for.  This is my attempt at recreating what those who knew him might have said…)It would seem appropriate to spend this service memorializing Paul – his love for Jesus and his service to the church.  Paul certainly left a legacy behind. But if Paul were up here, performing this eulogy, he’d focus not on the past but the future.  Paul ran a great race and attained the ultimate prize. He’d want each of us to do likewise.  Paul never knew Jesus personally and yet he still followed Him unwaveringly. His life is proof that Christianity will not die out with the original twelve disciples.  The disciples wrote about Jesus and his acts; Paul concentrated on his area of expertise – living a Christian life in relation to the Risen Christ.  Paul also proved that Christian life does not have to be dull.   By birth, he was a Pharisee who studied in Jerusalem under the Rabbi Gamaliel.  By profession, he was a tentmaker.  He was also a witness to Stephen’s martyrdom and a dedicated persecuter of the church.  He survived a name change, a season of blindness, escaping over a city wall in a basket, scourging in synagogues, nearly being killed by an angry mob, imprisonment and being shipwrecked.  He traveled around Cyprus, Asia Minor, mainland Greece, Crete and Rome.  Each hardship he endured was met with confidence that it was part of God’s eternal plan.This same belief in God’s sovereignty led Paul to remember his past but never let it dictate his future.  Those of us who were privileged to receive letters from Paul noted his constant humility and remembrance of what God had rescued him from.  Paul acknowledged his years of persecuting Christians without embarrassment because he fully understood God’s grace and His divine irony.

It would be easy to argue that Paul was exceptional.  He was an amazing apostle with a special commission and special revelation.  It would be easy for us to return to our daily tasks and our churches without letting Paul’s life effect us.  But that would be wrong.  If the church is central to God’s purposes, then it must be central to our lives as well.  We must not play at things that God sees as sacred.  If we continue to view the church as a holy building fashioned of Jews and Gentiles alike (no longer labeled as such but as the family of God) and we seek to remain steadfast during persecution with our eyes fixed firmly on our future hope, then we too will have run a great race and attained the perfect prize – eternity with the Eternal.  

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