by Christopher Harbin

Proclaiming God's Redemption
Christopher B. Harbin
Is 40:21-31; Ps 147:1-11, 20c; Mark 1:29-39; 1 Cor 9:16-23

After the long hot ride on a dusty stone-paved road, he must have been tired. There are any number of reasons to suggest why he fell off his horse. He might have fallen asleep, rocked to oblivion by the incessant riding motion. He might have spent too long sweating in the sun with too little water. It could have been a combination of fatigue, dehydration, or the horse's stumbling on a rougher stretch of road. There aren't too many heroes whose stories begin with falling off a horse, but this is one.

In Paul's case, this may even be the best known portion of his story. It was a momentous event in his life. It was transforming. Maybe that's why we tell and retell it. We tend to look for an initial transformational moment spawning a change of course, one moment that makes all the difference. We want transformative change to be instantaneous--a moment, a catalytic event--not a journey of many seemingly insignificant steps.

We can easily picture a hot, dusty road to Damascus. In Paul's day it was a long journey. There were no paved roads as we know them, though the Romans built stone roads to move their troops quickly throughout the empire as need arose. No, there were no rest areas or parks along the way, no fast food joints with clean restrooms available to passing tourists. It was just that lonely road--something upwards of 150 miles of dust, sun, sweat, and the odors of fresh piles of horse droppings. After days of riding, Paul fell off his mount. Perhaps we should consider sunstroke, dehydration, or exhaustion. His traveling companions would have, anyway, if they had not heard the voice calling from heaven.

Over the next few days, Paul wrestled with the importance of that encounter with the risen Christ. He prayed and fasted at least until the coming of Ananias. He reflected on the meaning of the words he had heard. "I am the Jesus you are per ...

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