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The Right Person At The Right Time
There is, just at the moment, a great deal of grumbling in the Wood bathroom; I should confess to you that it is all my fault, not that I am the grumbler, priests in particular as you know should not grumble, but it is true that I am the cause of the grumbling. Some weeks ago, for some unaccountable reason, I took it into my head to renew our supplies of shampoo. Well it was not entirely unaccountable, we were after all out of the stuff and so it was that I found myself in a nearby large supermarket in a very unfamiliar aisle, confronted with rows of bottles of many shapes and colours with labels speaking of lanolin, vitamins, laurel sulphates, conditioners, nutrients and exotic flavours, none of which I even slightly understood. Faced with such a confusion, I examined carefully the smaller labels speaking of the cost per litre, made the easy decision and returned home happy with my morning's work. My selection, however, has not been popular, there has been in my view, overly extended discussion of my lack of qualifications for such work and loud groans whenever anyone pops into the shower. I am beginning in truth to regret having bought quite such a large bucket of it.
And so I reflected, it is important to have the right person for a task at the right time and in the right place and God of course always gets this right. Paul is an extraordinary example of this. A Roman citizen, renowned for his zealous persecution of the followers of Jesus who was present at the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr, is nonetheless chosen on the road to Damascus to spread the faith to all corners of the known world, from the small numbers of the newly believing Jewish community, to the Gentiles and all people's and through his ministry to prepare the way for the church to be established in Rome.
This is of enormous historic importance, without which the church may not have survived, and in the first century AD would have been seen as really unlikely. The disciples, among them Jesus' brother James, an important authority at the time following Jesus' ascension, were headquartered in Jerusalem, the scene of Our Lord's crucifixion and nothing would have been more natural than that the church would have been based there. But this is without reckoning with God, without Paul, and without the extraordinary grace that does sometimes put the most unlikely people in the right place.
And Paul knows this. Paul is settling down to write an improving letter to the Galatians but before doing so he makes clear who he is and why he is there. Paul, sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. With this certainty in his case, he begins his discussion. The letter is a good one to read, it is one of the earliest and quite short. In it, he is working out his beliefs and understanding the beliefs that will later appear in a more refined and extended way in the towering letter to the Romans but, in a very real sense, it is reassuring to read this less polished version for here is someone learning and growing even as we do.
As with Paul, God continues to place us, you and me, in the places where we need to be, often we do not recognise it, often when we do, we will feel inadequate to the moment but take great heart, these will not be shampoo buying moments but rather ones where God will lead us, give us the right words, the right gestures and the right presence at the right time.