The Apostle Paul

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Within a fortnight Publius
Had put his faith in Christ. He was
A Roman guard assigned to keep
Paul in his house. But soon the deep
And joyful message took his heart,
And made him and his son a part
Of something very dangerous.
For almost twelve years Publius
Had raised his son alone. His name
Was Missio and soon he came,
When school was out, to sit with Paul
And watch him use his hook and awl
To make the tent and satchel seams.
But mainly he would tap the streams
Of memory inside the old
Man's head. "And was it really cold
Inside the jail?" he said. "Not so
Severe that season, Missio,
That half a dozen hearty psalms
At midnight couldn't bear. It calms
The heart and warms the shivering hands
To sing about the sovereign plans
Of God, and meditate on how,
This time, the Lord would keep his vow
To build his church and deal a blow
To hell." "And did he?" Missio
Leaned up and asked. Paul smiled and said,
"Someday, when you are grown and wed,
You take your wife to Philippi,
And see if you can find out why
This church, in all its poverty,
With joy has given more to me
Than any other church. God did
Indeed fulfill his vow, and rid
Not only me and Silas from
Our dungeon chains but also some
From bondage far more deep—not by
The shaking of the earth and sky,
But by the mighty tremors of
The heart, called grace and joy and love.
And so, young Missio, the Lord
Of heav'n has never let his cord
Of love be severed by my pain,
Or fear, nor will he ever reign
In vain! But he will build his church!
And mark this, Missio, go search
The thirty years that I have served,
And you will find God never swerved
From grace, though five times I was lashed
With forty stripes less one; rods smashed
Against my back three times with scar
On scar; in constant danger far
From any place called home; in thirst
And toil and sleepless nights; and cursed
To bear this thorn of Satan's hate
Since I was stoned at Lystra's gate.
Dear Missio, doubt not the Lord's
Dear love nor power; no human swords
Can stop the Word of God Most High
Until it shines from sky to sky."

And so the old apostle Paul
Would talk with Missio. And all
He ever did or said he taught
The Roman lad, but sometimes thought
And wondered if the time was spent
In vain, or why the boy was sent.

Two years of house arrest in Rome
Had passed. For Paul the little home
Outside the great Praetorium
Where Caesar reigned, had quickly come
To be the beachhead of a King
Whose power over everything
Would make the flames of burning men
And women spread to Spain, and then
Up through the Pyrenes to Gaul,
And on to lands whose names Saint Paul
Had never heard, with blazing light,
As well as pain, and conquering night
And Satan's ancient reign. Nero
Had never dreamed the horrid glow
Of living lanterns soaked in oil
Would fail to function as a foil
For his own wicked cowardice,
And even turn the king's caprice
To serve the Truth and give it wings,
For Jesus is the King of kings!

At first Paul hoped that he would be
The one to reach the western sea,
And speak the mighty name of Christ.
For this he'd lived and sacrificed
For thirty years. He often said:
"Lord, I would suffer any pain,
If I could bear your name in Spain!"

But soon Paul saw the turning tide
In Rome. The witnesses had lied.
The Jews who trusted Christ were shut
Out of the synagogues and cut
Off from the shield of Israel.
And now the awful weeks would tell:
It suddenly became a crime
To worship Jesus Christ, and time
Was growing short. Unfailing trust
In God, that he is wise and just.
And that he rules the hearts of kings
And turns for his design all things,
Held back the great apostle from
Despair, and caused a dream to come
Into his mind.

Young Missio
Was fourteen now, his heart aglow
With God. His father had been burned.
And now he was alone, and yearned
With white hot zeal to give his life
For Christ. Not games nor gold nor wife
Ignited his desire, but only this:
"To die just like my dad, and kiss
The flames with courage to the end."

But Paul had other plans, "My friend,"
He said to Missio one day,
"I don't know why they've let me stay
Alive these weeks of torturings,
But I have word that morning brings
My time. Dear son, I ask a vow:
Tomorrow morn do not allow
Yourself the bold desire to die
With me. Please, swear this night to fly
And meet Luke in Neapolis.
Make haste, dear Missio, don't miss
The ship. My books and notes have gone
Before. The vessel sails at dawn."
"But why, my father, I am not
Afraid to die." "That is your lot,
Brave Missio, but not in Rome.
Swear now that you will leave your home,
And go for Christ—and me—to Spain.
And Missio...the loss is gain.
Swear now that you will not return,
But let my fire go on to burn
In you, my son, across the great
Peninsula and strike the gate
Of hell in Britain if you can.
Who knows if there might be some clan
Beyond the western sea the Lord
Has chosen for himself. The sword,
If need be can be passed again.
You will have sons, ten thousand men
And women will believe the truth
Of God. There will be other youth
To send, when you are old like me
And churches spread through Brittainy.
This is my passion, Missio,
My life, my call, my dream. Now go!"
The lips of Missio began
To quiver. "Paul, I'm not a man
Like you, I..." Paul reached out and took
Him in his arms, and while they shook
In speechless sobs the mantle passed.
"Go, son. The sorrow will not last.
Give me your hand and promise now."
He took his hand and said, "I vow."

And so the light of candle four
Has come to us from shore to shore.
And yet the dream is still a call.
Who feels the passion now of Paul?