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LETTERS TO MAMA

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Actors For a unique understanding of the apostle Paul, have someone dressed as Paul’s “Mama” read the following “letters” to the group. “Mama” should act and talk like a traditional Jewish lady about the time of Christ and introduce the letters before she reads them.

Action
Dear Mama:
Peace from the God of our Fathers, from your distant son, Saul.
Well, Mama, I arrived safely. The ship sailed smoothly out to Cyprus, and we pulled in at Salamis around midday. I had plenty of time to visit Aunt Beulah. By the way, little Elizabeth isn’t little any more. She married the potter’s son, a fine young man named Clypus. They’re expecting their first by Purim. May all their children be boys! That reminds me, if I’m able to come home by spring I’ll bring you some purple linen for sister Maria’s wedding present. May she find a husband soon!
From there we traveled down the coast to Joppa. Then the long journey from the coast up to Jerusalem. By the time we saw the giant walls and magnificent gates, I was too tired to care. I headed straight for the Via Blanco. I recognized Mr. Benarma at once. He had received your letter and warmly welcomed me. His son Simeon will attend Gamaliel’s classes with me.
After a day’s rest, I took time to tour the city. What a thrill! Mama, you and Papa must come here some day. Imagine! I stood on the rock where Abraham stood. I saw with my own eyes the tomb of King David. I even touched with my own hands the giant stone blocks of Solomon’s temple. Oh, may our eyes see the day when a lion from the Tribe of Judah reigns and rules in Jerusalem again. Perhaps next year by Passover. The hatred for the Romans here is ten times worse than in Tarsus. And there are street-corner prophets all over the city. I even heard of a strange one out on the Jordan River. I must go out and see him, just for a laugh, of course. He seems to have the knack of making everyone iiiad at him. Just like the butcher there in Tarsus, right Mama?
Oh, and I must mention another one. He spends his time mainly up North, around Galilee. We hear rumors of his troublesome teachings. But don’t worry about me. I won’t have anything to do with such people. I’m here to learn of the God of our Fathers.
Please tell Papa the standard fees for Gamaliel’s classes are more expensive than I thought. I will need to do some work for Mr. Benarma in the tent business to add a little income. If you happen to have an extra denarii or so, I know a poor, hard-working student who could put it to good use. Give my love to Phineas, Elias, and Challa, also of course, to Maria and the rest of the family.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Your son, Saul

Dear Mama:

Peace from the Lord of Heaven, and from Saul, your obedient and faithful son. I hope my long delay in writing to you caused no needless anxiety. I’ve been busy with studies of the Mikra and Talmud. Oh, Mama, the cloak you sent is beautiful. It fits just right and I wear it every cool day.
A few weeks ago we had some free time, so Simeon and Rabin and I walked out to the Jordan to hear the preacher I told you about. His name’s John. What a sight! He wore an old camel skin and ranted like a mad man about King Herod. It didn’t surprise me a bit to hear later that he had been arrested and thrown into prison.
Oh, yes, do you remember the one I mentioned from Galilee! Actually, he’s a Nazarene— Jesus, by name. He’s collected quite a following up North. He’s a primitive moral teacher, at best. He has no academic background. Just a carpenter from Galilee. May the Lord of Heaven deliver us from these ignorant troublemakers!
I tell you, Mama, there’s a great need for solid traditional teaching. Well, I suppose they’ll arrest this one, too. So be it.
Tell Papa I certainly appreciate the ten denarii. Of course, it is all gone by now. But it did enable me to purchase half of the scrolls I needed. Now, if only I could buy the other half.
I send this letter by Benjamin. Please tell me what’s going on. He tells me nothing from Tarsus, only about Maria.
Greetings to all my friends.
Your wandering scholar son, Saul

Dear Mama:

Peace from your son, Saul.
Events here have been moving at a lightning pace. I’m preparing to take a trip to Damascus on official business of the high priest.
As you can tell, the handwriting is not my own. I’m dictating this letter to my secretary. Yes, I have some staff now. It comes with being Chairman of the Young Pharisees Council in Jerusalem. Most of my studies have been suspended because of the disturbances here. This Jesus of Nazareth—may his soul be in torment forever—kept stirring up the people in the North. We all knew it was j~tst a matter of time until he made his move into Jerusalem. He came during Passover. First, he convinced the people of Bethany—may God forgive their simple hearts—that he had raised one Lazarus from the dead. Yes, they really believed it. Then, he marched into the city leading an army of followers. He headed straight for the temple and threw all the merchants out. Later, when I heard there was a reward for information leading to his arrest, I decided to investigate myself. But my effort was not needed. On the day before Sabbath, Simeon woke me. “They got him,” he said. “They arrested him last night.” We headed for the council. But to our amazement, the trial was over. I still don’t know how they did it so quickly. Governor Pilate pronounced a capital-punishment verdict, and he was crucified with some other outlaws that same day.
The following week Rabin came up to me before class and said, “They claim the Nazarene is alive.” Can you believe it, Mama? People actually claim that a dead man lives again. Well, we all had a good laugh. However, several weeks later some of his followers showed up around town and disturbed the synagogue services with their wild tales. Not only did they say their master was alive, but they called him our longed-for Messiah. At this point I couldn’t restrain myself. The old Tarsus blood boiled. I had no idea the movement could be so blasphemous. We arrested and imprisoned every follower we could find. We broke up every meeting, disrupted every teaching, and generally chased the whole lot out of Jerusalem. But they only spread their lies into the countryside. I made a personal appeal to the high priest (we’re becoming quite good friends, Mama) and I received permission to travel throughout the area to arrest all I could find. You might say I’m the Chief Investigator. Please, Mama, don’t worry. They’re not a violent lot. Usually they don’t put up any resistance at all. I figure we’ll have the whole mess cleaned up within the year. And it certainly won’t hurt my status here in Jerusalem. Don’t expect me to write for a while. Tell Maria I’m so sorry to miss her wedding. May she be the mother of twelve sons! Benjamin is a good man. Treat him kindly, Mama.
Greet everyone in the love of the Holy One.
Your son, Saul

Dear Mama:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, Mama, you read right. The Lord Jesus Christ.
I know this must surely be the most difficult letter for you to understand. Please be patient and read through all I have to say.
I’m no longer enrolled at the school; I’m no longer living with the Benarmas; I’m no longer Chairman (or even a member) of the Young Pharisees Council. And, I’m no longer a restless, searching young man. I’ve found my peace before God our Father in heaven.
Where shall I begin? I told you in my last letter I had an assignment in Damascus. It was almost noon on the last day of our trip when we could see the outline of the city on the horizon. Suddenly a bright light flashed around us.
Mama, you know I have always been truthful with you and Papa. You must believe what I say now. It was as if the very sun exploded before us. I was so frightened I fell to the ground on my face. All I could think was, “Surely this is the day of judgment, the coming day of our Lord!”
A voice boomed forth, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I was petrified. I said nothing for a time, but then managed to ask hoarsely, “Who … who are you? Lord?” “I am Jesus,” the voice replied. So, it was true after all. All my pious, self-righteous deeds filed before my eyes. I could see women and children crying as I dragged their husbands and fathers off to prison; I could see the poor body of Stephen as I screamed encouragement to those stoning him. By now the tears were streaming down my cheeks. I knew I was a dead man with nothing but Gehenna left to face. “Oh, Lord,” I cried. “What shall I do?” This time the voice spoke not in condemnation, but rather in encouragement. “Rise up, stand on your feet. For this purpose I’ve appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and witness to me. I was completely bewildered, so he said again, “Rise up and go into the city. There you will be told what to do.”
When I stood up, I realized I was totally blind. I must have stumbled around, for my traveling companions grabbed me by the arm and escorted me into the city. All the time I kept thinking, what does this all mean? Is Jesus really the Messiah? Is he even more than the Messiah?
Three days later a stranger entered the house where I was staying. I felt his hands on my head and heard him say, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Mama, how peaceful and powerful those words sounded. “Brother Saul,” he called me, and immediately I could see again. He then asked me, “Do you believe that this Jesus is the risen Christ?” “Yes,” I replied. “Do you renounce the power of the world and the flesh and the Devil?” I said yes, I did. Oh, Mama, my heart is broken for you and Papa. How strange these words must seem to your eyes. All I can say is the truth and assure you of my love. Greet one another with a kiss of love. And may the joy of the Lord Jesus soon dwell in each of your hearts.
Your faithful son, Saul

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