Wednesday, January 25
Conversion of Paul
End of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Today the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to an end. The church remembers how a man of Tarsus named Saul, a former persecutor of the early Christian church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief preachers. The risen Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him to proclaim the gospel. The narratives describing Paul’s conversion in the Acts of the Apostles, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians inspire this commemoration, which was first celebrated among the Christians of Gaul.
The entire Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives us a chance to consider our calling in light of Paul’s words in Galatians that all are one in Christ.
Thursday, January 26
Timothy, Titus, and Silas, missionaries
On the two days following the celebration of the Conversion of Paul, his companions are remembered. Timothy, Titus, and Silas were missionary coworkers with Paul. Timothy accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey and was commissioned by Paul to go to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and overseer of the church. Titus was a traveling companion of Paul, accompanied him on the trip to the council of Jerusalem, and became the first bishop of Crete. Silas traveled with Paul through Asia Minor and Greece and was imprisoned with him at Philippi, where they were delivered by an earthquake.
This festival invites the church to remember Christian leaders, bishops, pastors, and teachers—both men and women—who have been influential in the lives of individual members as gospel signs of the light of Epiphany.
Friday, January 27
Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, witnesses to the faith
On this day the church remembers three women who were companions in Paul’s ministry. Lydia was Paul’s first convert at Philippi in Macedonia. She was a merchant of purple-dyed goods, and because purple dye was extremely expensive, it is likely that Lydia was a woman of some wealth. Lydia and her household were baptized by Paul and for a time her home was a base for Paul’s missionary work. Dorcas is remembered for her charitable works, particularly making clothing for needy widows. Phoebe was a diakonos, a deaconess in the church at Cenchrae, near Corinth. Paul praises her as one who, through her service, looked after many people.
Today provides an opportunity for congregations to reflect on the ministry of women, ordained and lay, wealthy and poor, who have given of themselves in service to the church and to the ministry of the gospel in their congregations.
Saturday, January 28
Thomas Aquinas, teacher (c. 1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas was a brilliant and creative theologian of the thirteenth century. He was first and foremost a student of the Bible and profoundly concerned with the theological formation of the church’s ordained ministers. As a member of the Order or Preachers (Dominicans), he worked to correlate scripture with the philosophy of Aristotle, which was having a renaissance in Aquinas’s day. Some students of Aristotle’s philosophy found in it an alternative to Christianity. But Aquinas immersed himself in the thought of Aristotle and worked to explain Christian beliefs in the philosophical culture of the day. The contemporary worship cultural studies done by the Lutheran World Federation resonate with Aquinas’s method.