The Adventures of St Paul - Only the beginning!
An adventure story about St Paul
by Kate Fleming
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To think about one of St Paul's early encounters with danger and consider the way in which this strengthened his commitment to continue his work as a missionary.
Preparation and materials
- The bulk of the assembly consists of a story about St Paul which you will need to be able to tell, either reading or preparing your own version. The imaginative story is based on Acts 9.23-25.
- Tell the following story:
Today I'm going to tell you a story about a dangerous escape which was made by Brother Saul, or St Paul as we know him today. The story takes place about 2,000 years ago, when Jesus' first followers were beginning to go out into the world to tell people about him.
Paul was in such a tricky situation, one which would make James Bond 007's problems look positively easy. He was new to this game - he had only recently become an agent for Jesus Christ, and had been working in the city of Damascus to establish his new image. He had spent all his time since he became a believer telling people about Jesus, in the synagogues, market places and any place where crowds could gather. His big problem was that not many people trusted him because previously he had been working against Jesus. It's so difficult when you change sides!
The city of Damascus was full of armed soldiers, booby traps, blockades. Even Bond would have found it difficult to escape. The governor of Damascus, following the instructions of the King, had sealed off the town with the sole purpose of catching St Paul. Paul's message, saying that Jesus was the Son of God, had angered the powerful King and he wanted to be rid of Paul for ever. What was Paul to do?
He crouched in a tiny doorway in the back streets of Damascus, too scared to move or even breathe. The sweat poured down his face. He was frightened, hungry, thirsty and tired and there was not a friendly soul in sight. Where were his friends now?
Only the sounds of danger: marching feet, steel on steel, and gruff, distant voices, searching, trapping and eventually catching him. 'Got you! Saul, Paul or whatever your name is, the end of the road, sonny, THIS IS IT!' Paul's imagination was working overtime and not helping his escape plan. Calm down, think clearly - but the more he tried to do this, the poorer his plans seemed to be.
Time passed. Soldiers marched within inches of his robes; a stray dog sniffed his feet, showing interest, but mercifully scampered off to explore spicier finds. He was squashed up so tight that he felt he would never be able to walk again.
'Psst, psst! Psst, psst, Paul!' Paul's heart thumped and his stomach turned over. Was that the low vibrant voice of Ananias, his dear, dear friend? It was coming from somewhere, but where? He daren't move or respond just in case it was a trap or he had misheard what he desperately wanted to hear.
It was so dark by now that it was comforting. He couldn't see anyone, but no one could see him either. Darkness can be safety as well as danger. Under cover of darkness, thought St Paul, as he felt the warmth of human breath and a hand touched his cramped-up shoulder.
'Paul! Don't speak, follow me!' It was Ananias, risking his life to save his friend. Paul carefully unpacked his crumpled body and the two friends threaded their way through the velvet darkness of Damascus, no words, only understanding, warmth and friendship.
'Go with these men, they can be trusted', whispered Ananias. 'Good luck! I'll see you in Jerusalem. I am in touch with Barnabas - he is there and expecting you!'
They clasped hands, then Paul was pushed through a narrow doorway and the door closed silently. He couldn't see anything, he could only feel that he was not alone. He was bundled up some steep and winding stone stairs. Higher and higher they climbed, three of them, or were there four? Impossible to tell, but what was apparent was DANGER. This was a life or death mission, words weren't necessary to know that.
Suddenly the whole group froze. 'Wait', whispered a hoarse, tense voice. They flattened themselves against the wall as footsteps got closer and closer, stopping just round the next turn in the staircase. There was the sound of a door being opened, then closing. The hoarse voice cursed. 'Wait' was once again the sole command.
So this strange party, unknown to each other, unseen by each other, yet bound together with the sole purpose of saving the life of St Paul, waited and waited. Each life dependent on the life of the next man. What are we waiting for? thought Paul, then realized that all he could do was put his trust in his rescuers.
The silence began to stir, and the darkness lost its intensity - dawn was breaking. Paul could just make out the shapes of the men pressed against the wall on either side of him. Then the noise of the door opening, voices, heavy feet - coming down to catch them? No! Going up! Thank God! The group tension was released.
'Now!' the same voice rasped, and Paul was pushed up the stairs and thrown into a tiny room, previously occupied by the footsteps and voices - hence the wait. Even before Paul could get his bearings, his three rescuers had crossed to the window and were pulling on a thick rope, at the end of which was a basket, a large wicker basket.
'Get in!' said the rasping voice. 'We'll let you down. Once on the ground you'll be outside the city walls, and safe. Well, safer than you are now. Run for your life. This is a fortified tower, but was the only way out. Go in the name of Jesus and tell everyone about him.'
Paul scrambled into the basket and the unknown friends clamped on the lid. With the strength of ten they heaved the basket out of the window and lowered it down on the rope. 'God go with you!' was all Paul heard as he hurtled down in the basket, bumping against the wall of the tower. Then the massive thud as he landed, jarring every bone in his body. Paul levered himself out of the basket, bruised and battered but ALIVE.
Thank you, thank you, he said to himself as he ran from the tower and set off on the road to Jerusalem. Little did he know that this was only the beginning of his amazing adventures.
- Explain that this was a close shave for St Paul. He was nearly caught and put to death, but that didn't stop him. He continued to go around the country, talking about Jesus and risking his life doing so. It was as though the dangers strengthened his determination.
- Ask the children to think about why St Paul was so determined to tell people about Jesus. Why was it so important to him that he was prepared to risk his life?
Time for reflection
Thank you for St Paul, who lived in extreme danger in order to tell people about Jesus.
Help us to appreciate people in any walk of life who are brave and courageous,
and prepared to stand fast for what they believe, whatever the consequences.
'One more step' (Come and Praise, 47)
English, RE, History, Geography