Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Timothy 4:2-8
This weekend the Reeves’ congregation will celebrate Laity Sunday – one of four Sundays a year where the laity of the church serve in leadership roles throughout the entire service of worship – including the sermon! Ross – Reeves’ lay leader – will be offering the sermon. He has selected the passage for this week so I will be offering my own musings on the same passage.
Make sure you come on Sunday to hear his interpretation of this passage!
This letter is the second correspondence that Paul sends to Timothy. It is a letter of encouragement and direction for this young minister or pastor in his work with a fledgling Christian community. Some scholars have interpreted that I Timothy is written to define or describe a faithful congregation whereas II Timothy is written to define or describe a faithful minister. What is interesting about this “distinction” between these correspondences is this – Paul desires – and I would say God desires – all people at one and the same time to be both faithful congregants and faithful ministers. You do not have to be a professional minister or have ministry as your chosen profession to be a minister. We are all ministers. We are all charged with caring for, leading, guiding, holding accountable, and interpreting Scripture for one another as well as ourselves.
So we need to listen up. Paul is writing to us. And then our actions in response are the evidence as to whether or not we have listened.
Here in this text – as in his other letters – Paul encourages “constant vigilance!” (any Harry Potter fans out there? Think Mad-Eye Moody) against the persecutions the Christians are enduring and perseverance in the face of combating ideologies and theologies that are in the community. Paul encourages strength so that the people will remain strong in self and strong for one another that they will not be swayed by half-truths and whole-lies.
Paul is assured that living a life in the world and not of the world will lead humanity towards happiness. John Wesley believed the love of God led to true happiness whereas the love of the world led to elusive happiness. The world is fleeting; therefore, love of the world would also be fleeting. Our God is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, everlasting to everlasting. Our God is eternal; therefore, love of God would also be eternal and the happiness that results from loving God would be eternal.
Our reward for loving God and not the world is “the crown of righteousness.” It is available not just for one but for all. In order to receive it we have to work for it. As Wesley would say we have to work out our salvation for it – through works of mercy and works of piety. Works of piety include individual and corporate prayer, searching and studying the Scripture, and receiving the Lord’s Supper. Works of mercy are those works where we do good, such as living simply so our resources are available to aid others; visiting the sick, lonely, or imprisoned; advocating for the needs of others and helping to bring about change.
Working out our salvation leads us along the narrow path. There will be moments of ease. There will be moments of difficulty. There will be moments of comfort and moments that make our skin crawl. There will even be moments of triumph and moments where we want to just give up. But we have to keep persevering. We have to keep moving forward that we – like Paul – will carry out our ministry fully.
Prayer: “Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be; thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early tun to thee. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to thee. Early let us seek thy favor, early let us do thy will; blessed Lord and only Savior, with thy love our bosoms fill. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.”*
* “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 381.