On this sabbath day in thousands of settings, faithful Christ-followers take their places of leadership to teach, praise, preach, and pray. They have studied, prepared, and centered themselves in the presence of God’s Spirit in hopes that the people of God on this day might be led to worship with transforming sincerity. Hopefully, most who gather will participate with enthusiasm and abandon. But some will be distracted and some will only look on or sit with arms folded across their chests, judging all that happens before them.
As Paul concludes this letter to Timothy, his words come from the depths of his spiritual journey with the Lord. He is well-acquainted with onlookers, doubters, detractors, and self-appointed judges. Living boldly as a disciple of Jesus is daunting in our secular and humanistic culture. Many around us look with a wary eye on our devotion to Jesus, our radical commitment to the way of the cross. But Paul cheers us forward: be persistent, proclaim the message. In these closing words, Paul reminds us that God’s loyalty to us and our loyalty as messengers are intertwined. Our task as leaders comes in our faithfulness to the God who stands beside us, in our willingness to be servant voices to the truth of God’s message.
As we hold God’s word in our hands this day, may we be filled with gratitude for this gift and both humble and patient as we teach it and preach it. It will take our whole lifetime to receive the blessing God intends for us. How audacious that God would entrust this powerful message to us! With grateful hearts we embrace it and with glory to God forever and ever we tirelessly proclaim it.
Pray your favorite scripture, acknowledging it as God’s gift to you.
The Hebrew scripture readings declare the salvation of humankind and insist that the initiative for that sal- vation comes from God alone. The prophet Joel looks forward to the day when all Israel’s sons and daughters will become as prophets in the land. Psalm 65 is a psalm of thanksgiving for the “God of our salvation.” The writer of Second Timothy elevates his own achievements by means of athletic imagery, but the reading concludes with an acknowledgment that strength and deliverance have come and will come from God. The story of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke suggests the perils of ignoring the fundamental truth of Joel 2 and Psalm 65. The Pharisee presumes that his achievements are his alone; the tax collector knows that prayer begins and ends with a cry to God for mercy.
• Read Joel 2:23-32. In the face of tragedy, how can we encourage one another to see with Joel’s eyes?
• Read Psalm 65. What in the created world brings words of praise of the Creator to your lips? What ridges and furrows in your life need God’s softening?
• Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. What would it look like in your life to run the race God has set before you without striving to outrun others?
• Read Luke 18:9-14. Where might God be inviting your grati- tude? How can your gratitude to God lead to tangible love of a neighbor you might have otherwise disregarded?
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