Remembering Relationships

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 1.3-6
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 

Reflection: Remembering Relationships
By John Tillman

One of the best things about Facebook is how it reminds us of our relationships. Cynically, we could grouse about how this is solely an attempt to increase engagement, but that’s not the point…

On birthdays, Facebook often recommends that we share memories in the form of previously tagged photos as part of a birthday greeting. (I expect a few on my birthday.) Most of these photos are not only reminders of the relationship but of happiness and joy.

Much of the first chapter of Paul’s final letter to Timothy contains this kind of reminiscence. Paul calls to Timothy’s mind the key moments of their relationship and the key moments of Timothy’s relationship with Christ. Images flash by: 
The faithful women who taught him the faith, his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice…
Paul laying hands on Timothy…
The spark of spiritual gifts in young Timothy’s life…

But the memories are not all positive. There is also the image of Timothy’s tears the last time he was with Paul. There are images of Paul’s sufferings: the many beatings, stonings, arrests, and trials. The most concerning image that arises is of Paul alone—abandoned by everyone in a situation in which Timothy was powerless to help.

The life of faith, if lived rightly, is one of great highs and great lows. At times we may feel powerful, as if the very river of life was bursting out to bless those around us. At times we may feel weak and dry, as if we cannot summon enough spit to swallow. In the highs and the lows of the Christian life, it is helpful to share our burdens with others. Paul shared them with Timothy. They both shared them with Christ himself.

We, if we are followers of Christ, can bring to mind images of precious or difficult moments in our life of faith. Let some of those rise to your mind now. When a prayer was answered… When a friend chose faith… When a blessing surprised you… When a mentor or leader set you up for success or gave you the opportunity you needed…

Even when we feel alone, like Paul, Jesus never leaves us. And even then, we can reach out to others in Christ’s name. Reach out today to a friend. Remind yourself, and them, that they are not alone on the journey of faith.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 46 (Listen 4:49)
2 Timothy 1(Listen 2:37)

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Calloused Hands and Softened Hearts

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 1.12
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

Reflection: Calloused Hands and Softened Hearts
By John Tillman

In suffering for the gospel, Paul carried with him a joy and purpose that he worked to pass on to Timothy and to us.

Paul, when writing this second letter to Timothy, knew that his life was coming to an end. Reading between the lines, one can hear the certainty with which Paul feels his death approaching. 

Paul does not encourage Timothy with any false hope of things improving for Christians or for Timothy. In fact, by his prayers and what he writes, he seems certain of problems and crises for Timothy rather than ease and comfort. He invites Timothy to, “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

Some interpretations of the Christian faith have, from time to time, trended toward pie-in-the-sky, escapist fantasy—as if the great purpose of the gospel was only to leave this world behind. 

Gospel Christianity, fully embraced, realistically addresses the now and spiritually embraces the future. Few religions do both. The Bible shows us a Christ—with dirty, workman’s hands—fixing, healing, and working in the muddy, bloody now of the New Testament. His heart is soft for those far from God and for those hurt and damaged by this world. Following Christ, our hands will grow calloused and our hearts will be softened as we work to meet needs and change the world now.

The Bible also shows us a Christ wielding axe, fire, and wrath. This Christ will end the diseased and broken version of creation we live in and bring about a restoration. This Christ also comes individually to us to end our inner world that is equally diseased and broken, restoring us to our potential.

There is suffering coming to our lives.
There is death coming to our lives.
There is destruction on its way.
We may still be encouraged. This is true not because our suffering will be ended by Christ, but because Christ suffers with us.

There is coming a day on which the world will be no more. But this does not mean that our earthly efforts are wasted. We, like Paul and Timothy, are working alongside Christ. 

We, too, may know in whom we have placed our faith and trust. 

Walking with Christ, we will be:
Shameless in suffering
Personally assured in belief
Convinced of Christ’s ability, not our own
Guarded by Christ Jesus

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” — 2 Timothy 1:12

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30)
2 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:37)

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