We have focused on rescue and restoration in the scripture lessons for this week. There is another word that begins with “R” that is appropriate for today’s reading: release.
Paul writes to Timothy while in prison in Rome. The first two paragraphs of today’s reading are personal. Paul anticipates his own death. It is time for Paul to pass the baton of ministry to Timothy, so Paul gives instructions. He urges Timothy to proclaim the gospel, to hold fast to sound doctrine, and to be wary of times when followers of Jesus will prefer messages that distract them from the truth. So Paul charges Timothy: “As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2 Tim. 4:5).
Paul then writes the most personal paragraph of all his writings. In his charge to Timothy, he writes, “As for you.” Then he turns to “As for me.” It is time for Paul to depart from the earthly confines of the body and for his soul to be released to “the Lord, the righteous judge.” Paul is unafraid of death. He has dedicated his life fully to his calling. He has “fought the good fight,” and he has “finished the race and kept the faith.” He is ready for the crown of righteousness, which is reserved not only for him but for all who long for Jesus.
Paul is saying to Timothy, “It is your turn.” Take this charge. Paul’s work continues in Timothy. The same is true in every generation. We run the race of faith, teaching others to carry on the ministry when we find release from the body and fulfillment in Jesus.
Loving God, we give thanks that you hear us. Draw us closer to you as your children. May we learn to put our complete trust in you. Amen.
The theme in the readings from the Hebrew scriptures is “abundance.” Joel speaks of the time of plenty in the land of Israel. This abundance is not only physical, for it includes a generous outpouring of the Spirit of God. The psalmist sings of abundant rain that allows the land to flourish. The hills, meadows, and valleys all sing praise to God. Second Timothy 4 contains the scriptural passage that brings us closest to the death of Paul. The apostle has been abandoned by many, but the Lord stands by him as he faces his likely imminent death. In the Gospel, Jesus warns us about the dangers of pride. The Pharisee in the parable thinks his personal goodness brings favor with God, but God desires a humble heart.
Read Joel 2:23-32. How has rain been a sign of God’s impending provision in your life?
Read Psalm 65. How has God’s forgiveness freed you to participate in creation’s joy?
Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. When has God strengthened you in the face of evil?
Read Luke 18:9-14. What aspect of your life do you need to approach with renewed humility?
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