Phil Rizzuto, an eighty-nine-year-old Hall of Fame ballplayer for the New York Yankees, was in declining health and living in a nursing home in New Jersey in 2006. His teammate, buddy, and fellow Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, visited weekly. Yogi was in his early eighties. How touching and human for an older man facing his final days to be gifted with the presence of a longtime friend. As humans, we all need such friendship.
Paul sought the same kind of human warmth and friendship after charging Timothy to carry on his work of proclaiming the gospel. In verses 9-13, which lie between the two passages from 2 Timothy 4 that we are looking at this week, we find Paul asking special favors of Timothy: Come visit me! Bring Mark with you. Luke is close, and he is one of the few who still sees me. Oh, and by the way, bring some of my books and notes.
Paul laments that his friends had abandoned him at his first trial, which was like a hearing. It was a preliminary trial before the coming of a full trial that he still faced. Though they had deserted him, Paul felt the presence and strength of the Lord during this time. He describes it as being “rescued from the lion’s mouth,” referring, perhaps, to being rescued from the emperor Nero himself. This rescue was the spiritual sustenance Paul needed to face the impending full trial.
Thus, Paul summons Timothy and Mark to visit him. Perhaps the parchments Paul wants Timothy to bring would help Mark and Luke write their accounts of Jesus. What could be of more consequence than such a meeting! Paul underscores the importance of personal Christian encounters to work out the challenges facing the church. We are invited to do the same.
Dear God, guide us when we meet with other Christians to plan our ministry together. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.