Today's reading is the memorable ending of 2 Timothy, which provides Paul's memorable final words reflecting on his ministry -- his has "fought the good fight"; he has "finished the race"; he has "kept the faith." This is no accident. The hope of this letter is to pass the baton to other preachers and evangelists who will continue to teach about salvation through Jesus Christ after Paul has died. These people -- Timothy and others -- will preserve Paul's legacy in uncertain times.
Today's reading provides one key challenge that good teachers face. Chaos and persecution will create a host of false teachers -- unsettled times and anxiety make space for a wide variety of explanations as to why things are so crazy. Some people will offer captivating explanations that will lead many astray from the truth. (Unfortunately, 2 Timothy has a terrible gender bias and believes that women are the most likely to fall victim to this false teaching. Of course, it is equally alluring to men as well as women.)
A good Christian teacher will follow the example of Paul, through steadfastness of example and wise words, sharing the wisdom of scripture and the example of Jesus Christ. And a good teacher will earnestly try to keep others from being deceived by false teachers.
Today's reading offers a brief description of the kind of teacher that Paul wants Timothy to be. He must be willing to suffer in order to share the gospel, and he must offer teaching about the most essential lessons of Jesus.
It seems that some Christian teachers have become distracted by speculations or trivia. Paul likens their teaching to "idle chatter." Others seem to have become entangled in controversies. These things only cloud the gospel. A good teacher shows maturity by avoiding such unimportant things and focusing -- no matter what -- on the essential things. In this way, a preacher can become one of God's most useful workers in the church.
Today's reading is the beginning of the second letter to Timothy, which encourages the young associate of Paul to continue the great apostle's ministry. From his youth, Timothy was raised to be a great preacher, following the example of faith given to him by his mother and grandmother. Paul expects that Timothy will continue to serve the church as a preacher and teacher, but worries about the opposition and challenges that he will face. The saddest of these is not persecution from non-Christians, but betrayal from so-called Christians -- which Paul himself has experienced (and has the painful scares to show for it).
2 Timothy is ostensibly a personal letter from Paul to his young associate, Timothy. It is meant to encourage the young preacher to continue spreading the gospel, following Paul's example and standing up against an increasing number of false teachers.
However, this letter was probably always meant to be public. It is a symbolic "passing of the baton" from Paul to the next generation of preachers who will continue to build on his efforts to establish and nurture Christian congregations. And it is a warning -- there are many who claim Paul's legacy who are not teaching the gospel that Paul preached. Instead, some are offering easy and appealing answers; others are getting bogged down in unimportant controversies. Regardless, they are leading people away from the truth of the gospel.
The problem of false teachers is exacerbated by the times of persecution and unrest. Anxiety and fear creates a climate where people desperately look for explanations for what is going on and why. Good Christian teachers need to provide a clear vision of God's truth in these hard times, especially when others offer easier answers.
Today's reading tells of Jesus' brutal death by crucifixion. After his trial, he was whipped and mocked, then lead away to Golgotha, where he was crucified with two thieves. Numerous people came by the cross, taunting Jesus and insinuating that if he truly was who he claimed to be that he would not die in such a way.
As Jesus breathed his last breath, there was a massive earthquake, which opened graves and split the massive curtain in the Temple in two. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The Jewish leaders convinced Pilate to station guards outside of the tomb, expecting Jesus' disciples to steal the body.
Today's reading describes the darkness of Good Friday. Jesus was led away to be crucified between two criminals. Time and again, Jesus offered comfort and forgiveness, rather than resistance or anguish, to those nearby. Even while on the cross, Jesus showed mercy to the criminal who asked for mercy, promising him a home in paradise. Then, after he died, Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a faithful Jew who was sympathetic to Jesus' teaching.
Today's reading describes the iconic Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples. While religious leaders were plotting against him, Jesus planned to celebrate Passover with his disciples. During that meal, he transformed its meaning for his followers. The bread and the wine became symbolic of his body and blood, given for them as a sign of a new covenant.
Today's reading tells of several events that led to Jesus' crucifixion. At the beginning, we read of the plot among religious leaders to have him arrested, eventually convincing Judas Iscariot to betray him. We also are reminded that Jesus himself predicted his own impending death. An unnamed woman anointed him with ointment, something usually done to prepare a body for burial. Lastly, Jesus shares a final meal with his disciples -- the Passover -- and he gives new meaning to the bread and wine on the table, as his body and blood of a new covenant. Then Jesus goes out and awaits his own arrest.
Today's reading describes the events of the first Palm Sunday, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. Riding on the back of a borrowed colt, Jesus encountered a cheering crowd that unnerved the Pharisees. Once in the city, Jesus wept, knowing that the city would again be captured by foreign armies. Then he went to the Temple, confronting those people who were selling things in God's house, and infuriating the Jewish priests and leaders, who began plotting for a way to kill the rabble-rousing teacher.
As Holy Week begins on this Palm Sunday, Godsway 66 continues its two-week break. This week there are bonus readings from the gospels about Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and Jesus' crucifixion and burial. The overview for the next book, 2 Timothy, will be posted on Easter Sunday, March 27.
Today's reading recounts the trial of Jesus before the Jewish council (known as the Sanhedrin), the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and the Judean King Herod. Mostly, Jesus remained silent in the face of questioning. Despite finding little actionable evidence, the Roman leaders bowed to the pressures of the Sanhedrin and the public outcry and sentenced Jesus to death. The last attempt to spare his life was rebuffed by the crowd, who asked for the release of Barabbas instead.
Today's reading describes the events that happened after Jesus' arrest. The Jewish leaders took him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, for questioning. Pilate could find no reason to execute Jesus, and tried to find a way to release him -- through the practice of granting clemency to a convict during Passover. However, the crowd demanded the release of the Barabbas instead of Jesus. So Pilate washed his hands and allowed the crucifixion. While this was going on, the man who betrayed Jesus, Judas, was overcome with guilt and remorse. He tried to undo the deal, but was unsuccessful. He threw the money he had received in the Temple and then committed suicide.
Today's reading is the account of Jesus' last night, according to the Gospel of John. Here Jesus is completely aware of what is happening and is, despite being under arrest, in even in control. He willingly presents himself to the soldiers to be arrested. Then, under questioning from the high priest Caiaphas and then Pilate, Jesus confounds their expectations, eventually leading an exasperated Pilate to ask, "What is truth?" In between these scenes, we have the heartbreaking scenes where twice Peter denies knowing Jesus.
On Sunday, Rev. Joshua Patty preached on the first letter to the Timothy. This letter, addressed to Timothy, the young co-worker of Paul, offers a vision for leadership in the church.
The letter presents the church as a Christian household, similar to the households of the ancient world. Those households were larger than immediate biological families, and the various individuals had various responsibilities and levels of influence based on their age, their gender, their relationship to the head of the household, and their legal status. The head of the church is Jesus, but there are also positions of responsibility and influence that need to be filled.
The challenge, though, is that the church is different from the ancient household in one key way -- in the church, everyone is equal. However, there are still positions of leadership that need to be filled. In some ways, this is Timothy's key responsibility as the minister of the congregation -- to identify the right leaders while helping Christians to live out their equality.
Today's reading details what happened after the Last Supper. Jesus went out to pray at the Mount of Olives, with a heaviness of anxiety and grief over he and the disciples. The Judas arrived, along with police and soldiers, betraying his teacher, who arrested Jesus. One disciple, Peter, tried to follow, but when he was confronted outside of the high priest's house, he passionately denied even knowing Jesus, three times. Realizing this -- and remembering Jesus' prophecy that he would do this, Peter broke down and wept.
Today's reading provides some of Jesus' teaching to his disciples about the consequences of his impending death. While Jesus implies that there are still things he wishes he could teach the disciples -- but feels they would not understand, he focuses on what will happen to them and around them after his death. They will be saddened; they will be scattered; they will be persecuted. However, they also will receive the Advocate, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they have the promise of complete joy when Christ returns and, in the meantime, peace of mind, if they trust the words of Jesus.
In preparation for Holy Week, Godsway 66 is taking a break for two weeks. During this time, there are bonus readings from the gospels detailing Jesus' final days, his trial, and crucifixion. The overview for the next book, 2 Timothy, will be posted on Easter Sunday, March 27.
Today's reading is the ending of the first letter to Timothy. In addition to final instructions and encouragements, there is a contrast between the lure of earthly riches and what is truly valuable. Money can lead people astray and cause them to do all sorts of evil and destructive things, and so leaders in the church must keep a clear eye about money -- the minister, most of all. However, the good fight for faith is filled with things worth much more than money -- godliness, love, gentleness, endurance. Those who live in this way store treasures in heaven, which dwarf the riches of earth.
Today's reading offers general observations about the basic courtesies that should be given to others in the church, by age, by gender, and by whether they are legally slaves or not.
The longest section details the qualifications of widows in the church. Such women were supported financially by the church so that they did not become destitute; the implication is that they performed certain duties for the congregation in return. However, too many women seemed to hope for this support, so there are restrictions. First, women who can be supported by their extended families after the death of their husbands should rely on them, rather than the congregation. Second, women who are not old should marry again. Mostly, this policy hoped to guide support to the women who needed it most, although their is an implication that younger women had caused problems in the church.
There also is a brief section on elders -- members of the presbytery -- who evidently received financial support for their work in the church. Aside from those who were preaching and teaching elders, like Timothy, it is not clear what their responsibilities entailed; however, there is a concern that they receive their salaries, even when their actions rankle members (except when two or three witnesses can prove that the elder is in the wrong).
Today's reading offers instructions for how Timothy is to act as a minister in the congregation. He is to prevent false teaching and practices from taking hold in the congregation and set a personal example of godliness for everyone else. His main responsibilities are in the reading of the Bible, preaching and teaching the doctrines and practices of faith. More than anything, a good minister focuses on these things so that people have a good foundation for their faith.
Today's reading offers the basic personal qualifications for people who wish to serve as official leaders in the congregation. In this portion of the letter that includes the positions of bishop and deacon. In order to be qualified, people must not only be people with true faith, but they must also be recognizable as leaders by the wider (that is, the non-Christian) community. A key part of this is based on marriages; the implication seems to be that people must be loyal to their spouse and not have other extra-marital relationships. (Sometimes it has been taken to slight people who are married multiple times, but elsewhere in the letter widows are encouraged to marry again, so it probably is referring to infidelity.)
Bishops seem to have been responsible for the congregation's money (sort of a combination CEO and treasurer), so they needed to have demonstrated an ability to handle money outside of the church in their own households, as well as having good moral character. Deacons could be male or female and probably handled a variety of church affairs (which are hard to figure out from the description). They too needed to be upstanding moral figures in order to be official leaders in the church.
Today's first reading is the beginning of the first letter to Timothy, which offers a description of the proper ordering of a congregation. It begins with the person entrusted offering religious teaching, the minister; in this letter, Timothy, himself.
Sound Godly teaching comes from training, both through experience with God in forgiveness and with other faithful teachers. Timothy needs to rely on these things, not speculations as unfaithful teachers do.
The second reading provides instructions on prayers, but it basically presents the worldview of this letter. Prayers are to include political leaders and they are to be offered by people behaving (and dressed) appropriately. In essence, to be a good Christian, you must have learned to be a good citizen, respecting the leaders and the social ordering of the community, including the appropriate roles for men and women.
Today, Rev. Joshua Patty preached on the second letter to the Thessalonians. Like 1 Thessalonians, this letter was a response to persecution facing the congregation. Evidently, some felt that the hard times were part of the "Day of the Lord" or the second coming of Jesus.
This was not so, and the letter addresses fears that such teaching is leading the congregation astray. Worse, they might be led so far astray that they will be judged by God when the actual "Day of the Lord" arrives, and be found lacking in faith. Christians must never forget the awful division that will happen then -- between those who will receive salvation and those who face eternal punishment.
The challenge with this letter, which is so rooted in fear of punishment, is that the approach seems so different than that of Jesus himself. Jesus tried to teach and exemplify a faithful relationship with God through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice, not through fear.
1 Timothy is the first of three personal letters from Paul that are collectively known as the "Pastoral Epistles." 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus each offer instructions for how to organize and lead Christian congregations.
1 Timothy presents the church as the "household of God." This is meant to be helpful parallel to the households of each person's family. As in any household, there are proper and appropriate roles for everyone. More than this, though, 1 Timothy believes that people who are recognized as being exemplary in their family households should likely be the leaders in the church. They handle their affairs honorably and well, they know how to manage finances and cultural expectations; having gained people's respect in the wider community, they have respect in the church. This also means that the roles of women are limited in the church; they can do no more than they can do in the wider culture.
According to this letter, there are some basic leadership positions in the church -- minister (who in this letter is Timothy himself), bishop (a sort of chairman/treasurer), deacons (both men and women who perform a variety of functions), elders (who were ordained and evidently paid), and widows (women who performed certain roles in the congregation in return for financial support. It is the minister's role to provide sound teaching, so that only people who should have such leadership positions are named to them.
Last Sunday, Rev. Joshua Patty preached on Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, in which the apostle worried that the young church might lose faith in the face of persecution (or the treat of persecution).
With these fears, Paul sent both a personal representative -- Timothy -- and this letter to encourage the congregation. Timothy reported that the Thessalonians were keeping strong in their faith, and were filled with love and concern for Paul.
This demonstrates a basic way to encourage people facing persecution or abuse -- reach out to them with prayers, with letters, and with visits so that they are not isolated. And remind them why they are doing this, and that others are cheering them on. (This is not a bad reminder in our own time as well.)
Today's reading is the conclusion of 2 Thessalonians. Mainly, it encourages the Thessalonians not to just wait on Jesus' return, but to remain active in life and in their duty to spread the Christian gospel.
On a deeper level, though, it continues the theme of distrust which runs through the entire letter. Do not trust those who lead you toward evil things. Do not trust those who tell you the endtimes have already begun. In fact, don't even trust someone because they say they are a Christian, especially if they seem lazy or are just gossips. The stakes just too high -- you don't want to be misled into Hell.
Today's reading is continues the exploration of judgment when Christ returns. Some people, because they are suffering persecution for their beliefs, have started to believe that this the struggle prophesied at the Day of the Lord has already begun. According to 2 Thessalonians, it has not.
Instead, when Jesus returns he will directly confront the earthly leader who has made himself a god and is leading people astray from the true God. Until that time, Christians need to keep growing in their faith, using the suffering they are enduring to strengthen their works of faith.
Today's reading is the beginning of the first second to the Thessalonians preserved in the New Testament. It features stark warnings for Christians about maintaining their faith in a time of persecution.
Having been warned of God's impending judgment at the return of Jesus -- what was described in the Hebrew Bible as the Day of the Lord, the Thessalonians are told just what is at stake for those who will be punished in God's final judgment. They will suffer eternally, completely separated from God.