Monday, October 24, 2016

Pentecost 23C

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

6As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

16At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Brief recap: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, the "pastoral" letters attributed to Paul were not written by Saul/Paul of Tarsus, though some parts of the Timothy epistles reflect Paul's theology and bring us credible retrospective reflections on a life in ministry.

Vocabulary, grammar, syntax are not particularly Pauline. These letters bring us ecclesiology – the word about the church – with emerging church structure, instructions for officers, laying on of hands (ordination, consecration, commissioning). Famously we find instructions for women to dress modestly and be silent, assurance women will be saved by childbearing, demands that slaves obey their maters.

In Acts of the Apostles 17-20 we read a lot about the Paul – Timothy – Silas trio. Timothy, Paul's younger companion and sidekick, later became bishop of Ephesus.

Very not Paul are the references to immortality, which was a Greek-Hellenistic concept. Death and resurrection is the biblical one! In fact, for the apostle Paul, the gospel was death and resurrection. Good news!

4:6, poured out as a drink offering: The original readers would have known something about the wine/libation offered along with burnt offerings and peace offerings in the temple. This can reference Jesus' life and the lives of Jesus' followers poured out for the life of the world. Cup, chalice, also can mean one's calling, vocation, career, profession.

What is Pauline is how the Timothy letters incorporate Paul's convention of giving us mini-résumés / curriculum vitae. Also very Pauline is the emphasis on a life of faithful ministry that happened by grace, and not because of human effort. We also get cruciform imagery that brings us (thanks to Barbara's reminder last week) the vertical bar of the cross touching heaven to earth, earth to heaven, the horizontal bar of the cross connection all humanity and all creation with one another.

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