Monday, October 14, 2019

Pentecost 18C

2 Timothy 2:8-15

8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

We started with a very short version...

...of my intro to the pastoral epistles and the Timothy letters from three years ago, 2016.

The two Timothy letters and the epistle to Titus sometimes are called the Pastoral Epistles. [side note: "pastoral" means rural.] The apostle Paul definitely did not write them. 1 and 2 Timothy contain vocabulary and syntax Paul never used; some of the words are in no other NT document.

Authorship and literary conventions were very different in the first and second centuries, without our well-developed and very legally-tinged concepts of copyright, intellectual property, and reuse rights. What we'd call "false attribution" was no big deal back then; it could be a compliment to a colleague, classmate, or teacher; it simply could indicate the author's attempt to continue writing in the style of the person cited as author; it could lead to wider readership if people thought someone famous was the author. The person who pulled together these letters – probably around the start of the second century – wrote them as Paul's final summary discourse with reflections and advice: "Concluding Unscientific Postscript."

The pastoral letters emphasize emerging church structure and organization, "ecclesiology," =the word about the church. As soon as you have many people with similar goals and purposes you need organization. We find requirements for bishops/overseers, deacons, widows—"Church Ladies". We read about laying on of hands, which would be ordination, commissioning, consecration of people called to public, vocational ministry. The Timothy letters refer to immortality—a Greek or Hellenistic concept that implies lack of death. Resurrection from the dead is the biblical reality; you need to die in order to be resurrected!


2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the Dead—for the Apostle Paul, the gospel, the good news is death and resurrection. Though Paul didn't compose this letter, it bears some marks of his theology and this is a strong one.

2:9b But the word of God is not chained. This may have been a prison or captivity letter as we find in Paul's Philippians letter, later on from Martin Luther at Wartburg Castle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and many less-renowned individuals, thus the "chain" reference. God's word is not in handcuffs and shackles, not in a county jail cell or in a federal prison. The written word and Jesus Christ the incarnate Word are not captive to geography or culture or nation (thus no national flag in the worship area), not limited by any time or any place; they are wired for every time and every place. God's word is free-range, has no boundaries or borders.

However, we get to interpret/conceptualize and contextualize the word for this place, this time, and especially for where our neighbors and newcomers to church find themselves. The NRSV Bible we generally use is a revision of the RSV where this verse says, "The word of God is not fettered." So poetic!

2:11-13 probably is a hymn already known to the recipients of the letter, similar to the hymn inserted into Philippians that tells us Christ Jesus did not count equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant....

Where We Live

"Wrangling over words!" The written word can be a bit ambiguous? The spoken word, as well? So God gave us the incarnate word, and continues giving the world an incarnate, enfleshed, living word through us, those baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection. Each of us walks, prays, and talks through responses to our neighbors in this very ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhood. People from all types of backgrounds come to church, join us, often choose to be baptized. We need to be adept at contextualizing, enculturating, translating into their vernacular.

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