Saturday, May 26, 2007

how to say goodbye

I always feel slightly voyeuristic reading the end of 2 Timothy. Like i'm standing in the doorway of a hospital room as a father and son share their last moments together. It feels like we're on emotional ground, like if Paul and Timothy turned around and saw us, we wouldn't be welcome at all. Of course, thats not how scripture works at all, but thats the air i feel surround the end of this letter.

Of course the reason for that, is that's whats happening. Paul, who loves Timothy like a son (1:2) knows he's about to die. He's been abandoned in prison by a lot of those who supported and looked after him, and things look bleak. This is it, this is goodbye, this is i'll see you in glory. You can almost feel Timothy cradling the paper in his hand, weeping over the last message he'll ever receive from his mentor and dear friend, reading it over and over again to make sure he's got every last ounce of that Paul wants to say to him before he dies.

And what does Paul say? Paul is man, if ever there was one, who did not waste his life. Paul is a man that knew the way to inexpressible joy, and being able to be 'rejoicing yet sorrowful' was to show Jesus Christ as supremely valuable in all he did. And he faced death in the same way. Paul fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith (4:7). He had done all that was asked of him in his life, he had done all that he could do in every situation for the Lord. he had been obeidiant to the Lord in Corinth when he had to wait for people to be saved, he had wept real tears over his jewish brothers who didn't see that Jesus was the Christ. He planted churches more or less all over the known world. He'd fought the fight and kept the faith. Ans he finished the race. He did not decide near the end to give it all up. To get out of prison and enjoy his last years in the sun, to take the easy way out. He stayed faithful to the end no matter the cost.

And what's the result of that? The crown of righteousness. The very great reward. The fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord. Joy inexpressible forever and ever and ever. And thats not only for Paul, but all those who love Jesus and His appearing (4:8) What encouraging and inspiring words from Paul. How helpful Timothy must have found them, as Paul was not shaken or worried by being in prison or his impending execution, this would be what kept him going.

And what was Paul's last message to Timothy? What does he want Timothy to remember near the end of his letter? What is Paul's last request of Timothy? To preach the word (4:2). In season, and out of season, being patient and passionate, using the word to reprove, rebuke, exhort and teach. This is the Gospel that bound them together and to Jesus. This is their common bond, their common faith, their common life. Preaching the Gospel. And what an audience Paul calls upon to witness this charge. God and Christ Jesus (4:1). Thats how important this message is, that the Lord of the universe Himself is called to witness to whats being asked. Surely there is no greater audience and no greater charge. Preach the word.

Paul doesn't pretend it will be easy. What a present word this is as Paul tells us that 'the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine' (4:3). Timothy will face opposition. Tragically people will turn their backs on the Gospel to something else, something more palatable, more respectable, more believeable. Horribly they will build faith systems that pervert the Gospel to meet their own felt needs, thus turning their backs on what would meet all their needs all the time. Paul could have written this yesterday. Here's my point. As my students leave Guildford, as the week just gone marks more or less my last contact with most of them before i leave Relay, this is the charge i want to leave with them, these are the words i want them to remember me by.

Preach the Word.

In season and out of season, when you're buying Christmas cards and tinsel, when you're stocking up on sun cream, whether you feel ready or not; preach the Word. Mission weeks, freshers' weeks, carol services, teas and coffees', thursday night. Preach the Word. Please. People aren't always going to like it, people mostly won't like it. You'll be called arrogant and stupid and sexist and wooden and old fashioned. Preach the Word. People from within and without will tell you to do things differently, that times have changed, that we need to do this new thing. Preach the Word.

This Gospel is all we've got. If we change it, we lose it. If we water it down in the name of tolerance or love, we risk sending people to hell. And that is very unloving. Show the University of Surrey that Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. That He the fountain of delights, and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore. Thats love, in demonstrating faithfully clearly and passionately who Jesus Christ is, that people might be saved.

Preach the Word.

1 comment:

Cat said...

Oh yes! Preach the Word... :o) We will miss you Ed! Keep being Cool ;o)!