Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our Calling

2 Timothy 1:1-14

This passage is a spirited challenge to be faithful to our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ. It could be interpreted just as a message of encouragement for church leaders, an ordination sermon almost, but in the earlier letters of Paul it is made very clear that mission is part of the calling of every Christian. So either this passage is a development of Paul's original ideas, by later theologians who saw a need to set apart leaders for the Church to guide and sustain it, or else - in prison and facing imminent death - Paul has begun thinking about the need to appoint Timothy as his successor and to ensure sound teaching in the Church. In either case, it is legitimate to see the message as applicable to every Christian, even if it has a special resonance for ministers.

The gift of God is within each one of us, as we are reminded at our baptism and confirmation. It is a spirit of love and self-discipline, empowering us to do God's mission, not relying on our own achievements and ability but upon the strength and energy that God will supply. There is no room, in the Church which Paul envisages here, for shrinking violets - for people who are afraid or ashamed to share their faith and to work for change in the world. This is because God's purpose for the Church is to transform the world around us.

Grace, which Paul talks about a great deal in this passage, means the undeserved gifting of God, bestowed on those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are willing to share in his suffering in order to share also in his transforming and life-giving power. This was unleashed by his death on the Cross. If we put our trust in him, he will take care of us. But that doesn't mean he will protect us from suffering and hardship. The Church is no place for cowardice. Instead we need to be resolute to follow the crucified Christ.

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