|a couple of ordinary ducks are joined by a royal spoonbill a majestic and wonderful bird. Just as we are joined as we move through our lives by the grace of God. (sorry a bit cheesy...how the sentiment is phrased not the Spoonbill).|
I don’t know about you, but the verse I just read out is one that is easy to overlook or forget or even disregard. We can see it simply as the "yours sincerely" that skip to see who the letter is from. Paul uses it in one way or another at the end of all his letters except Romans and Colossians. Often when we preach through a book we will stop before we get to it and in doing so we miss something of the greatest importance. We can miss the blessing of the grace of God.
Going through the letters to Timothy, the thing that stick out to me is the number of imperatives that Paul give Timothy. There is a lot of encouragement, but Paul is very definite about ministry and life expectations. Timothy is sent to Ephesus to counter false teaching, see that things were done in good order, leadership structures set in place, preach sound doctrine and godly living, deal with pastoral issues and social justice, looking after himself spiritually and physically.
Ministry and Christian leadership can feel like a whole list of imperatives of must dos. In our papers tonight we have reports from MSB’s and with one of them there is a good list of ministry expectations. It’s great to have them written out, out in the open and listed, but you and I know that there are a whole lot of expectations for ministers and elders that are never written down on paper or even spoken, but you certainly feel their weight. In fact at the ethics refresher course, which I attended as a result of another imperative, they said the key reason for complaints against leaders was unmet expectations. In a small parish they can run from putting the rubbish out, being the church secretary, visiting and pastoral care, leading the band and the worship and the awesome and wonderful privilege of preaching the word of God... and .. and… on and on…and elders along with that leadership role and all its imperatives have other functions and tasks you do in and for the church.
You can get burned out, caught out, feel put upon, resentful of the time away from family and life, even when you have good boundaries in place…
In the midst of that we need to hear the wonderful life giving message of that final formal short verse. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.
The grace of God in Jesus Christ is the thing that transforms it, that makes it more than simple a to do list.
The grace of God shown to us in the sending of Jesus Christ, his life, his death on the cross and his resurrection. God’s great love shown for us. How we are graciously forgiven and welcomed back into relationship with God and given new and abundant life. The good news that we as ministers and elders are called and set side for, to witness to and proclaim.
The grace of God, because of Christ and through the sending of the Holy Spirit, God’s abiding presence with us. A sure help; as the word paraclete that John uses of the Holy Spirit, tells us a learned friend who draws alongside. At the end of his letter and his life, Paul says that at his trial he was deserted by everybody, but the Lord stood by him and even though he is facing a death sentence he can say he was able to complete his task of preaching the Gospel to the gentiles and that God will bring him safely into his kingdom. The grace of God: God’s abiding and empowering presence.
The grace of God. That future hope of Christ’s return and ultimate victory. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul uses athletic metaphors to describe how he has lead his life, he has fought the good fight, run the race, kept the faith and he is able to look forward to the winners laurel as well, what he calls the crown of righteousness, Christ’s righteousness made compete in him. The same reward Paul says that is for all who long for Christ’s appearing, who long for and put first the kingdom of God.
The grace of God in the beginning, with us now and awaiting us as our future hope, through Christ, with Christ, in Christ.
Did you notice Paul gives the grace twice. One as a personal blessing to Timothy The Lord be with your spirit, and the other a more general blessing “grace be with you all”. So tonight know the grace of God is for each of one of you individually, hear it in the midst of the imperatives and ebb and flow of life. The grace of God be with you, Christ is with you.
Let’s hear it corporately as well as a church called to make Christ known, the grace of God is with us all, his presbytery, his region, his mission, his church and people his presence, his grace … Grace be with you all… grace be with us all.