Saturday, March 4, 2017

An Example

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you have toward your people. O, visit me with your salvation. - Psalm 106:4 (NKJV)

I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. - 1 Timothy 1:16

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 33:1-5; Ezra 4; Acts 28:7-16

Today, Paul's note about being "an example" makes me think of several people I've known.

I think of Ken Macy, whose funeral service was the most recent I've done at Zion. Ken was a retired Marine, a Master Sergeant and drill instructor. To his family, he sometimes called himself "chief of sinners" (the phrase used in the King James Version in today's 1 Timothy passage, translated here as "foremost"). Ken talked with me at times about how he had kept a strict, even harsh standard in his work with Marines and with his family - all for the sake of making them strong enough to withstand what their enemies would eventually aim at them.

I think of Sharon Walker, whose birthday is today. Sharon, like me, is a pastor who was formed in Christian faith at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Mulberry, Indiana. This little small-town congregation, in an area that's kind of an outpost for Lutherans, has sent at least three people into ordained ministry in recent years. I can't speak for Sharon or anyone else, but for myself, I know that a number of the members and clergy at Gloria Dei have been examples for me of a life of Christian discipleship and service.

I think of Paul, who in the Acts 28 reading for today finally makes his way to Rome. As today's verse from 1 Timothy proclaims, the story of Paul making the final leg of the journey from Malta to Rome shows him reflecting God's patience, compassion, and mercy. Paul is well received on Malta because of his care for the sick, and in Rome because of his reputation as a teller of God's story and encourager of others. His reason for coming is for a trial before Caesar, the result of a long and violent campaign against him by his opponents - and yet, even here, he sees the opportunity to be an example of God's love for the world.

And I think of you and me. God seems to delight in touching the lives of ordinary people with grace, mercy, forgiveness, creativity, passion, and not a small amount of humor. We're right to receive this grace with gratitude and awe, and to rejoice in seeing how God transforms our lives into something more beautiful. But even beyond that, we all become an example of what God can also do for others. Paul's point in writing this little section of 1 Timothy is to say: "Look what God did in my life! And if God did that in me, as imperfect as my life was, just think what God can do in you."

Today I'm thankful for the people I've mentioned, and many others, who have been examples of Christian faith and life for me. And I'm thankful for all of you who read this, even if I don't know anything about the details of your life, because I know that God can work in you, and through you, with enough love and grace and patience for the whole world.

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