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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, September 19, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Timothy 1:12–17

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason 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. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (NRSV)

Do you think Paul might have shed a few tears as he wrote these words? I ask because Paul is completely candid in this part of the letter. He does not try to pretend that he did not have his murky past. He does not gloss over the things he did, declaring that was then and this is now so everyone just needs to move on. No, in some ways his forthrightness reminds me of what those in recovery do to make amends: they state clearly the ways they know they hurt people when they were lost in their addiction, for they know that honesty is the only way forward.

Paul knows that too. So he clearly lists the myriad of ways violence and vitriol had flowed freely in his life before he met Jesus. He does not try and pretty anything up. Perhaps that is because he also knows that, despite all of his sinfulness and brokenness, Jesus came for him. Jesus met him where he was, looked him in the face, picked him up, dusted him off, and gave him the gift of a new life. Paul knew that if he was not honest about his past (and continuing) brokenness, then the power of the forgiveness and mercy he discovered in Jesus might be muted, and he did not want that. He wanted everyone to know that the only thing anyone can ever say about a person who does not know the love of God is “Not yet.” For Paul, that is everything. It saved his life.

Giver of Life, give me the courage I need to admit the ways that I fall short of living fully as your child so that I, too, will again feel the power of your mercy and forgiveness—things that you have already given me even in those moments I do not sense them. Help me to feel them today so that I, too, might live as your new creation. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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