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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 15, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  2 Timothy 2:14–26

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.

Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (NRSV)

Tradition holds that this letter called 2 Timothy is another Pauline epistle. That traditional authorship is challenged in biblical scholarship (with good reason), so for now, let us assume that a beloved pastor is writing to you and sharing concerns that he or she has about your community of faith. So take a moment and reread this section as if it were written to you, today.

When I do that, I am amazed at how contemporary the letter sounds. “Avoid wrangling over words. . . . Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. . . . Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know they breed quarrels.” This letter, like many of the letters we have as a part of our biblical story, is concerned with the quality of the congregational life. The writer wants to make sure that the members of the body, Christ’s body, are acting towards each other in ways that recognize and honor each other’s God-given baptismal identity. Don’t be quarrelsome, but kind, he writes. These instructions are as pertinent in communal life today as they would have been all those thousands of years ago.

I suppose I take some comfort in knowing that we, people of faith, have always been a complicated lot, perhaps even a tad ornery from time to time. Conflicts and disagreements have always been a part of the fabric of church life, apparently from our very beginning. Perhaps conflict and difference of perspective, like Fred Buechner once said about doubts, can also be “ants in the pants of faith—keeping us moving, growing, changing.” This writer simply warns us to learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

Creative God, I marvel that you have made us all family with each other, in all our beauty and brokenness. Help us to live in ways that pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. May we keep each other growing in our faithfulness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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