24 January 2008

St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor

Today the Lutheran Service Book calendar thanks God for St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. It's more than just a "Commemoration"; it's a full "Feast and Festival" with three readings appointed for the Divine Service (Mass). Here are some reflections on those readings.

Acts 16:1-5
In the first reading for this feast day, we read how St. Paul first met Timothy and how he recruited Timothy to join him in the service of preaching the Gospel. Timothy was "the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek." How interesting that Timothy came from a family of one pious parent and one parent who was, well, we just don't know, aside from his nationality. For whatever reason, most likely his father's will, Timothy was not circumcised. So as St. Paul recruited Timothy into the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he chose to circumcise Timothy in order that the Gospel might have a hearing among the Jews. From this reading we see that God most certainly can and does use us weak, earthen vessels, with all of our family and personal baggage - actually, despite all our baggage! - to proclaim His goodness and mercy in Christ Jesus crucified and risen. After Timothy joined St. Paul's missionary entourage, "the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily." A great testimony to the Messiah and the message that St. Timothy was called to preach!

1 Timothy 6:11-16
In this reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy on being a faithful pastor, that is, a shepherd of souls. He urges the young pastor and confessor to flee the self-serving, wealth-seeking ways of the false teachers (6:3-10), and then he lists severals things that are to characterize faithful pastors: "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness." St. Paul urges Timothy - and, by extension, all faithful pastors - to "fight the good fight of faith" and "take hold of the eternal life to which you were called." While the pastor may indeed serve and help people in this life, even with bodily needs, his ultimate aim, his chief goal, for himself and his hearers, is faith and eternal life - that is, life in communion with God, both now and into eternity. As Timothy also learned from St. Paul, the pastor's main business is to make the good confession. And what a great example of the good confession the Apostle gives to Timothy in verses 14-16! How different this is from so many modern views of the pastoral office that urge us to be congregational CEOs, junior psychotherapists, company men always on the lookout for the next faddish way to excite people, lure people, gather crowds, etc. Faithful Pastor Timothy shows us what truly matters: confessing Jesus Christ crucified and risen, "the King of kings and Lord of lords."

Matthew 24:42-47
While the Gospel reading does not mention St. Timothy, per se, it does extol the pastoral office. Just as Timothy was, so are all pastors called to be "the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time." The pastor is certainly set over his congregation, but only as the servant of the Master, answerable to Him. No, not a servant who kowtows to the whims of the fellow servants and merely seeks their momentary pleasure and all-too-fleeting approval. Rather, the servant who does the Master's bidding for the spiritual benefit and eternal life of his fellow servants in the Master's household. And what is the "faithful and wise servant" - the pastor - given to do? "Give them their food at the proper time." Of course, he is not to mistreat his fellow servants, nor lord it over them, etc.; but neither is he free to give them whatever faddish pablum or worldly false nutrition that he can innovate on his computer or unveil from the denominational corporate office. Like Timothy, the faithful pastor is to give out the Master's food - the very Bread of Life - the Master Himself in His Body and Blood and in the "bread" of His Gospel message. And once again we hear a clue about the ultimate aim of the pastor's work: not this life, but eternal life - life with the blessed and holy Trinity. He is to keep his fellow servants awake to the life and love that God gives in His Son. His message is this: "Here comes the Lord Himself, both now - in the Gospel's message of mercy and in the Sacraments of water, bread and wine, and absolving words - and on the Last Day - when the Master returns."

As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy: "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1). What a "noble task" this Office of the Holy Ministry is! What a great example we have in St. Timothy! Thank You, Lord, for Your saint who learned from St. Paul and who passed on the "good confession."! And so, for all pastors who want to be faithful and follow in the footsteps of St. Timothy, we can do nothing better than emblazon on our minds and hearts the words of 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Hymn Verse:
All praise for faithful pastors,
Who preached and taught Your Word;
For Timothy and Titus
True servants of their Lord.
Lord, help Your pastors nourish
The souls within their care,
So that Your Church may flourish
And all Your blessings share. (LSB 517:11)

Collect of the Day:
Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (LSB Collects of the Day)

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