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Tuesday, September 18, 2007
People of faith pray. The author of the letter to Timothy urges Christians to pray for everyone, including political leaders, so that all people may live in peace. (!) Our readings today encourage us to seek God’s reign of peace and wholeness – shalom – as we live as citizens both of our own countries and of God’s realm. 1 Timothy 2:1–7 As the decades passed after Jesus’ resurrection, the new Christian communities realized that Jesus would not return soon. They had to find ways to organize their lives for worship and service. Leaders like Paul wrote letters of teaching, explaining Jesus’ identity and work of redemption. They also wrote letters of encouragement and direction, suggesting ways in which the new churches might live according to the gospel. Paul first met Timothy in Lystra (Acts 16), and they worked closely together on several of Paul’s journeys. Timothy became leader of the Christian community at Ephesus, a church facing the challenge of false teachers. The letters to Timothy may date from a later time than the life of Paul, but they reflect Paul’s teaching and wish to pass on a lifetime of wisdom to a younger leader. In the focus passage, the author teaches about prayer, reminding Christians that there are many kinds of prayer and urging them to pray for everyone. Then comes the difficult question facing those who lived in the Roman Empire. Should a Christian pray for those in authority – for an emperor who was honoured as a god, before whose statue incense was burned and oaths taken? In a time of persecution, the author tells the community that they should pray for political leaders so that all might live in peace. This is not yielding to pagan custom, but a desire to see God’s peace (shalom) established, with justice for all people. For, the author says, God desires for all to come to the saving knowledge of the truth of the gospel. The author proclaims this message of inclusion because of belief that there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, Jesus Christ. In verse 6, Jesus is described as “a ransom for all.” Though Christian theology has several ways of exploring what this means, a cornerstone of the faith is belief that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ declare God’s victory over evil and bring new life. This is the kernel of the author’s message. Like the church in Timothy’s time, Jesus’ hearers struggle to find a way to live in the world, and yet not of it. In Luke 16:1–13, Jesus tells a story of the shrewd manager. Accused of squandering his master’s money, the manager visits the debtors with a plan to repay the master and provide for his own future. Jesus commends him for finding a way to live in the current situation and speaks to the responsibility to live faithfully into the shalom of God’s reign. Lament can be a prayer for shalom when the relationship with God seems broken. In Jeremiah 8:18–9:1, the prophet laments over Judah. The people have been unfaithful to God’s commands. Leaders have been carried off into exile. Why does God not help? Psalm 79:1–9 echoes Jeremiah’s lament, weeping over the destruction of the Temple and the death of the people at the hands of the Babylonians. This is what life is like in the absence of shalom. God is a God of redemptive grace, forgiving and restoring to wholeness all who call on God’s name. This week, we consider our lives as people of prayer. What does it mean to call on God’s name, to pray in Jesus’ name? As citizens both of our own country and of God’s realm, what does it mean to pray for those in authority? As we pray for peace, how do we work for justice?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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