Friday, October 21, 2011

II Timothy 4 - Paul, cold and alone

Cold and alone.

Winter is coming.

Some of us are cold and alone.

I am one of them of course. I seek from myself neither pity nor denial. What can I do? Go all stoic? No. I will do what Paul did. In jail, alone, no coat, winter coming, Paul asks his son Timothy – twice – to come before winter, and bring a cloak.

One solution for both problems, no burden to anyone. Paul reaches out to someone he loves and who loves him. Does he repeat himself because he is getting old and forgetful? I don’t think so. In forgivable self-interest he asks Timothy once for the cloak, and again to come before winter, because he doesn’t want his discomfort to be forgotten. He does not want to endure a dank Roman winter in chains, cold and alone.

Timothy, Barnabas the encourager, Titus, Mark, Luke the doctor/writer, compassionate Onesiphorus, hard-working Lydia – these people are Paul’s family. Except for that nephew back in Acts, whatever family of Saul of Tarsus had seems to be dead to Paul the Apostle, either in fact or by their own choice. His brothers, sisters, and children in the faith all work hard in the “family business,” which is bringing God’s glory to the nations. Paul is the father /sole proprietor. They are bound one to another by love, faith, Spirit, and common mission.

To deal with the “cold,” I went on Front Porch Forum and found an Overnighter wood stove to replace my smaller Defiant. The seller is someone I met in the 5K Labor Day road race, whose son is in the same grade as Imani at Lamoille, and who as an admissions person at Johnson State gave me good advice should Tim desire to re-enroll there someday. I don’t know if this person is Of The Faith but I do know that I have reached out to another Cambridge person and made my winter more comfortable at the same time.

As for “alone” – through December at least I will blog. After that God knows. Griefshare ends in November, but God willing I will stay in touch with some or all of my fellow grievers, and other single people who daily walk the narrow path alone. The holidays will be close family times, very intentionally I am sure. Like Paul, I will find His love as I do my part in the family business of giving God glory in music, missions, and Montpelier.

And by His grace I will believe God for the exciting, the unbelievable, the impossible, the stuff that makes the nations rise up and say “Glory to God, He has done great things.” And again I turn to Paul in II Timothy 4 and his plea for Timothy to come by winter.  When he wrote these words, perhaps sick and shivering and alone, could he have known that his simple plea for human warmth would inspire a Gethsemane decision in a saint of God 19 centuries later?

The year is 1939. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a leader of the German Christians opposing Adolf Hitler, has fled to America to avoid the draft. He did not fear military service, but in conscience he could not fight for Hilter nor would he expose the Confessing Church he led to the charge of cowardice and treason.  So to the joy of American evangelicals he came to New York to speak the Word here, to minister to European refugees, and above all to prepare for the reconstruction of the German church after Hitler’s (hoped-for) defeat.

But it was no good. The swirling bonds of love and duty to God, the brethren and Germany were too strong. Aghast at the worldly sermons of New York’s Riverside Church of whom he was an honored guest, an unmarried man missing the close fellowship of the German teaching communities he led in almost Zinzendorfian fashion, he took refuge in the Losung, the German church’s missal and prayerbook. On June 26, 1939, in the height of agonizing indecision – “should I stay or should I go now?” he read the passage in II Timothy 4 translated as “Do thy diligence to come before winter.” After long reflection he noted in his journal, “it is not a misuse of scripture if I take that to be said to me. If God gives me grace to do it.”

And so he returned, and led the church amid persecution, and plotted with the Stauffenberg group (“Valkyrie”) to kill Hitler, and was imprisoned and executed.

I get the Free Press three days a week, and every morning that I don’t I read “Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxas. The chapter on the New York trip, with its journal entries about the agonies of determining God’s will and his trenchant observation on the American church (“Tomorrow is Sunday, I wonder if I will hear a sermon”) and the American concept of freedom and civil engagement, is priceless. But the whole book is great, so far. And in Montpelier, as in Berlin, there are those who would hasten the death of the “useless eaters” of health care resources.

Will something I write, say or sing this winter echo into eternity to His glory? YES, if God gives me grace to do it.

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