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Timothy reads a letter alone in the marketplace

by davesandel on September 13th, 2021

Monday, September 13, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Timothy reads a letter alone in the marketplace

First of all I ask that prayers and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and all in authority, that we may lead a tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior.

Timothy sits in the public square, reading his letter from Paul. His tanned legs are crossed under his tunic, and his wiggles the toes of his right foot in the comfortable dust of the road. Timothy has had his share of rebellious days, but no longer. Broken both by circumstance and repentance, he realizes his place in the world’s culture is not what matters. It was never what mattered.

God wills everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all.

Once Paul’s message got under Timothy’s skin, he wept and wept. He couldn’t get the picture of Jesus on the cross out of his mind. That God broke out of his heavenly sanctuary and depended on his children to protect his son was impossible for Timothy to imagine at first. Those children that God had created killed him. Such blasphemy and misplaced pride! But Paul did not beat a dead horse, and eventually Timothy regained his composure. There was work to do.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the people should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

After all, Jesus worked to celebrate the Kingdom of heaven every day of his life. Paul’s encounter with Jesus convinced him to do the same. And now Paul asked Timothy, the workman, to dedicate himself to passing on the message of Jesus. “Just tell the stories,” Paul told him.

Jesus finished his preaching and entered Capernaum. A centurion asked Jesus to come and save the life of his slave. But when Jesus was just a short distance away, the centurion sent friends to say, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Only say the word and let my servant be healed. I too am a man under authority, with soldiers subject to me.”

Timothy didn’t understand at first. But the centurion was saying that Jesus could order the illnesses and evil spirits around because his Father gave him the power to do so. He believed that Jesus could do what his Father gave him the power to do, and he asked him to do it.

Jesus was amazed and said to the crowd following him, “Nowhere in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the centurion’s house, they found the slave strong and healthy again.

Timothy sat quietly on his chair, leaning back just a little. His mother had taught him not to lean back too far from the dinner table, and now he would never forget it. He stopped reading for a moment and closed his eyes. Timothy smelled the livestock and heard the carts. Their thick, round wooden wheels rolled, the oxen snorted, the drovers shouted. Boys and girls cried out selling olives and figs, eggs and oranges. Not many had the money to buy. Timothy heard two women walk by, talking in low tones. It was time for morning prayers, and Timothy began to chant under his breath.

The Lord is the strength of his people, the refuge of his anointed. Save your people, and bless your inheritance; feed them, and carry them forever! Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.

Paul asked him to do more than he could do. He wanted to leave Paul’s letter with his congregation and walk away into the wilderness. It’s easier to pray in the wilderness, away from all the distractions of daily life. He could pour out everything to the Lord. Isn’t that what Jesus himself did?

Hear the sound of my pleading when I cry to you, lifting up my hands toward your holy shrine.

But Paul told him that God was not in a shrine but inside him, in his heart and lungs and stomach and brain. Paul reminded Timothy how Jesus prayed alone, but then went out into the people, working his miracles, sharing what He knew about God, directing the people in how to live holy and sacred lives. Come on, Timothy! That’s for us to do too. WAS for us to do … now, my friend … it’s for you.

Timothy felt lonely, more alone than he had ever felt in his life. But his prayers bore fruit. He no longer considered abandoning his friend or his savior or his mission.

He opened his eyes again.

The Lord is my strength and my shield. In you my heart trusts, and I find help. My heart exults, and with my song I give you thanks!

(1 Timothy 2, Psalm 28, John 3, Luke 7)

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