Thursday, December 31, 2009

January 2010 Parish Letter

“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 . . . .”

[Collect for Festival of St. Timothy]

The latter part of January includes three days that commemorate teachers of the Apostolic Church. January 24 commemorates St. Timothy; January 25 marks the Conversion of St. Paul; January 26 is the festival of St. Titus. These names are recognizable, as they are scattered throughout the New Testament Scriptures. The life-story of St. Paul is told multiple times each year to our parish youth, as they study his missionary journeys in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. It makes him well known. But the other two men—SS. Timothy and Titus—are often less familiar.

This year, St. Timothy’s Day falls on a Sunday, so we will be have the opportunity to commemorate him in our Divine Service. The day designated for St. Titus happens to fall on the Tuesday that our Circuit pastors meet, so they also will honor him in morning worship. But why are these two men worthy of honor? Is it because their names appear in the New Testament? No, for there are others who do not receive such remembrance. Is it because they are inherently different than other men? No, they were mortals born in sin who needed salvation, just as all who are born of woman are.

The reason for commemorating SS. Timothy and Titus is the office they held and the work that they did. These two men are among the first clergy of the Church, the first beyond the Twelve Apostles to receive Christ’s authority to make disciples by baptizing, to proclaim His Gospel, to hand down to people everything that He had commanded them, and to remember His sacrifice by administering His Holy Supper. Their appearance marks the second generation of the Church’s leadership, the way that Christ’s followers would be led until His return.

The task given to SS. Timothy and Titus by St. Paul is mentioned in his letters to them. The apostle writes to St. Timothy: 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.”(2 Tim 4:1-2) Likewise, he speaks of the Gospel that St. Titus is to deliver to the disciples in Crete: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” (Titus 3:4-8)

Both men were appointed by the Church for the task of handing down the Gospel of Christ to people who had yet to hear of Him. In fact, most—if not all—of the people that SS. Timothy and Titus would encounter had never witnessed Christ Jesus when He walked the earth. They had not seen the miracles performed, the great crowds clamoring to hear His wisdom, the marks in the hands, feet, and side of His risen body. But these people became His faithful disciples. Why? Because men like SS. Timothy and Titus delivered His Gospel to them, the dynamic words of Christ that carry the Holy Spirit who makes dead souls alive. That great divine act accomplished through these two mortal men is what makes them worthy of honor.

The office of delivering the Gospel to new disciples through Holy Baptism, the proclamation of the Divine Word, the absolving of sinners, and the Sacrament of the Altar is how Christ has chosen to bring new people into His Church. That office is alluded to in the Collect of the Day for the Festival of St. Timothy, as seen above. It is an honorable task that is given by Christ. We confess that our Lord continues to place men into that office and continues to deliver His forgiveness, life, and salvation to present-day disciples through it.

So we honor the two men who were among the first charged with that honorable task. This summer, our parish will also have the opportunity to honor one of our members who was entrusted with that office 50 years ago. We do so, not because these men are inherently different than any of us. Rather, the honor is given because they have been instruments of Christ’s choosing to distribute salvation to another generation of people in need of it. Recognizing the divine acts done through them, we commemorate SS. Timothy and Titus. May all who hold that same office be diligent in their duties, and may we continue to receive Christ’s eternal life through them.

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