Week of Proper 14, Year One[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)
2 Samuel 13:23-39
In today’s second reading, Paul speaks with some of his friends for the last time. These friends are the leaders of the church in Ephesus, and Paul is on his way to Jerusalem to be imprisoned and killed. Paul tells these friends and colleagues, “I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again.” This scene ends with weeping and embracing, and we should pause to enter its grief.
We can also pause with this passage to think of Paul in the way that he himself wanted to be remembered. The image of himself that Paul wanted to leave behind is found in a few words that he repeats twice: “I did not shrink.” These words tell us something very important about the way Paul wanted us, his heirs in faith, to remember him.
Paul first uses these words to remind his friends that, from his first days among them, he was generous and bold: “I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house.” Paul never held back his help or his words when it came to teaching others about faith, whether in public or in private.
Paul also uses these words to remind his friends that he gave them fair warning about the consequences of becoming a Christian. Joining the church would put them at risk for persecution, deception, and even death. He says, “I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” In Paul’s ministry context, it could be highly dangerous to be a Christian, and Paul did not neglect to mention these risks.
How can we keep ourselves from shrinking today? Paul did not shrink from helping others or from facing hostility. He did not shrink from telling good news or bad. In honor of Paul’s last words to his friends and co-workers, perhaps we can find some moment today to stand taller and speak louder, to extend a hand to help someone, or to face someone’s wrath. Then we too can say at the end of the day, “I did not shrink.”
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.