Thursday, September 09, 2010

1 Timothy 1:12-17 14

Pentecost + 16 - Year C

1 Timothy 1:12-17 14

How does one save a sinner?

  • There is an internal prompting - a prodigal child gets hungry enough to humbly return.
  • There is a faithful waiting - a prodigal parent actively scans the horizon for a sign of return.
  • There is threat of worse to come - a hot wind is about to blow (talk about your global warming!)
  • There is renewal against all odds - fortune happens.
  • There is gratitude - mercy is received.

Different sinners respond to different stimuli.

Paul says there was already a saying out and about (perhaps even seeded by Paul himself) that explains Jesus - he's a sinner saver. This matches up nicely with people who consider that they need to be saved in order to arrive at eternal life (a supposed high value goal). Together, mercy offered and mercy received, a strong bond is established.

In every age there are those who don't emphasize eternal life as a major goal. They are far more focused on a present paradise than on a postponed promise. What value might Jesus have if it is not sinner saving for some later time? Is it enough that faith and love that are in Jesus simply were shown to one and all (some able to receive and some not)? This is not conditional, that it needs to be accepted to be fulfilled, but simply what Jesus does and invites others to also do - trust and love.

This passage is tightened up if verses 15 and 16 are deleted. They are tangential to Paul being strengthened (as a current witness, not for eternal life) and praise of a changed life flowing forth.

This also is worthy of acceptance: Jesus lived in this world with abundant mercy, abundant life. Those able to receive it were blessed and shifted from violence to non-violence that the abundance of life might be maximized. This application of mercy to violence brings eventual wholeness - not automatically, but holistically. So it is that Jesus is less about outcome and more about process.

It is helpful to meditate on the difference between Paul's statement of Jesus's mission (saving sinners for eternal life) and John 10:10b, Jesus' understanding of what he was about (abundant life). What is the interplay between abundant life, eternal life, and present life? Obviously abundance can overflow into some forever, but focusing on the overflow isn't quite the same as attending to the regular flow.

A case in point is my mother who finally died last night. Her work attended to the present without much talk about eternity. Each of her children and grandchildren experienced her as being on their side (that's a lot of differences to be affirmed, mercy to be extended). Her goal was to be engaged with the life in front of her and to encourage growth. Not much, perhaps, but well done and people came to overflow their bonds and bounds.

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