I was just discussing this week with one of my professors that there is a big difference between the preaching I have done and the preaching I am doing now. There is something completely different about walking through the week with a scripture passage and seeing the people you are going to see on Sunday and walking with what’s going in their lives as well.
Before, I floated in and out of congregations hoping that something I said or prepared would be relevant not knowing when or if I would see them again. (Not to mention in this preaching schedule, I had 3-4 weeks in between each preaching engagement to prepare!)
But now as I prepare, I am not thinking abstractly about who could be there. I am thinking and praying concretely about specific people and specific needs.
I can’t help but think that maybe that’s how Paul felt as he wrote I and 2 Timothy. He knew he was writing to and he knew some of the problems and concerns he was dealing with and he wanted desperately to find some way to offer guidance and help. And maybe, this wasn’t supposed to be a letter that we were even going to see. Maybe this was supposed to be just a private exchange between Paul and Timothy and there wasn’t supposed to be any other audience.
Would Paul really have wanted everyone to know that he said, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,” (I Timothy 1:12-14) or was this meant to be a private confession to a dear friend?
It’s hard to tell and it’s even harder in age when so many things are public via social media to determine as a pastor whether to shout the story of your experience with everyone or whether to treasure those interactions personally and privately.
I think Paul, whether he originally intended these words to be shared or not, would be happy to know that his words and his experiences were making the other former blasphemers and persecutors know the grace, love and mercy of Christ Jesus.
Even as a pastor who is journeying with a specific people through a specific time and place, I can’t know everything my people are going through, but we can walk together uplifting and encouraging each other along the way.