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The Courageous Ministry of Presence

October 18, 2011

Matthew’s Gospel is framed by Promise to Abraham in Chapter 1 and visit of the Magi in Chapter 2 at the beginning, and the Great Commission in Chapter 28 at the ending, to say that the Good News is for all people. Luke has a similar framing – but it, remember, is a two volume work. Luke Volume 2, which we call Acts, sets out a parallel between Jesus’ earthly call in Luke 4, and the Church, his body, in Acts 2. Luke 4 says that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring healing to a broken world. Acts 2 says that the members of the Church were anointed by the Holy Spirit, to continue Jesus’ ministry as his hands and feet in the world.

Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in prison. We believe he was released for a time, but then imprisoned again. This is where today’s passage from 2 Timothy picks up – and it shows Jesus bringing about healing through his Church, in the person of Luke himself.

Paul sees his end to be near. He writes to Timothy, whom he calls his “beloved child,” to give him a charge to carry on the ministry of sharing the Good News – like “In Flanders’ Fields,” where it says, “To you from failing hands we throw the torch: be yours to hold it high.” In the last part of his letter, Paul opens up and share his vulnerability. He’s an old man, facing a trial for his life, and he is almost all alone. Demas has left him. Others have gone elsewhere. Twice he asks Timothy to come soon.

But there’s one wonderful exception. In verse 11, Paul writes: “Only Luke is with me.”

What did Paul need from Jesus, through his Body? Paul didn’t need words, actions, healing of disease from Luke, just his companionship. He needed the ministry of presence. And Luke knew enough – loved enough – to provide it.

Sometimes, when we have friends or loved ones living with bereavement or Illness, we wonder what we can we do. Many times, the best thing we can do is sit with them, and offer the ministry of presence.

Courage is required to do this. Why did so many desert Paul in his time of need? It took courage to be with him, because association with criminal was a dangerous thing.

So is association with suffering people. It takes courage to be with people in the darkness of their pain. We face the danger of the self-protective bubble around our hearts’ being pierced with the nails of the Cross. It takes courage to love.

(from October 16 sermon)

  1. Anonymous permalink

    May I use your photo of two hands for a book cover?

    • Hi there! Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. If memory serves, I got this image from a “Google Image” search. As far as I know, it’s free for everyone to use. I wish you well in your book, and all other of your life’s endeavours.

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