Today in St. Paul’s 2nd letter to St. Timothy we are looking into the mind of an Apostle who knows the end is quite near for him.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Wow he could almost be reading from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and in fact he likely knows it pretty well.
Eudaimonia is the Greek philosophical term for the life that has been well lived, and is in fact over. One cannot ever take a complete measure of a man till the whole deal is done, as we Americans say it… Till the fat lady sings.
St. Paul has spent some many years as an Apostle by this point, this will be one of his later writings. He will in suffer capital punishment in Rome in about the year 65, some 3 decades after the death and Resurrection of his Christ. So far as we know he did run the good race, he did stay true until the end and suffered a noble death as an Apostle, and Martyr. Nothing has ever materialized to the contrary.
Like I love say though. “Christianity would be a lot easier if it were not for Christ chiming in as he always seems to.” Right when I have a good system running, have covered all my bases, have everything humming like clockwork, here comes Christ Jesus via his Gospel, and sends my whole system backside over teacart.
Well by golly I am a newly ordained priest, I have tried real hard, I have 3 parchments from 2 seminaries. I show up at my given parish, I do my work most dutifully. So do all of you right? You all show up here, you pray, you pray your morning and evening prayer at home as you should. You in fact do all you can to live out the summation of the Decalogue as best you can. You love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself. I am sure you do. I do this as well, though oft failing via human weakness.
Now comes your Christ in Luke 18 ff.
Do not take the path of the justified Pharisee, who got it all right, who had the whole deal laid out. Who got his religious training, who gave his tithe, who kept his fasts, who did all that was expected with great religiosity. Meet every single rubric if you wish, and it is a noble aim.
At the end of the day Christ has it exactly right. In St. Luke’s Gospel. “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The tax collector, the scum of the earth has his theology spot on when he says this prayer. He knows who he is, he knows what sin is, and he knows who God is.
This text eventually evolves into the Jesus Prayer from our Eastern Orthodox brothers “Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
So with St. Paul, we do have the utmost confidence in the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ Jesus, and our faith in that work.
But we are always on guard against hubris, that is pathological pride, even though Christ is more than we could have possibly hoped for, and more than we imagined, we never take him, his work, or our salvation for granted. We still have free will, and we keep on trying as best we can Every single day, every moment, and at all times.
You could always choose not God right up till the very end, but I know that you will not.
Christ Jesus, Son of the living God. Have mercy on me a sinner . . .
Sermon given by The Reverend Randy Rogers while The Very Reverend John H. Munson recovers from surgery.