It is good to be back in the saddle again, although I am not sure I am glad to be back to the cold weather. It was 81 degrees every day on my Central American cruise. I’m not rubbing it in, I am just saying…. It is hard coming back when it is this drastic a difference. My day doesn’t feel ordered yet, but more of a mash of emotions, trying desperately to remember how to do laundry (can you say “obstinate”, anyone?)
The Letter to Titus jumped out to me this morning. The writer is exhorting them wise up and be more self-controlled. He is looking for order beyond the chaos
Most scholars believe this letter to be written by an unknown author, written in the tradition of Paul. His concern is the leadership of the early church in Crete, and uses Paul’s name as a mark of his authority. There is conflict within the church and among its leadership. It is hard to know the nature of the conflict, but the letter drives home the importance of creating stability in the congregations by upholding good leaders and condemning false leaders.
In other words, the letter encourages good order, something the Presbyterian church spends much time talking about, but often struggles with.
Today’s passage is particularly problematic, telling the old men how to live into God’s teachings, then the older women, the younger men, and finally telling “slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect.” This passage, and others like it, have been sadly used to support slavery for centuries.
The author of Titus was speaking to the people of his time, and attempting to get them to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Remember, this is also the same good news that reminds us in Christ there is no male nor female, no slave or free, but all are submissive to Christ. What would it mean to live upright lives today? What would that look like, now that the Spirit is no longer speaking to the people of that time, but to our time?
Imagine how this letter might look if it were written today. My last church had crafted their vision statement to model much of Titus’s trajectory: At St. Paul’s we strive to: worship weekly, pray daily, learn constantly, serve joyfully, live generously.
As we think about our service to God and our practices, what needs redemption? Critique your practice and describe what faithful service looks like. I agree with St. Paul’s; I think God would start with our worship, our daily prayer, our work of formation, our service of outreach and inreach, our stewardship. He would encourage us toward mature self-control and discipline.
And what a proper time for this type of reflection, as we move into a new year. It is a wonder time to turn over a new leaf, and recommit ourselves to living, learning, and serving with a routine of joy and generosity.
How can we more faithfully worship weekly, pray daily, learn constantly, serve joyfully and live generously?
As our Luke text foretells of the birth of Jesus, Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” God can do miraculous things. God alone can transform our stagnant spirits into joy. We must be willing to trust and follow, and give God a chance to work. I have a feeling a daily routine of prayer and worship would be a good start.