“….you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
1 Timothy 3: 15
1 Timothy 5: 9-16
Visions and reality. How many times in history, and indeed in our lives, has a vision been unsuccessful because the reality of its fulfilment has failed in the delivery of its detail? There are great ideas and ideals that never succeed because as the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the detail.’ The Gospel was and is the absolute ideal. It is the truth of God that provides genuine freedom, real equality and eternal life all wrapped up in a relationship with God to be lived out in His community, the Church. As this truth hit home in the immediate aftermath of Christ’s death and resurrection the early Church ballooned in growth. As new Churches were established and began to grow they each encountered their own peculiar problems in their context. A lot of the content in the letters of the New Testament is about how to live out the truth of the Gospel in the reality of the recipient's situations. This passage today is all about that type of detail. The Vision of the Gospel has been laid out (1 Tim. 2: 3-6) and now Paul is having to get into the detail of how the Church in Ephesus is to live the Gospel in their circumstance.
The life of a widow was a huge challenge because of the social structures and culture. The focus is there because there were obviously difficulties and challenges for the Church. Three key principles arise from the detailed directives though which we can consider for the Church of today. Firstly those seeking provision from the Church must be in genuine need (vs. 9-10). As Tom Wright puts it, “Converts of convenience are not to be tolerated when it comes to social practical support.” Secondly, and linking to the first point if people are able to help themselves or be helped by their family, this should be the first course of action rather than looking to the Church whose resources will be limited. Thirdly there is a warning against idleness (vs. 11-16). Restlessness can result which can lead to interference in other people’s lives and gossip.
It strikes me that Paul had clearly received the ‘Vision’ of the Gospel. He worked very hard to proclaim God’s Good News but equally hard on the details to ensure the growth of God’s Kingdom in the reality of people’s lives. The Church community today needs to base all on God’s truth but must also work hard on the details of relationships within. Many a division, hurt and difficulty arises because we do not deal with the ‘small’ matters; we can also over focus on the minutiae. In a different interpretation of the saying, ‘the devil can indeed be in the detail,’ the neglected detail. A balance of attention to both the big picture and small detail is required for a healthy church.
To Ponder: In your Church what details need to be focused upon to progress the Vision of God’s Kingdom, His Gospel?
What are the different ways widows (and indeed widowers) need the support of family, others and Church today? Are you being called to help?
Pray: Bless your church throughout the world by your Holy Spirit, draw the scattered flock of Christ into a visible unity, and make your church a sign of hope to our divided world. Grant that we who bear your Son’s name may be instruments of your peace, bringing peace to our homes, our communities,
our nation, and our world. Amen.
Praise: Here O Lord your servants gather
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuBs1ukENIE
Make me a channel of your peace
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT8bybL_DqY
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.