The Pastor, Evangelism, and Public Worship

I am renewing my commitment to a mid-week service this school year. Here is my mediation upon 1 Tim 4.1-16 for Evening Prayer on 21 September, A.D. 2011. It is a reflection on a passage that teaches us much about what a pastor is, what is the center of the Christian’s life and of the missionary life of the church.

A Man of the Word
Meditation for Evening Prayer
by Rev. Lance Armstrong O’Donnell, Pastor
St. Philip Lutheran Church and School
21 September, A.D. 2011
1 Tim 4.1-16

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching… Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:13, 15-16, ESV)

Timothy is the Pastor of the Church at Ephesus. Paul tells this young pastor to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching; that is, to use ecclesiastical words, to worship and instruction in the Word of Christ. Then Paul writes, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them.” Underneath the English word “immerse” in the Greek original is an imperative form of the “to be” verb. Paul is telling this young pastor to exist–to be–in worship and teaching, that these things are the center of the pastor’s vocation; indeed, of his very life. Paul is telling Timothy c. A.D. 65 that a pastor is a “man of the Word.” He said something similar to the whole church at Rome some 10 years earlier: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, ESV)

Indeed, the Word of Christ is the Word of Life, a stream of living water, a washing that reveals our self-righteousness and cleanses us by Christ’s righteousness, rendering us, in God’s sight, pure and undefiled; yes, granting us even a being and identity with the Holy Trinity, the creator, savior, and sustainer of all things.

Paul goes on to say something of further consequence in 1 Timothy 4.15. He tells Timothy that  the result of this Word-centered existence will be a progress, a growth in understanding and Godliness, that will be seen by “all,” and that persistence in this Godly teaching would save not only him but also all those who faithfully heard.

From this, among other things, we learn that public worship and teaching are central to the pastors of the church, to the people of the church, and to the missionary life of the church. Public worship and teaching are, literally, essential.

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