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REKINDLE THE GIFT (2 Timothy 1:6)

The first part of our community’s theme for next year, “Rekindle the gift,” is taken from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy: For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6). In the original letter in Greek the word used is anazo-pureo, which is translated literally as “stir up.” Thus the New American Bible translates the phrase as “stir into flame the gift of God.” 


On Paul’s second missionary journey, he came to Lystra, a city in central Anatolia, now a part of present-day Turkey. There he met Timothy, a young man who had become a Christian and was devoted to serving the Lord. Timothy was born of mixed Jewish and pagan (Greek) parents but his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, had earlier converted to Christianity. Timothy began to follow Paul after meeting him. He served as Paul’s representative on missions to Thessalonica, Corinth and Philippi. He was in close contact with Paul during the latter’s imprisonment in Ephesus and was also with him at Corinth when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. He is listed as a coauthor of four of Paul’s genuine letters (see 1 Cor 1:1, Phil 1:1, 1 Thes 1:1, Phlm 1). 


Paul’s second letter to Timothy is very personal as it acknowledges the plight of Timothy and his church. He addresses Timothy personally, sympathizes with his difficult job, and encourages him in many touching ways to persevere. Timothy faces day-to-day problems and unpleasantness including serious and pressing problems related to the orderly succession of leaders. Timothy’s community is beset with serious doctrinal problems which threatened the gospel. Some of the community’s leaders left while others seemed to be advocating unacceptable doctrines. The leadership had weakened. Love seemed to have grown cold. In his letter, Paul complains of loneliness and abandonment but he relishes the kindness of fellow Christians. His sense of impending death motivates him to confirm Timothy and to authorize him to appoint successors. He urges Timothy to strengthen the internal character of the church and to solicit and confirm new leaders. Paul wants Timothy to strengthen the faith of the developing church and to rekindle the love that seems to have been lost or has grown weary among the members of the community. His letter allows us topeek into a community in transition, a community in need of change. 


The “gift of God” mentioned in the letter refers to the special gift of the Spirit conferred on Timothy through the laying of Paul’s hands. It includes the gifts of ruling and teaching which are necessary for the performance of the many and important duties to which he was called. This gift is depicted here using the image of a fire, which will be extinguished if not stirred up or if fresh fuel is not added to it. Paul is urging Timothy to take care of the sacred fire of the Holy Spirit so that it does not languish in his heart. He is asking him to watch the flame, to keep it burning brightly, to stir up the flame that it may not burn dimly or extinguish altogether. 


A closer reflection on the words of Paul in his letter to Timothy suggests that Timothy was probably one who tended to be diffident, one who sought to avoid direct confrontation with people, or one who did not want to alienate others with a strong stand on issues. If we were to meet Timothy, we might be impressed by his great warmth and love, but it would be a love that tended to be too accommodating – a love that might accommodate what is wrong and harmful just to avoid hurting thefeelings of others.


On the other hand, we get the sense that Paul was a man of deep, authentic love who never shied away from confrontation. An example was when he publicly rebuked Peter. Timothy had a shepherd’s tender heart for the sheep but Paul wanted to develop within him the boldness necessary to really lead and protect the flock. The first part of our 2018 theme has a two-fold meaning or message for our community. Firstly, it means that the community is being asked to rekindle the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we used to experience and enjoy during the early years of the community – the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, faith, healing, prophecy, mighty deeds, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. We are asked to restore the vibrant worship—the loud praising, the raising of hands, the jumping and dancing – that the community used to witness during its early years. We are asked to stir up our prophetic utterances during community worship so that they are authentically Spirit-led and not reportorial or discursive. We are to rekindle the fire of evangelization and service that used to burn in the hearts of senior members – former leaders and elders – so that, although no longer as strong physically as before, they can better contribute to the evangelization and pastoral work of the community. We are asked to rekindle the fire among the young to once again volunteer to work as full time pastoral workers and missionaries, as they did before in droves, by vigorously implementing focused and funded evangelization programs where they could actively participate rather than posting them in clerical or event-organizing tasks.


But although all these are important and should be rekindled, we ought to be reminded of Paul’s admonition in his letter to the Corinthians: If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-3)

 

This, we firmly believe, is the second and more important message of the first part of our new theme – to rekindle love in the community. Love of God and love of others ought to be pervasive, authentic and pure. Love is lacking if slanderous letters circulate within the community or malicious whispers are made during selection of leaders. Love is wanting if leaders are hesitant to address issues in brotherly dialogue directly among opposing groups. Love is deficient when leaders accommodate what is wrong and wrongful just so no one’s feelings are hurt. Love is weak when leaders who have pastoral responsibility shy away from the thankless job of patient correction and brotherly guidance. Our theme, therefore, is timely. It is time to rekindle God’s gift of love. 

Added on Monday, October 23, 2017



 

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