2 Timothy 4:2
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
I used to have a cartoon on my study wall, it showed a Minister deep in prayer over a sheet of paper blank except for the word Sermon written at the top. His prayer was “Please please Lord give me a Bible passage that will fit with the great illustration I have come up with”
It always reminded me of the time when in the midst of a sermon suddenly everyone was awake straining to hear what the preacher would say next, anxiously the congregation looked at one another just to check everyone else had heard him say what they thought he had said and yes he had actually said “Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent asleep in the arms of another man’s wife” the whole congregation held their breath waiting what revelation would come next He continued after a dramatic pause “And that man is my father”
Just by chance there was visiting the church a young minister on holiday, like all ministers who hear a good story in a sermon he made a mental note to remember it. He never had occasion to use it until one day in mid sermon it occurred to him it would fit very well with his theme. So he proceeded to tell his congregation about how some of his happiest hours were spent in the arms of another man’s wife. It was then he struck a problem and far from a dramatic pause there was a long silence until he had to admit “…. But for the life of me I can’t remember who she was..”
I wonder if Peter, Paul and John or indeed Titus and Timothy ever had an occasion when they got tongue tied? As a student I once remarked in a Children’s address how even if he lost his sermon notes the Minister, Rev David Butters, would still be able to deliver a good sermon. When he entered the pulpit later in the service David assured the congregation I had more faith in his ability to think on the hoof than he did.
A fellow student of mine did his Probation at a rural parish in Aberdeenshire. It was a very lively church and he mostly enjoyed his time there the one fly in the ointment was the absent minded Minister who just as they had said Vestry prayers would turn to him and say “I’m right you’re preaching this week aren’t you?” “No you chose the Reading so I prepared a children’s address” “Ah well I’m sure you’ll come up with something good” Later he said it was good in some ways as he learned to always have a complete service prepared.
Church I attended as an observer in Malawi, to see how the two students attached to the congregation performed after the Session Clerk had allocated the Elders duties the minister as he picked up his Bible said “OK Sarah you do the first prayer, Simon you do second prayers, I’ll do the Baptisms and Bob you can preach, lets go” I was very glad Malawi services are as long as they are giving me plenty of time to dream up something!
Paul gives excellent advice to Timothy although I suspect over the centuries of Church life many a congregation may have given another interpretation to the “with all long suffering” phrase.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, may we hear your word wherever and whenever we are. You speak to us always, so open our ears that we might hear, open our hearts that we might accept, open our lives that we might do.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,