Sometimes, we aren't called to finish the job...
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began— in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior,
To Titus, my loyal child in the faith we share: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.
There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach. It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.”
That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Instead, we are called to plant the seeds. To be honest, I don't really like Titus. At least, I don't like this passage. I've seen it used too many times as an explanation as to why women and LGBTQ persons aren't to be ordained. When I took a class on the Pastoral Epistles in seminary, it amazed me to learn that many scholars attribute this letter, along with 1st & 2nd Timothy, to a student of Paul rather than Paul himself. They talk about the context of the times, about the authority that women held in the pagan world. They talk about the ever-present conflicts between Jews and Gentiles.
Regardless of who wrote Titus, when, or why, what strikes me about this letter is that instructions are being given to put in order "what remains to be done." in Common Prayer, the Compline prayer states...
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that... we may never see the results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets for a future not our own.
As a hospital chaplain who encounters many people grieving the loss of a loved one, I know that I will not see the end of their grief process. I will not be there when a memory brings a sigh of comfort instead of a sting of pain. I will not show up at the first, or second, or tenth anniversary of when someone's mom/dad/brother/sister/aunt/uncle/someone-who-can't-be-replaced died. I am there at the start, beginning the work, trusting God to continue it on God's own or through some other seed planter.
What are the seeds you're called to plant? What task is God asking you to start, or maybe finish? Is your call to the beginning of a mission, the middle of it, or the end? What are you called to "put in order?"
**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**
photo credit: Chrisseee (via Flickr)