6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
St Paul is at the end of his ministry. He knows that his martyrdom is round the corner. The Roman Emperor Nero will soon condemn him to death. He knows that he is going to die soon.
He uses two metaphors to describe how he is feeling: firstly, the description of a drink offering poured out on the altar in the temple; sacrificially poured out, never to be recovered; but not wasted, because it is sacrificed on the altar….
And the second metaphor is ‘departure’ the greek word suggests the time for pulling down – striking – tents or the release from shackles, so that a boat can sail out of harbour and put out to sea.
A journey about to begin
There is no more which can be done in his life. No more which can be built. No more which can be achieved in his life….
Perhaps there are those here today at this CAMEO lunch who identify with that feeling…
But Paul looks back on his life and his ministry of 30 years in this letter to his young friend and follower, Timothy. He speaks of what he has done, not boastfully but factually using the metaphors of a soldier and an athlete: ‘I have fought the good fight’,‘I have finished the race’.
He recognises that he has done what he set himself out to do, which was to accomplish the ministry which Jesus had given him.
He has been a guardian of the gospel given to him. What he has done has involved work, sacrifice and danger…..in all of these Paul has been faithful.
He is confident that he can meet the Lord Jesus Christ, face to face, meet the real judge – not the Emperor Nero, who will be simply the instrument, by which he meets his death.
He is confident that the outcome of his meeting with Jesus will be a positive one.
He says ‘From now on there is reserved for me, the crown of righteousness which the Lord
the righteous judge will give me on that day’
Can we all feel so confident?
You see he is not looking back on his life and saying ‘what I have done in my life is good, on balance’.
He is not saying: ‘I have done some good things which should outweigh the bad things’. He is not saying, as I have been horrified to hear at some funerals, ‘I have done it my way…’
Remember what Paul was, before he encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus…
I think the now dead Jihadi John, might be a modern equivalent, the sadistic ISIS murderer who delighted in the murder of Christians.
Paul himself looked after the coats of those who threw the rocks which killed the first Christian martyr, St Stephen. But now he can say that he has done what Jesus has called him to do.
Its as if that other life, that life, before he knew Jesus, had never existed
How can this be?
How can it be that if you are judged on your life, your time as a sadistic murderer of the followers of Christ is just ignored?
The gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ is this: (In the words of Tim Keller
a brilliant church leader in New York) ‘We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe. Yet at the same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.’
You see the trouble with us humans, is that we tend not to think of ourselves as very bad, we tend not to think of ourselves as sinners. We judge ourselves to be pretty good actually provided we don’t end up in gaol or the gutter. Respectable life in England, gives us the false impression that we are alright, really.
But because we don’t see ourselves as sinners, we can never experience, the forgiveness that Jesus offers us, if we turn to him.
It is only when we experience that forgiveness only when we know that he has forgiven us that we can truly be those people, like Paul, who long for his appearing; who would, in the words I used to a lady I met here, at the Don Giovanni concert on Sunday, crawl over broken glass to get close to Him,
Because what He offers is more precious than our wonderful life in the Valley more precious than our houses, more precious than our savings or pensions more precious even than our families, more precious than life itself.
If you know Jesus already, then this talk is not for you
But if you don’t know him, please do speak to me later at lunch or afterwards
All you have to do is to say ‘Will you come and see me Alex?’
And we can talk this over in the privacy of your own home
It’s my job and my joy to do this, and we will pray for you to have the forgiveness that Paul received and the confidence that Paul shows as he prepares to meet his judge.