“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”
St. Paul’s charge to young Timothy in II Timothy 4:2 was spoken to me 40 years ago at my ordination into the Holy Ministry. As I reflect upon that charge, I realize what an awesome responsibility was given to me that day.
Paul, after speaking about the usefulness of Holy Scripture in equipping “the man of God” for every good work, gives Timothy this solemn charge to use that Word of God in his ministry with diligence. Before witnesses, Paul places Timothy under oath before God to carry out this important assignment.
Timothy is to do his work being ever mindful that one day he will have to give an account to Jesus Christ, and hopefully he will hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Timothy is to “preach” the Word in all its truth and purity. That included preparing interesting sermons and Bible classes that presented the holy and inerrant Word of God to the people in a way they could understand! He was to be “prepared in season and out of season”; in other words, to share God’s Word at every opportunity the Lord presented to him.
Timothy was also to “correct, rebuke and encourage.” He was to expose sin and correct people with the Law of God, but he was also to encourage them with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, with the forgiveness of their sins! He was to do this work “with great patience and careful instruction.” He was not to look for quick results, but to strive to instruct with great care, explain Law and Gospel clearly, and pray for the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of his listeners.
Forty years ago, that charge was given to me in my ordination. During the years I have come to better understand the gravity and seriousness of that charge. What a privilege it has been to be able to “preach the Word of God” and to spiritually care for God’s people! Not only did I strive to preach the Word, I also tried to live according to that precious Word, in a life that would set an example to the people around me. Many times I failed in the words I spoke and the life I lived, and I ask God’s forgiveness for those times.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, I will be stepping down from active, full-time ministry, and try out retirement. This has been much harder than I ever thought it would be. These past months I have been doing a lot of “lasts.” Teaching my last eighth grade Confirmation class (something I truly loved doing), the “last” Daily Walk with God on the radio, performing the “last” wedding, the “last” funeral, the “last” baptism, teaching the “last” Bible class, presenting the “last” sermon. The hardest part is saying farewell to actively caring for God’s people of Holy Cross as a shepherd of the flock.
On Reformation Weekend, Oct. 26 and 27, I have the great privilege of preaching my “last” sermon. You are welcome to join us in worship. I know and trust that God has a plan for Dianne and me after retirement; He just hasn’t revealed it to us yet.
First, we will take a time of rest, visit our children and grandchildren, and then see where God leads us. I ask for your prayers as Dianne and I move into this next phase of our life. God bless you, the members and friends of the Kearney and surrounding communities. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you His peace. Amen.”
The Rev. Duane Duley is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kearney.