Last Sunday I taught through the final portion of 1 Timothy 3, which includes the following personal note from the Apostle Paul to his young friend, Timothy:
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
My homiletical emphasis on the Lord’s Day was on Paul’s purpose statement for writing the book, on the letter’s role in setting parameters for our life together in God’s (quite gloriously described) church.
As I preached, there was a familiar group of faces sitting in the front row to my right – John and Lottie, along with their great granddaughter. The four of us meet together at their home every Friday for discipleship – we study and memorize Scripture together, we pray, we discuss the stuff of life, and (of course) we eat together. This family is dear to me personally and have become such vitally significant participants in the mission and work of our gospel congregation.
John had a routine health checkup in Kalispell yesterday. It was to be a quick and easy trip, to the extent that he made plans with his great granddaughter for that evening.
But things don’t always go according to plan.
Having been informed of the (new) plan that involves John staying at the hospital and having triple bypass surgery tomorrow morning, I went to visit my dear brother. In many ways, it was a talk much like the ones we have every week in their dining room (though the food wasn’t as good). We talked about the resurrection of Jesus. I teased him for looking funny in his hospital gown, and he teased me for looking funny no matter what I’m wearing. We laughed. We tried not to cry. We talked about how the nature of faith changes a bit when you’re about to be cut open with the inherent risks that apply for a man in his later 70’s. He chuckled as he mentioned all the holiday plans his family had for this Easter weekend – how quickly our ideas for life can go sideways.
On my drive back home, I thought back again on Paul’s words. This time, I took much closer notice of a certain phrase in those glorious verses about the Lord’s church:
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God…”
In other words, a portion of our perfect and God-breathed Bible was written just in case Paul’s plans went sideways. A book of the Bible exists as a fallback option if the author was unable to deliver the instructions in person. Plans fall through. Life gets sloppy and messy. Sometimes we plan to play a game with our great granddaughter and end up scheduling a triple bypass instead. Imbedded into the truth of God’s word is the communication necessary for living in the midst of fallenness. The history of redemption itself (God’s Plan A) is the grand orchestration of making beauty out of an entire world that has gone sideways. The gospel is God’s purpose to rescue and redeem a people from the mess they’ve made for themselves.
I’ll deeply miss seeing John in his normal pew on Easter Sunday. I’ll miss hearing him pray this Friday – those prayers of his that always thank Jesus for dying for his sins. I’ll miss the opportunity to discuss with his family just how much they’ve grown since last Easter. But John’s growth is for this very moment. John knows how the Lord works most powerfully through tribulation and struggle. John is ready to let his light shine in the midst of triple bypass darkness, and for that we are both grateful.