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Poured Out

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me-the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing....The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and give me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. -2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Well, we're coming to the end of this short letter that Paul has written to Timothy, a second letter to Timothy, and as a reminder, yes, it was while Paul was in prison. And more than that, it seems that Paul recognizes that his life is probably drawing to a conclusion very soon. He's been tried, he's imprisoned, and he doesn't think there's much left. He's offered some encouragement to Timothy, to try and boost him up and encourage him and remember all those blessings that he's had of his heritage of faith from his mother and his grandmother, and from Paul and the things he's participated in and drawing upon the scriptures for that support and that strength. And Paul is now saying, "Don't forget me." And it's almost as if Paul is writing his own eulogy here. He begins by saying, "I'm already being poured out like a drink offering, or a libation." But he offers a statement that I shared with the kids, when he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Almost as if that's an inscription on a tombstone, even though they wouldn't have done those back in his day, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith". Now, this idea of Paul being poured out, I brought my picture that I often use with baptisms with me this morning, I may have filled it a little more than I needed to. Paul talks about his life being poured out. When we hear that word, I often think of, when you're at a restaurant sitting down, and the waiter or waitress comes by and refills your water and is pouring it out for you. We talk about that when we give our all everything we have to something, we talk about pouring ourselves into our work, into our studies, into our family, that we pour ourselves out.

And for Paul, this idea of being poured out, represented or connected with the idea of offerings that were made in the temple. Sometimes wine or olive oil or even the blood of animals that were sacrificed was poured out as an offering. And for those early Christians, those early followers of Jesus, that they quite literally as martyrs, may have had their blood poured out. I think Paul kind of recognizes all of that in that moment and in that time of saying, "My life is being poured out." And I've got quite a bit in my pitcher, but I think Paul realizes that his pitcher's pretty low and there's not a lot left. But what does it mean, that he's poured his life out? In some ways, we all pour our lives out into the things that we choose to do. But that's where I think sometimes we need to recognize that maybe there's a little difference between how many people live their lives and what God calls us to as followers of Jesus. Paul Anka wrote that song, 'I did it my way' for Frank Sinatra, one of his better known songs, and that song has been covered by many from Willie Nelson, to Elvis, to all sorts of artists.

But that sentiment of, I did it my way, almost stands in opposition to what Paul is saying, because that idea of being poured out almost could seem as if it's a waste, as if it's just poured out and gone. A wet spot on the floor. And that idea of that song of, I did it my way is say that I'm in charge and I'm gonna pour my life out when and where I want. But sooner or later, the wet spots on the carpet dry and there's nothing left to show for it. But Paul in this letter has been telling Timothy about what it means to be faithful, to proclaim this gospel that God has given to him. And so Timothy, as Paul's Apostle, as his disciple, his apprentice, Paul has been pouring his life into Timothy. A meal spent together, a lesson shared, a letter written.

And not just in Timothy's life, but Paul has poured his life into the communities, into the churches, into the people that he has gone to, to share God's love and message with. His life has been one of being poured out. Now, you may remember that Paul, prior to his conversion was Saul, the faithful Pharisee, who thought he was doing God's work, who thought that these followers of Jesus needed to be stomped out. He'd poured his life out as he thought. But through that conversion, through that encounter with Jesus, with God getting a hold of him and turning his life around, he suddenly had a new purpose and a new direction. Instead of suddenly pouring his life out as he desired, God redirected him and said, "Paul, you're gonna pour your life out, but you're gonna pour it into the lives of people like Timothy."

And Paul recognizes that throughout his journeys, throughout his ministry of going and establishing churches and spreading this love of God and the message of Jesus, his life indeed has been poured out. It hasn't always been easy. In fact, he tells Timothy, "Expect it to be challenging. Expect there'll be times when you may suffer." And yet Paul, in this letter and sitting back and evaluating, assessing and says, "You know what, I fought the good fight. I have finished the course, I have kept the faith and I have continued pouring my life out to make a difference." Now, often in our lectionary readings, there are passages that get skipped over, verses that get snipped out and for various reasons. But the passages between where we began with Paul talking about being poured out of keeping the faith, gets to verse 16 and says, "At my first trial, no one was there." Paul mentioned several people, he mentions one who has gone their own way. And in those passages, Paul's attitude changes a little bit.

He celebrates and commends Timothy and says, "Timothy, come and see me." He pours a little more of himself into Timothy. And he mentions Mark and says, "He's been good and faithful and if you can bring him with you, bring him," he's poured his life into Mark. But then he mentions those who have deserted, and for Paul he's lamenting that I poured myself into them, and they did this with what I offered. That I poured myself into them, and they cast it aside, and he even mentions one who not only poured it aside but worked against him. And in a moment of humanity that we can recognize and relate to, Paul says, "It's all right, he's gonna get his due. God's gonna make sure of that." But I think this idea of Paul having poured his life out, in spite of some of those setbacks, in spite of the hardships and the suffering that he endured recognizes that this was indeed God's will for his life. What's more, Jesus has called all of us to a life of faith, a life of love, that greatest commandment, to love God and love others. It's in that love of God that our pitcher's filled. It's in that recognition of the mercy and grace that God had shown Paul, that his pitcher was filled and he had something within him to offer and to pour out in the lives of others.

And so, it is with us, that when we love God, our pitcher's filled, but we're not complete. We haven't fought the good fight, we haven't finished the race, we haven't kept the faith, if we don't look for those ways, those opportunities, those moments to pour our lives into the life of another. Some of us have people in our lives that we have invested and invested in, that we're a big part of filling that life of another. There may be times when there's someone that we cross-paths with, a chance encounter, a random meeting, we have a moment to pour a little bit of our life into theirs, and we go our separate ways, maybe never even knowing their name. Like Paul, we've probably had those moments where we felt that we've poured our life into someone only to have them cast it aside and pour it out. But that's not about us, because God calls us to keep the faith, to continue pouring out of ourselves, to share that love that He has shown us into the lives of others. And so, we pour a little bit here, a little bit there, and we pour, and we continue to pour. And even as Paul got to that point in his life where he recognized that his time of pouring was almost done, he knew that it wasn't him.

This wasn't something that he bragged about, this wasn't something that he claimed and said, "Look what I did. Look at all of the glasses that I have filled." In fact, he's honest about it and he says, "At that first trial everybody deserted me, but God didn't. God was with me through all of it." It was God that saw me through, it was God that had rescued me, and it's God who will rescue me now, even as the end draws near. And Paul offers that praise to God saying, "Glory to God forever and ever, amen."

And so, we need to recognize that in many ways, we're like Paul. That God has called us and claimed us and declared us to be His. Through our love for God, our pitcher is filled and through our love for others, we pour that pitcher out a little bit at a time. The truth of it is, I don't know that Paul could claim that there was any glass or any life that he had filled completely. But again, it's not about us, it's about God working in and through His people. And so even though Paul came to a point where his job was done, he'd poured his life into Timothy, and while much of what filled that glass came from God, Timothy in turn poured into the life of others. And others pour into the life of others. And the thing is this love, this faith, this journey that we're on is one in which Paul poured into the lives of people, who poured into the lives of people, who throughout the ages have come to the point of pouring into us. And so the question for each of us is, where and how and when will we be the ones pouring into the lives of others?

God has blessed us, God has filled us with his love, but we don't let that love stop with us. We continue to pour out and pour out and pour out, knowing that God will supply us until our time, until our work is done. But no matter how young or old or capable or equipped or well-spoken or not, we all continue to pour out. To do our best, to finish the course, and to keep this faith alive, this faith rooted and established in the love of God. May your life be an offering, a sacrifice, a gift that you return to God, as you share that love with others. Amen.

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