Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s foundations podcast. It’s great to be with you today. Our passage for today is 2 Timothy 1: 15-18. We are going to focus on verses 16-17.
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.
Anyone here enjoy baking? I bet there’s probably a good few people listening to this podcast who do. Now I’m not what you’d call a prolific baker. I did however bake a chocolate cake the other day, along with my two children, for my wife Jo. Big wow I hear you say! And you’d be absolutely right but to confess to you that after nearly 6 years of marriage and 8 years in a relationship this was the very first time I had actually baked anything for her. The shame of it all! Clearly the prospect of 3 months at home has brought out in me a desire to try to learn new skills…and more importantly more time with my wife who I wanted to try and bless – on behalf of our kids – for mothers day. A small thing to show her just how much we love her.
Love – it’s the way of Jesus. And in these challenging times in which we find ourselves, we really need to see more of God’s love and hope when things feel just that little bit darker. Today’s passage really demonstrates that in the way that Onesiphorus cares for the apostle Paul, who as we probably already know wrote this letter to Timothy from a prison cell. Prisons in the ancient world were dark, dirty, and oppressive places to be. Those who were unfortunate enough to find themselves incarcerated there lacked adequate food, clothing and other basic human rights. Beyond just the physical torture of it all , and Paul reflects on this in verse 15, there was emotional hardship too as often friends and family members sought to distance themselves from those who were in prsion. And yet despite the seemingly miserable place that Paul finds himself in he seems to have found great hope and encouragement from his friendship with Onesiphorous.
Paul writes that Onesiphorus often ‘refreshed’ him. This probably refers to how he provided him with food, water, and perhaps even money at a time of great need. As well as that Paul’s existence in jail was probably a very lonely one and no doubt simply seeing his friend would have refreshed him as they spent time together and discussed perhaps what was happening outside of Paul’s four walls as the church of Jesus had begun to grow.
For many now, as self isolation and social distancing become the norm, homes might feel like confining spaces at times. Whilst we may not be able to go round and perhaps see them in person we can still be a source of refreshment to others. In a practical way we can literally bring shopping and other key items to people’s doors when they can’t leave the house. We’ve just created a whats app group for folk on our street to enable us to do this. Like Onesiphorus refreshment might also look like conversation with someone who’s having a tough time. Perhaps offering a stressed parent a suggestion of an activity that might keep their children occupied during the day. Shout out to Abi who introduced us to yoga set to the backdrop of the film Frozen. Simply just dropping someone an encouraging message or chatting to them on the phone– it can make all the difference when things aren’t easy.
What else can we learn from Onesiphorus? Well Paul tells us that his friend wasn’t ashamed of visiting him. As we’ve already noted, those who were in prison in ancient times often found themselves alone as people literally turned their backs on them. Add to this the fact that Paul was someone with a reputation for being socially, politically and religiously subversive, it makes the fact that Onesiphorus choose to go and visit him all the more remarkable. For us right now there might be a tendency to focus inwards but actually Jesus gently encourages us to challenge that culture by seeking to bless and serve others even though it’s not necessarily that straightforward or indeed feels like the priority right now.
And so, and perhaps this is the final thing we can learn from Onesiphorus, we often have to seek to be proactive in loving those around us. Onesiphorus, we learn ‘searched hard’ for Paul until he found him. I’m going to hold my hands up here and say I often find that I’m rubbish at asking others for help and you know what sometimes just even initiating conversation with people. As disciples of Jesus we sometimes need to be willing to make the first move. And when we do so we find often the response is…’You don’t know how much of a blessing that is to me that you did that today.’
In these crazy times that we live in it can be so easy to get bogged down in our situation that we forget to open our eyes to the opportunities God gives us each day to serve and to bless those around us. It may not be easy but as we give this a go we in turn find freedom in it and experience more of the hope and joy that Christ has placed within us.
Jesus, thank you that came not to be served but to serve. Lord, give us eyes to see how we might serve and bless those around us this day. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 1:15-18
You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.