Preaching from Timothy

Over the past few weeks I have been preaching through the so-called ‘Pastoral Epistles’ – Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. They offer a fascinating glimpse into an age when the church was emerging from the shadows as no longer a ragtag collection of followers but an entity in society. After Paul’s pithy description of the Gospel for which we ‘labour and strive’ (1 Timothy 4 v. 10) , we then find ourselves plunged into a catalogue of nitty-gritty details on everything from benefits for widows and preachers’ wages to diet and discipline! It was this journey from the sublime to the pragmatic which led me to the two stories below.

When Abraham Darby III opened the world’s first Iron Bridge in 1781, his Christian principles were outlined in the toll notice you see below.His strong belief that all were created equal led to the pricing policy for the bridge, where everybody, including the Royal Family, paid the same toll. As well as being an engineering marvel, these 279 tons of ironwork underpinned his theology.

Image: normanfield.com

The other image is a t-shirt design bearing the words of George Loveless, farm labourer, Methodist Preacher and Tolpuddle martyr. Along with a small band of others. Loveless formed an illegal association in 1834 to protest against the unjust treatment of manual labourers by wealthy landowners.  They paid a high price for their protest – and were transported to the other side of the world as punishment. Like Darby before him, Loveless’ practical actions were driven by his theological convictions – that all men deserved a certain dignity and justice under God.

Image: redmolotov.com

From the fields of Dorset we returned to the passage, and Paul’s injunction to young Timothy to ‘keep these instructions without partiality, and do nothing out of favouritism’ (1 Timothy 5 v. 21). From there the path lay back into the world to ‘love and serve the Lord’ – which is where the real sermon will now be preached in shops, office, homes, schools and elsewhere.

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