Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.
Be it by Spirit-inspiration or coincidence or an informed decision by the person commissioning these reflections, I find myself with a personally appropriate theme. Ordained forty-one years ago and having served as College Principal and Synod Training Officer for eighteen, I am now teetering on the brink of retirement from my professional posts and indeed active ministry. It is then a ‘time for reflection’ (to borrow a Scottish Parliament phrase). Please forgive the personal here, but I hope that these thoughts resonate with others. Thinking back over time, I am conscious that the virtues suggested in I Timothy have been present and absent in perhaps equal measure over my ministry!
For me, I have had two vocations, running together, not in parallel but intertwined – minister and educator. Two passages have underpinned them: Deuteronomy 30:15, ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil’ and John 10:10, ‘I am come that they may have life, and have it abundantly’, words that are echoed in today’s passage – ‘take hold of the eternal life to which you were called’. Celebrating the sacrament of eternal life, pastorally working with people to restore fullness to their lives, educationally supporting folk to realise and achieve their potential as people fashioned in the image of God – these have lain at the heart of my calling. When I reflect on that, I feel anew the thrill of my vocation. Yet, I am also aware that our increasing institutionalisation as a Church, our anxious fears over survival, the seeming pressures to ‘manage’ decline, our lack of imagination and creativity too often draw us away from life, from life-enhancing decisions, from what enlivens and energises us, from concerns that are more truly eternal.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.
Source and lover and sustainer of life, help us to see others and ourselves as made for abundant life help us to choose life when we are faced with decisions help us to choose life in our daily living.
The Rev’d Dr Jack Dyce is the Principal of the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College and a member of Port Glasgow URC.