“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is a reserved for me the crown of righteousness…” That was St. Paul (or a disciple writing in his name) addressing his mentee, Timothy, from prison, maybe in Rome. This passage has often been read at funerals, although, less so in latter days. It’s one of the lectionary readings for Sunday so I’ve been letting it noodle around in my inner space this week. Heads up: I’ll likely reference it in my sermon so here’s a short teaser. (If you’re not present, you can always check in on-line; sermons are generally posted Sunday afternoon.)
What do you suppose Paul meant by the “good fight”? We’re likely inclined to think of it as any amount of time we’re able to endure on this earth, as though endurance is the greatest good we can think of. I suppose there may be circumstances where that’s true. Endurance can be virtuous. But Paul had something more specific in mind, something that actually had to do with doing good, promoting good, advancing good in a world that didn’t readily recognize it, then spending out his life on behalf of that good.
By the way, you’ll notice that he didn’t say anything about winning the fight, only that he had fought it. And that he had kept faith. By that, I think he meant keeping faith with the good as he had come to understand it. And the crown he references isn’t one reserved for monarchs, but for athletes. As he said, he finished the race and now would receive his crown, that is, his runner’s award.
Here’s a question that comes to mind (a little bit of pre work): To what end are you spending out your life? Is there some equivalent of a crown of righteousness for you at the end of the race? We all have jobs and so forth, generally develop responsible habits for self-maintenance and so on, but beyond these rudimentary conditions, looking back at the end of your days, what most of all would have captured your attention and focus? With which undergirding principles, or truths, or “good” would you have kept faith? And what does keeping faith actually mean, anyway?
As you know I don’t like these messages to drag on; I’d rather let you noodle around on your own. So have at it…