Pastoral Authority

By Sherry Black

A Reading from 2 Timothy 1:1-14

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

2 To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 I am grateful to God — whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.


2 Timothy 1:7 is one of the more well known and frequently quoted scriptures in certain Christian circles: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice (fear), but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” Taken on its own, it is a good reminder of God’s gifts to us. But it took on new meaning for me shortly after I was ordained to the priesthood. While I was in my middle years, I was a new priest. I felt timid, shy, and immature in many ways. There was so much I didn’t know! I enrolled in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (training in pastoral care) which was offered nearby. One unit is required for ordination in most mainline denominations; this was my second unit, and it was just what I needed. The theme for me throughout that unit was Pastoral Authority, and I grew in courage and confidence.

One of the keys, though, was “the rest of the story.” In writing to his protégé, Paul prefaced the scripture I mentioned above with reminding Timothy of his heritage, that his grandmother and mother were women of faith, and that same gift of faith was also present in Timothy: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” It was a strong reminder that I had been bestowed with the gifts I needed to serve as priest when the bishop and priests laid their hands on me at my ordination! All that needed to happen was for me to allow the Spirit to fan these gifts into flame, “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline”! I already had what I needed!

While I will always be an introvert, in the dozen or so years since this time, I have continued to grow in humble confidence, more sure of myself both in life and in ministry.

As Madeleine L’Engle put it, “We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of South Kerala – The (united) Church of South India
St. George’s Church, Dayton, Ohio


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