October 6, 2019

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Contemporary Service:

Traditional Service:

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Salutation

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,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

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

Thanksgiving and Encouragement

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. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 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. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

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, 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,[a] 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.[b] 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.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Timothy 1:11 Other ancient authorities add of the Gentiles
  2. 2 Timothy 1:12 Or what has been entrusted to me


Sermon: “For the Sake of the Promise

Most of us have at least one, and most probably many more, insurance policies.  It’s the prudent thing to do. We can take a good thing too far, though.

  • Supposedly Bruce Springsteen had his voice insured with Lloyd’s of London for $6 million.

 

  • Singer Dolly Parton had her most outstanding assets insured for $300,000 each.

 

  • A company called Wedsure offers coverage for what they call a “change of heart.” It doesn’t apply to the wedding couple themselves, who must cancel their wedding at least one full year in advance before the policy pays.

 

  • We’ve all heard about a bunch of employees who pool their money, buy lottery tickets, and win. It’s great for them—but not so great for a company that just lost half its staff. That’s why Lloyd’s of London offers lottery insurance to cover the loss of productivity as well as the hiring of temps and fresh staff.

 

I can’t help but think, at least in a couple of those cases, a crackerjack insurance agent had to be hard at work. He or she might have been someone like this.

Ned Ryerson

 

Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus sold us an insurance policy that protected us, not just from first steps that are a doozy, but from everything else, too? An article in Christianity Today looked at how a faith like that might work.

C.S. Lewis once pondered this. If the children of God were always saved from floods like believing Noah and his family; if every time somebody pointed a gun at a Christian, the gun just turned to salami; if we really had a money-back guarantee against hatred, disease and the acts of terrorists, then of course we wouldn’t have to worry about church growth. Our churches would fill with people attracted to the faith for secondary reasons. These are people who want an insurance agent, not a church…. What would happen to people’s integrity if becoming a believer really did give you blanket protection against poverty, accident and the wages of sin?

 

Jesus isn’t Ned Ryerson, and faith doesn’t work like that. If we think it does, we eventually end up angry, despairing, or worse. That’s what was happening in the early church as it travelled the bumpy road of generational change. Though the words in 2 Timothy probably aren’t Paul’s, the situation they describe was all too real.

This new generation of Christians had to contend not only with Roman culture and persecution, but also with false teachers spreading equally false doctrines. You can only swim against the tide for so long before you the current pulls you under.

“Paul” tried to encourage these younger Christians. He also reminded them that he was an apostle, not an insurance agent. The path Christ called them to walk, Paul said, wouldn’t always be easy, and more than just their first step would be a doozy.

Don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel….Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

 

There’s an enormous difference between believing that Jesus is God’s Son as opposed to believing in Jesus as God’s son. Writer Mark Mittelberg explains it this way.

When this church service is over, he says, I’m heading to the airport to fly back home….I have to go beyond mere belief that airplanes fly to a personal belief in the particular airplane that’s heading to my city—demonstrated by climbing on board. It’s that act of trust that will get me where I want to go.

 

In the same way, he continues, we all need to go beyond merely believing that Jesus is the son of God who died on the cross for our sins. We must take the next step and trust him, asking him to forgive our sins and to lead our lives. That’s the equivalent of climbing on board with Jesus in a way that will get us where we want to go spiritually.

 

Guarding the faith is one thing. Remembering that our call is trusting in and following Jesus is another, and far more important.

One of the worst things we can do is hide in our sanctuaries and use faith to build walls rather than open doors. Where fear reigns, hatred is never far behind.

South Pacific

 

Lieutenant Cable was right—racists aren’t born, they’re made. For racism to endure, each generation must pass on not just racist ideas, but the bigotry and hate that make them possible. Knowingly or not, we teach our children to fear and to hate. Is that the legacy we want, or is this?

BBC Clip

 

Where does that innocence go? The world beats us down until hatred creeps into our hearts. That’s when Paul steps into Ned Ryerson’s shoes, not giving us a moment’s rest until we remember whose we are.

Rekindle the gift of God within you! God didn’t give us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power, love, and of self-discipline.

 

It turns out that we do have an insurance policy. It won’t save us from times of pain or despair. It will, however, make sure they don’t have the last word. We can’t buy security like that. It comes to us as a life-saving gift.

Joseph Strauss was the chief engineer in charge of building the Golden Gate Bridge. In those days, the early 1930s, planners figured on one worker’s death for every million dollars spent. Strauss refused to give in to that deadly math.

He had a safety net hung under the bridge floor from pylon to pylon that stretched 10 feet outside the trusses on both sides. The net cost $130,000, about $2.4 million in today’s dollars. It saved the lives of nineteen men, who called themselves the “Halfway to Hell Club.” The net also gave workers the confidence to work more quickly and finish the bridge sooner.

We don’t work without a net, either. If Second Timothy told those struggling young Christians nothing else, it was that they could trust God and Christ.

I’m not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I’ve put my trust, and I’m sure that he’s able to guard until that day what I’ve entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you’ve heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

 

The purposes of God may come under attack, but God is God, Jesus is Lord, and we don’t have to fear either for them or for the faith they call us to. We guard the faith by living it, by sharing it, by witnessing to it and letting it inspire our actions, even as we accept both the challenges and blessings that it brings in our lives.