Sermon, Sunday June 24th, 2018
St Petri, Augsburg Confession Day
1Timothy 6: 11-16
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.
Here’s eight things that pastors hope to hear….but probably won’t:
- Hey! It’s my turn to sit in the front pew!
- I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went for 25 minutes extra
- Personally I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.
- I’ve decided to give our congregation $500.00 a month I used to give to TV evangelists
- Let’s forget about the standard pastor’s salary. Let’s pay our pastor enough so that he can holiday in the Fiji once a year.
- I love it when I sing songs I have never heard before.
- Pastor, we would like to send you to a bible seminar in the south of France.
- Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment to being Lutheran like Augsburg Confession Sunday!
I wonder whether the young pastor Timothy in Ephesus ever heard anything like these things said to him by the people under his care? He seemed to have his fair share of difficult things and people to deal with if Paul’s letter to him is anything to go by.
Paul writes to keep Timothy from giving up the ministry or even the faith. It must have been tough!
There are people abandoning the faith and being led by deceptive people who were proven to in it for only personal power and gain (4:1-5). They did their deceptive work by deceptive TEACHING. That is what we teach and preach ad do is so crucial and to be guarded and taken serious. It is teaching that can build up or tear down. Everything matters because everything teaches in the Christian community.
They were teaching untrue unhealthy words and doctrines that only tell people what they must do to make sure they are okay with God – they only taught the law. Added to that there are all kinds of myths and old tales of stars and magic around that people are getting sucked into.
Paul writes to help his young man get through tough things with tough people. In the process, Paul speaks of what makes any community work, grow and reach out to others.
Sounds like the kind of community we are wanting to be? a community of people work, grow and reach out to others.
I wonder what Paul is saying to us?
Maybe we would want him to say things like, “Ask God for things like protection from evil, strength to carry on, wisdom to make good decisions, love to let ‘em know we are Christians and etc”. The are all good things but Paul doesn’t really say any of that here. He is pointing to something else that seems even more foundational and important to return to work, grow and reach out together.
Paul’s remedy to Timothy for being a pastor and a local church who stays the course and continues to be gospel people is to hold on to the good confession of faith that was made at the time of Timothy’s baptism.
In tough times with huge temptation to fall for trying to either make it on your own without God, or try to keep God happy by doing all the right things, Paul says hold on to this confession of faith you have already been given.
This confession of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has already given to us in our baptism. We don’t need things and protection and inner peace and a comfortable life anywhere near as much as we need God himself in all his grace and kindness, proclaimed in us by the Spirit’s power.
A community of people in the middle ages had the opportunity to do before many witnesses at great risk to themselves.These people saw similar things that St Paul and Timothy saw in Ephesus. They saw unhealthy and untrue teaching damaging people’s lives. They saw that the transforming grace of Jesus being lost in all the rules and laws about how to make God happy. In our time it might be the opposite – the gospel being lost as people either turn their back on that confession of faith in which they have been baptised or people simply never finding it.
In 16th Century Europe, Emperor Charles V called a public assembly to unify Europe in face the coming onslaught of Islam. He needed the church to be unified. The church was to a large extend the institution that held society together. The church was powerful but disunified to its core.
Charles told the Roman Catholics, and those wanting to reform the Church, to present a summary of their teaching at this ‘Diet’. The Reformers, by the work of Luther (who could not be there because his life was still under threat) and Luther’s offsider, Philip Melanchthon, penned this confession of their faith now called the Augsburg Confession.
On June 25th,1530 at 3.00pm, the 28 part confession of the ‘evangelical’ faith (the gospel centred faith) was read in the German city of Augsburg by Christian Bayer. Apparently, he read it pretty loudly. People outside could hear it. Although not loud enough it seems because Emperor Charles nodded off!
The AC has become the most widely accepted and highly held confession of faith for the 65 million Lutherans all over the world.
It isn’t that for a lot of Australian Lutherans. I suspect that hardly anyone here has ever read it, and most don’t know if its existence anymore.
Maybe, if we are game enough to ask big questions about who we really are and what our place is in the world and the church we might seek the Augsburg Confession. Maybe when we are hard pressed enough by various alternative faiths. gods and assumptions, we might eventually find some gold in the AC as many have these last 500+ years.
As far as I can tell, the AC says three things to Christians of all traditions and denominations.
- ONE CHURCH: Lutherans have no interest in being some sect or cutting ourselves off from all Christians, as if we are superior or special or anything but gospel centred human beings.
- Being Lutheran is not being German or Barossan or being difficult or morbid or uncaring or averse to change.
- Being Lutheran is being a Christian person who is part of the One holy ‘catholic’ community of the gospel of Jesus.
- ONE WORD: The only thing that binds us together, helps us navigate our way through complex stuff and receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus by the power of the Spirit is the Word of God.
- It is in the Spirit-powered living Word, and not from within ourselves or by some meditation technique or heady philosophy or experience we may have that we find God speaking to our many questions and giving us unity upon which we move together.
- It is the word shared, sung, prayed, spoken, proclaimed and done in Baptism, Absolution and Holy Communion that the Sprit makes us new.
- ONE GOSPEL: The very heart and soul of me and you and us as a church and the Word itself is the man, Jesus the Messiah.
- Our heart is not being to be a cut above the rest or being squeaky clean or being ‘super spiritual’ or getting God to make our life comfortable or meaningful or whatever, our heart is God’s heart for us – given in Jesus. Our heart is that the freely given but costly paid kindness and love of God in the face of Jesus Christ which can only ever be gratefully received as an underserved gift.
What else would you like your church to be about? What else would you pin your very life on? What else would you have courage to speak even if this confession of faith is something many might trip over, find offensive or silly or weak or misguided?
Would we want to say anything else than these things to our country; to this community; to our friends and family? Is there anything better we could say and do for the battlers, the powerful but still lonely, the oppressed, the grieving, the abused, those struggling with gender and identity, the young, the old, the loved and the unloved?
Isn’t Jesus’ body (the church), Jesus’ word and Jesus’ heart for us revealed in the Word what we need to hear this morning and what people need to hear from us tomorrow?
I am convinced they are ad this little confession and the faith it was made in is faithful and true and of great use. It will help us navigate our way through any time with the gospel in our hearts.
Let’s pray for courage and boldness to hold to the confession of faith in those Creeds we speak, this Confession of faith we live. This is how we will be a true people, a straight people, a people of love immersed in the grace of God in Jesus the Saviour for a world in need of his new word.
If that is ‘Lutheran’, then I’m in. I pray you hold on well and find yourself in too!
What do you find yourself holding on to in life? make a list and see how those things relate to the faith you have received.
People seem to relate the word “Confession” to confessing wrongdoing. here, in 1 Timotyh, ‘confession’ is not owning up to wrojg doing but speaking your faith. Saying what you believe about God, Father, Son and Spirit. If a friend were to ask you what you actually believe about who God is, what kind of things would you say and on what basis?
Woud your confession of faith be different to what you find in the Apostle’s Creed
A good version of the AC can be found ere with some good notes to help you make sense of it. it might be worthwhile to read the first 10 articles (They are very short). They sum up the faith well. The language is a little old for us, but we can still get what it is saying for the most part.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty,
from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
This is the statement of belief that has come from the most ancient of times in the Christian church and arose together with the practice of baptism. it is often called the “baptismal Creed” as a result. Of course it is built on the very earliest statements of belief found in the early church (Romans 10:19 – “….if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”).
Think again about what you actually believe. How is it different, how is it the same?
What does it mean for you when Paul says to Timothy, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….”?
Notice how Paul hold up Jesus as the first to confess faith. What did Jesus confess before Pilate – check it out in John from chapter 18, verse 28 on…
What helps you hold on to the faith that others have confessed that have enabled you to believe today? How do you help others hold on to this confession of faith?
Those who confessed the gospel-centred (evangelical) faith in Augsburg sis so at great threat to their lives. it would he been very easy for Charles V to just execute them or banish them to some godforsaken place. Would you confess the faith you have come to trust in and the One you trust in under threat?
This is always a theoretical question for us. Just ask St Peter! He said he would die for Jesus but couldn’t do it when it became real.
we pray for courage today – courage to speak and do God’s grace in Jesus where he has placed us. We cannot know the rest!