Category: Prison

Living it Together 4

Lay Sermon:
Living it Together
1 & 2 Timothy Sep 12 – October 24, 2010.
Pentecost 20C, Week 4

God’s unchained Word
2 Timothy 2:8-15

We continue delving into the Timothy journey this morning in the Second Letter Paul writes to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. The situation is difficult for Paul. He is reaching his end in a Roman prison. He is longing to see and hear from his “son” in the faith, Timothy. Paul wishes his son was with him as he faces day after day in a dark, damp cell, in chains, with no one with him except Luke.

Out of his chained body and his chained spirit Paul trusts something. He makes one of bold statements of the gospel that has stood the community of Christ in good stead in its worst times of threat from within and without – “I am suffering in chains, but the Word of God is not chained”, declares Paul to Timothy.

Now that is a statement of faith! For all intents and purposes, it looks as if the Word of God which has burnt in Paul’s heart and come from his mouth and by his hand these last 30 years since the resurrection is nearly silenced. The “great man” is alone and imprisoned, unwell, grieving, not free to speak anymore to anyone.

His close companions have bailed out. It seem only Luke, the evangelist, is with Paul now – or at least his only regular visitor. To make this confident statement about how things are from God’s point of view is faith on show.

“Even though the Word is nearly silenced in me, it will never be silenced. Even though I rattle around in these painful chains and my energy is spent. God is not spent and his word is on the move way beyond me”, declared Paul.

What a word of faith an encouragement to a young pastor and a young community having trouble with words! There seems to be lots of arguments and disputes over many things in the Ephesian church.

There is dodgy teaching by two characters at least; Hymnanaeus and Philetus, “who have wondered away from the truth” (verse 18). They have decided that the resurrection to life for all the baptized people of God has already happened and this has destroyed the faith of some in the community of faith in Ephesus.
There are “foolish and stupid arguments” going on and Paul is encouraging Timothy to “avid them because they only ever end in “quarrels” which leads to resentment among God’s people (verses 23-24).

We may think that a few arguments and a bit of gossip about the community is no big deal. We may resign ourselves to the fact that we are human beings and these kinds of words do happen in the church. Paul allows no such “giving in” to “godless chatter”. He is very strong here and directs his apprentice and son to be very strong here too. Why is this?

Well Paul is of the belief that the more of this kind of gossip and argumentative words we share, the more self-focused, resentful of others and “godless” we will become.

The message is that words are very important and are to be respected, thought about, carefully chosen and God focused. He instructs Timothy as the pastor of this community to steer very clear of all this argumentative kind of behavior. He instructs him to tell to people to keep clear of it too.

Surely Paul, who has been on the end of heartless and damaging words for years knows a thing or two about the damage and argumentative and quarrelsome word can do to a person and the community of God.

We do too. Harsh words hurt and create unnecessary anger that can easily lead to resentment – and so quickly – even between people who had nothing much to fight about even an hour ago!

In the murky world of arguments and hurtful words there is a solid, dependable and life-giving word which triumphs over our petty squabbles and our deep hurt. It is God’s Word.

Paul calls out to us to “remember”. Remember Jesus. Remember his resurrection and his victory over all untruth. Remember Jesus, the new King David, from a human family (that of King David) and yet now “King of all kings” (1Timothy 6:15).
All this ungodly focus and harsh wording among God’s people can be so confusing and faith-destroying, and yet God’s Word remains clear and true and consistent and above all – life-giving. It resurrects us as it resurrected Jesus. It rules the church as Jesus the new King David rules now.

So, if God’s Word is never chained in any one person or any one church community or any one situation of sorrow or hurt or resentment, then we can endure. That’s where Paul takes this faith he has in God’s unchained word.

Because God’s Word moves on beyond us and sometime in spite of us, we can endure whatever words come our way. Paul says “I endure everything (including shame, loneliness, ill-health, resentment at being unfairly chained….) for the sake of the elect”. Paul can endure this not for his sake, but for the sake of the people in Timothy’s church and every other follower of Jesus.

The goal of his enduring is the salvation and life of God’s people. He is still totally committed to the Call God put on his life to be an “apostle to the Gentiles”. He still burns for those outside the household of God and will endure all to do all he can to make sure that God’s word is unchained in the world.
If we die with him we will live with him.
If we endure, we will rule with him
if we are faithless he will remain faithful,
declares Paul as he remembers some hymn that people seem to know.

In the end Paul instructs the Pastor of the church to be in the business of memory keeping. He uses this song people know to do just that and gives Timothy a resource to help him keep people’s hearts and minds focused on Jesus the resurrected King.
“Keep reminding the people of these things”, says Paul to Timothy.
Remind them of what?

Jesus is the resurrected king of kings, the Ord of Life and the head of the church who rules in grace and power. His Word is the living thing that keeps us straight and true. His Word avoids unnecessary agreements and the resulting fighting and resentment that this always brings into the community.
His Word brings life and healing to the community.His Word will ensure that we endure any harsh word or situation and in the end ensure that we remain “workers, approved by God” (verse 15).

That’s God’s part. Our part is to respond. “Do your best”, Paul says, “to be a worker approved by God who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of God” (verse 16).

Correctly handling the Word surely means not using it to argue! Rightly handling the Word of God means careful use, thoughtful response, respectful and gentler application to those who have a different point of view.

Paul goes on to say that :The Lord’s servant must not join the quarrel, instead he must do kindness, be able to teach (the Word), not resentful….he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant people the gift and ability to repent of sin and find peace in Christ (2Timothy 2:24-25).

This is our way of being together and enduring together at Ocean Forest. We need to help each other stay away from argumentative behavior and harsh words. The way we do this to affirm in our words and actions the truth that God’s Word is the authority on all things and that it does not reside in any one person fully! We all share the Word and have authority to encourage each other in it.

As much as it is up to us, we do acts of kindness and take the gentle approach to working through different points of view, always bowing to God’s Word as the final authority in life.

We handle the Word of God with respect and great care as we reflect on it for ourselves, share it with others, teach it to our children and receive it into our own heart for our own life.

As we receive God’s Word we endure and we are doing exactly what we are called to do. As we handle it carefully and kindly with others we are being workers in God’s vineyard who know we have his approval for our work.

Living it Together 3

Living it Together
1 & 2 Timothy Sep 12 – October 24, 2010.
Pentecost 19C, Week 3

2 Timothy 1:1-14
Confidence in Living Faith

We continue delving into the Timothy journey this morning and we switch to the Second Letter Paul writes to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. The situation is very different for Paul now.

We know that Timothy’s situation has remained the same. But Paul’s situation has gotten much worse than when he first wrote to Timothy.

When Paul wrote the first Timothy letter he was under quite an easy, “house arrest” kind of captivity. People were able to visit him as they pleased in the fair city of Rome and he could teach and preach to anyone and everyone who turned up.

Scholars suggest that Paul was eventually released from this house arrest and spent some time on another missionary journey; maybe West of Rome toward Spain.
But then that crazy megalomaniac, Caesar Nero, came to power and began the first serious persecution of Christians, blaming them for the burning of Rome, which he himself actually ignited in AD64.

It seems that Paul now is in no comfy house arrest – he is in the darkest dampest dungeon, in rags, among the rats of Rome. We can tell from this letter from the dungeon that Paul knows his work and his life are nearly complete. The pathos of the language suggests great pain at being lonely and especially cut off from his “son”, Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (New International Version)
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This first part of this final letter of Paul is very much concerned with  confidence in the Christian faith. Paul encourages confidence in God despite seeing his end and suffering almost alone. A co-worker in Rome, Demas, has “deserted me and gone to Thessolonica”, says Paul. Another co-worker in the gospel in Rome “has gone to Galatia, and also, “Titus has gone to Dalmatia” he says. Only one remains with Paul in this last part of his work and life – Luke (2 Tim 4:10).

Joy in suffering for the gospel
So, despite his suffering and loss, Paul thanks God for his life and says to Timothy, “Recalling your tears (presumably when they last separated) I long to see you (Timothy) so that I may filled with joy”.

You can feel the pain and the longing of a man who has fought the good fight and now waits to receive the reward of Jesus’ final affirmation and call home to rest. You can sense the strongest bond between “father” and “son” as the father finally departs and the son takes up the mantle for which he has been trained.

As the mentor and “father” speaks to his “son” he even asks Timothy to come and visit him one more time (and bring with him Paul’s cloak that he left with another co-worker, Carpus in the city of Troas some time earlier – 2Tim 4:13) Paul wants to sure up Timothy’s faith for his ministry, which is under pressure and may be flagging a little.

So, we are speaking about confidence – confidence to live without fear or shame in Jesus in our time and place. Paul points Timothy to three streams from which he can draw confidence to live this faith-life together. We are directed to put your confidence in God’s presence and activity in your life prior to this day.

Remember God’s Old Testament people, and for us, his New Testament activity and tradition. Paul says he serves God as all the Old Testament people did(v3). Paul points to Timothy’s mentors and sponsors in the gospel. Paul affirms Timothy as one who has inherited his Mother’s and Grandmother’s strength and faith.

Paul directs Timothy to remember God’s call on your life. Paul encourages Timothy to remember what God has chosen him for, set him apart for and given him. He speaks of Timothy’s ordination to the pastoral ministry – by Paul’s own hand. “Fan that into flame”, encourages Paul.

For all of us we might encourage each other to remember the Rites of the church; the things God does in the public worship service of God’s people, baptism, Holy Communion, Blessing, Absolution, Confirmation, Marriage, installations to vocation, installations to church roles/callings, rites of transition for the young and rites of belonging in a community – like our Welcome to Membership, rites of grief and loss: funerals. These are tried and tested and they are stable and long-term – things to put great stock in for a long-term living of the gospel faith.

These gifts are what transform our “spirit of timidity into a spirit of boldness and confidence to live in Jesus – in love and self-discipline and God’s power (v7).
We are encouraged here today as Timothy was then to live free from shame, because God has called us and saved us and made us holy in his sight. Confidence comes from God’s call on our life. God’s call overcomes shame.

And finally, confidence in faith comes from God’s presence in other people
Paul raises up his own experience of God’s calling and his response to it. He has done this before, but now for the last time it seems. He tells again of God’s calling on his life to be a “herald and ‘apostle’ (or ‘sent one’) and a teacher” (of the good news of Jesus’ freedom, love and grace of God, not by one’s works but solely by God’s grace and love).

Paul has “believed and obeyed”, he says. Paul has not just toyed around with faith as a theory or something to get into when you feel like it – he has been captivated by it, submitted to Jesus’ word on things and done what he heard God telling him to do in his Word.

Paul has reached the end and the reward of a life well lived and faith fulfilled. He tells Timothy to keep on track and give it all he has got, as Paul has done. A faithful life is possible and really the only life to truly live.

 Confidence in living this faith-life comes from;

God’s presence and activity in your life prior to this day
God’s call on your life
God’s presence in other people

This confidence to live this life of faith shows itself in some ways, according to Paul. Paul says this pattern of living the faith together shapes faithful living and ensures the passing on of the gospel.

This is the goal of what we are doing here through a school and through gathering in God’s presence, as we, like the first Christians, who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

So, the very pattern of a confident Christian life Paul urges Timothy to follow and live out is drawn from the gathering together around God’s Word, the holy meal (breaking of Bread), Prayer, and Fellowship together with the Holy Spirit.
This is our pattern. From here comes the same pattern around the “family” altar in our homes – (the kitchen table!). From there comes our own individual reflection and seeking of God’s Word and prayer. This is our life-long process of being made holy; being conformed to the Way of Jesus; becoming more like Jesus, we might say.

The great thing about the pattern of faith that has been passed on to us is that through our participation in these rhythms of Christian living, the gospel is passed on further and God’s kingdom advances and that prayer of Jesus. Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as in heaven” is being fulfilled in our life-time.
We confidently live free from fear or timidity about our faith as we guard and live in God’s pattern of living with faith in Christ and love for each other.

And we are not ashamed of who we are in Jesus, because we know in whom we have believed, and we are convinced that he is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that final day.