Pentecost 17C - 2 Timothy 1:2b-14

2 Timothy 1:2b-14 (NIV)

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

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am 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.

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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. He 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, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

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

          The Rev Dr John Kleinig, one of my seminary teachers wrote when reflecting on this text:

“I am proud to be a pastor of the Lutheran Church, since, like Paul, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in him (Rom 1:16). What’s more, I know that Jesus is not ashamed to call me his brother (Heb 2:11). Yet that confidence is often challenged by people around me. When people outside the church discover that I am a pastor they quickly lose interest in me. They regard me as a social leper and treat me as if I were engaged in a shameful business. That, in turn, leads, all too readily, to personal discouragement and spiritual demoralisation.”

I identify with Rev Kleinig and what he says here. There are times when I feel discouraged and demoralised as a pastor and wonder what I am doing and why I am doing it.

I’m sure too, that some of you have doubts about your faith and the call God has made to you to be His representatives in the world. Especially when the Christian faith is challenged and denigrated by family, friends, acquaintances and the popular media.

Then, there are times too when I am greatly encouraged as a Christian – as when I read today’s Epistle reading and heard St Paul encouraging a dispirited young pastor Timothy. I’m not so young anymore, but I can identify with Timothy when he struggled with his call to pastoral service.

In recent months I have struggled with the call I have to serve you here at St Matthew. Then God speaks to me through St Paul,

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.

As I read this text last Tuesday, I looked at my ordination certificate and recalled the blessing given in the service of ordination:

“The God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, equip you by the blood of the eternal covenant with everything good, so that you may do His will, working in you what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory now and forever. Amen.”

It’s similar to the blessing given in the rite of Confirmation you may have received:

The Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake renew and increase in you the gift of the Holy Spirit, for your strengthening in faith, your growth in grace, for your patience in suffering, and for the blessed hope of eternal life.

          Like Timothy I was called to serve as a pastor of the church – more particularly now, this church, St Matthew - as my call documents says I am called to:

“…preach and teach the Word of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments in its truth and purity according to the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church … and administer the sacraments in accordance with their divine institution.”

          The Gospel of Christ which I am called to proclaim and which we were all Baptised and Confirmed into is an heirloom to be passed on from generation to generation.

St Paul was a first generation Christian. His faith had its origins in the Jewish faith.

          Paul was thankful for the relationship with God that he had inherited and which God had built on. He was thankful that he could pass it on to another generation in the person of Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor of whom Paul was mentor.

          Initially Timothy had inherited his faith and trust in God from his mother, Eunice, and his Grand-mother Lois. These two women had remained faithful to our Lord Jesus and passed on the grace of God. Their faith was not something private - it was shared.

          St Paul was well aware of the Christian nurture which Timothy had received as an infant and as he grew to maturity. There was a shared knowledge and understanding which was built upon.

          This nurture was continued by the teachers of the church. We have modelled in the Scriptures the pattern of Christian nurture, which should first begin in the home.

Luther wrote the Small Catechism for parents to teach children in the home. What is taught in the home can then be built upon by the teachers and leaders and pastors of the church.

          St Paul took the responsibility of continuing Timothy's nurture in his training and ordination for ministry. But that Christian nurture didn't stop when Timothy had reached adulthood.

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

          Paul continued to care for the spiritual needs of Timothy as he struggled with God's calling to him to serve boldly and pass on to new generations, to young and old alike, the eternal truths of the Scriptures.  

          Paul's letter encouraging Timothy to remain faithful in serving the risen Jesus is a letter written in adversity. Paul himself was in prison because of his relationship with Jesus.

          An Apostle in prison, a setback for the faith - how discouraging!   Especially discouraging for a young timid pastor. Is this to be what one can expect for having faith in the God-man who died on a cross. Is the struggle and the persecution of loved ones to be the cost of faithfulness?

          Paul writes to encourage Timothy to hold fast in the midst of adversity to what he believes. Paul reminds Timothy, and us, that we should not be ashamed. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

          We have by virtue of our inheritance through the water and Word of Baptism - the promises of God which give to us power to remain faithful.

The Holy Spirit gives us a deep caring love for the Lord and each other along with the tenacity to hang in when the going gets tough (as it has for many of us with health, relationship and financial challenges).

          We have inherited this Spirit of power from God Himself. God who personally saved each one of us from a life of slavery to sin and death into a holy life where we can confess, forgive each other and be forgiven so that we don’t remain slaves to our past failings and weaknesses. We can work together and help one another.

          In a sense, as Christians, we as part of His Church are married to Christ. We have been committed to love Christ and each other just as in the marriage vows a commitment is made "for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health."

          Our commitment to the truth and each other always requires faith and love, virtues which ultimately come only from being "in Christ". A trust or stewardship from God has been passed on. Like a family heir loom our faith needs to be cared for and passed on – sometimes it needs cleaning, even repairing.

          There will be times when the faith within us is weak and tested. The jibe from a relative or friend when you invite them to join you in worship before going to the family gathering or social occasion may tempt you to stay away from worship.

Sometimes we will get dirty and need to be cleaned. As when we give in to pressure to neglect worship or devotion, or we join in the gossip session, or demand our own way arguing something we know is wrong, but not wanting our pride to be dented by admitting we are wrong.

There are times we need our transgressions pointed out to us, so they can be confessed and forgiven.

          When St Paul addresses Timothy he is encouraging him to immerse himself in the Word of God and surround himself with Christian brothers and sisters in the faith in worship, study and fellowship. The dirt of sin is buffed off with the soft cloth of loving discipline as we encourage one another and pray for each other.  

          As our silver teapot needs a soft cloth to bring out its beauty, so we also need soft tongues to encourage, thank and support each other as we work together.

We need the reminders of St Paul to help us in our spiritual journey so that our children and those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus my see Him face to face in and through us so that they may receive from Jesus the crown of eternal life and the power to thrive here on earth.