Do you ever just have one of those Sundays?
I swear, I should have known something was off when the choir and I walked into church five minutes early. We’re NEVER five minutes early! Late? Often. Never early. But for some reason we were early and I actually made a joke about during the welcome and well … I should have known better. Because fifteen minutes later my Children’s Sermon went horribly wrong (since when do my children NOT talk??) and then fifteen minutes after that I was listening to the Deacon read this week’s scripture and realized … it was the wrong scripture.
The thing is – the Deacons use a script, so in order for the scripture to be wrong, I had to have put the wrong scripture in the Deacons’ script.
Which I did.
So – pastor of the year right here. If you listen to the audio you’ll hear me trying to figure out the whole scripture debacle before the sermon actually starts.
Sigh. Oh well – it led in well to the sermon. Here it is! Enjoy …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 16, 2016
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Finding Peace And Balance Through Faith
Does anybody else feel like the world is going crazy right now? My sister posted a meme on Facebook the other day that made me laugh.
American: At least 2016 couldn’t get any weirder.
God: Send in the clowns.
Seriously, people! I feel like this year has everyone in a tailspin. I have talked before about what a challenging couple of months my family and I have had, but I keep hearing, in so many different circles of my life, how tough of a year this has been for a lot of people. People all over seem to be struggling right now; they have faced unspeakable trauma and tragedies, they have encountered personal and professional roadblocks, they are stressed and anxious and they are struggling to find peace and balance in their lives. I cannot count the number of times I have said, “Hang in there! This, too, shall pass!” It is exhausting. Life seems exhausting right now. Peace and balance seem out of reach right now.
And yet, I have always felt that our faith is a great way to find peace and balance in our lives.
This morning we heard a reading from 2 Timothy. We talked about 2 Timothy last week; how it is a letter attributed to the Apostle Paul (either Paul wrote it or someone wrote it in his name). The author of the letter was writing to his young protégé, Timothy, who was hard at work growing a church. The author was writing from jail, knowing that his time on earth was quickly coming to an end. And so there was a sense of urgency to his words; he reminded Timothy that, in his efforts to grow a community of faith, he should not lose sight of the very reason he was building that community.
This passage of scripture is a call to action. The author outlines how people should live their lives according to their faith. As I was reflecting on the author’s words this week, I found myself nodding along, verse after verse; every piece of this passage is so good and true and what could be right with the world.
So this week, I thought that instead of just looking at an overview of the whole passage, we could break it down and take it in, verse by verse. Because when it starts to feel like the craziness of the world of the world is taking over, it is so important that we turn to our faith.
In a world where there are far too many opinions, ideas and expectations, we need to use our faith to gain wisdom, guidance and encouragement. In this crazy world, God needs to be our stronghold.
So let us look at this passage together.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
We have what we need. In coming to church, we learn about scripture, about God’s work in this world and about how we can be better Christians. The basic things we were taught as children in Church School – love God, love your neighbor – still ring true today. We know prayers that we can say out loud when all other words seem insufficient. We understand parables that teach us how to be better people.
The world may be pushing us in a different direction, but we must continue along the journey that has been laid down by the faithful Christians who came before us. We have everything that we need to do this; it is already within us.
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Scripture is inspired by God; use it!
Now, please note that I am not saying, take it literally; I am saying, use it. Interpret it. Implement it into your own life. Obviously take into account things like the culture and context it was being written in, but also remember that, for thousands of year, scripture has remained the constant; there is no need to write it off today. Far too often we turn to celebrities, sports stars, pastors, politicians, movies, television and the media and we forget we have this book that is chock-full of wisdom, advice and comfort. The bible tells a living story of the generations upon generations of people who have traveled the journey we are on today and it still has so much to teach us. So use it.
So that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
We are equipped for the work God is calling us to do. We have the tools that we need. We are smart enough, strong enough and compassionate enough. If God calls us to do something and we say, “We are here and we are ready to do this work,” then God will most certainly make sure we are prepared to do it.
God will not let us hang out to dry.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
This is why it is so important that we come together in worship, week after week. Here, in the presence of God, in the company of the saints who came before us and with one another, we are held accountable for our faith and for our actions. Here, we confess our sins, both individually and as a community, so we can learn how to forgive and be forgiven. Here, we urge one another to live up to the faith that has been given us. Here, we not only learn about God, but we listen to God as well.
And so we need to take what we are given every week and go back out into the world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Because this is news that people need to hear right now. We need to show people that love can win, that light can shine and that grace is real. We need to encourage other people along their own journeys.
I know evangelism is not something everyone is comfortable with, but there are ways to share our faith that are subtle and still respectful of others. Instead of specifically talking about all of the details our faith, we can talk about our church. We can share with people why we go to church, what we love about our church and what we get out of going to church. We can talk about the tangible ministries we are involved in and the ways we can see them helping the community. We can talk about how our lives have been changed. To quote someone in my bible study this week, “Let’s make church normal.” And let’s make church normal by talking about it.
For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
I think we can all agree that today there are an overwhelming number of ways to communicate and get information; the world can be very noisy. I think we can also agree that there are a lot of opinions in this world. And unfortunately, a vast majority of the culture we live in does not encourage living by faith, but separating it completely from life outside the church walls.
And so now is the time; now is the time for us to turn back to our faith and encourage others to do the same. Now is the time for us to lead by example, looking humbly at ourselves and making the sometimes-hard choices that are necessary to live into our faith. Now is the time to make known the values we live our lives by – values that have been and are influenced by the Christian faith – and stand firm in those convictions. Now is the time to not only speak the truth, but live it out as well.
As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
Here is the part that I get a little bit hung up on. I have a hard time with the martyrdom thing, because sometimes I feel it leads to people boasting about how hard their lives are as if somehow that makes them better or more faithful than the rest of us. I know people who are faithful and resilient and take suffering as part of life and still manage to find joy in it all.
But I am not sure the author of this letter was telling us to seek out suffering for the cause and to try to make our lives more difficult. I think the author of this letter was admitting that sometimes it is hard work to live a life of faith. Sometimes it is easier to follow the crowd, to listen to the voices in our culture encouraging us to move in another direction.
And that is why it is imperative that we turn to God for peace, wisdom and encouragement. It might not be the easiest road, but it will be a road illuminated by God’s light, filled with God’s love and touched by God’s grace. It is on God’s road that we can truly and fully live out God’s call for us.
This scripture was a call to action for Timothy as he worked to build a church 2,000 years ago, but the author’s words ring so true for us, today.
And so I encourage you today – if your life is crazy or even if everything is going okay – to take comfort in these words, but also take charge in them. Live your life inspired by the scriptures that have been given to us. Hold fast to the Christian teachings we have been taught. Boldly and humbly proclaim your faith to others and encourage them on their journey. Resist outside forces that are pushing you in other directions.
And remember, in the midst of this crazy season of life, that you are never alone. You, my friends, are beloved and blessed children of God. God is with you. God has brought you here and God will carry you through. We will get through the craziness. We will find peace. We will find balance. Hold onto that hope.
Thanks be to God!