I feel like I am constantly signing on and starting my posts with, “Sorry, Sunday got away from me, I’m just now getting to posting my sermon!” like it’s an original thought or something. #brokenrecord
But it is the truth! So categorized under “better late than never” here are my thoughts from Sunday …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 9, 2016
2 Timothy 2:8-15
To See The Big Picture
Do you ever feel like life has a way of swallowing you up?
Fall is a really busy season; I think it always has been and it always will be. The pace of life picks up from the summer, school and other programs start, people start preparing for the upcoming holidays and employers often ask their employees to work more to successfully close out the year. Everyone starts to go crazy trying to fit it all in.
The past couple of weeks have been a pretty typical level of crazy for me this time of year. On top of the hustle and bustle of everyday church life, I have been tending to all of the business that comes up in the fall – evaluations, stewardship, fall programs, Homeless Awareness Weekend preparations and Advent and Christmas planning, to name a few. This week, in particular, Bruce and I have been scrambling to balance our schedules – both of us working more than usual and we offered to help some friends this weekend by taking their daughter while they are out of town.
So I spent a lot of this week running from one thing to the next while staring at a growing pile of laundry, anxious and wondering how I was going to fit in everything that I needed to do. On Wednesday night I had a little bit of a pity party for myself, wishing I could find more time in the day, room in my schedule and balance in my life.
And then on Thursday morning I woke up and saw this alert from CNN on my phone:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott offers dire warning for people living in hurricane evacuation zones to leave: “This storm will kill you. Time is running out.”
In an instant, my mind went to my people in Florida. My Aunt Jen, who lives in Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona; who has a ranch with 11 horses, three donkeys, half a dozen dogs and a handful of cats. My brother-in-law Jason, who is in the Coast Guard and currently stationed in Jacksonville Beach. My seminary friend Sarah, who is currently serving a church in the Orlando area (those of you who bought the stackable elephants at the bazaar last year might remember that Sarah’s husband was the one who made me my original set). Our former office admin, Lorraine, who recently purchased a home in Florida after retiring last year.
A huge storm was coming and it was exceedingly clear that my people were going to get hit. And, while, in fairness to me, the things I was stressing about – church, year-end business, time with my husband, a clean house, finding balance in my life – are all important, it was amazing how quickly I went from caring about the important things to desperately praying for the really important things.
When I arrived at the office that morning I received a text from my aunt telling me she had decided not to evacuate so she could stay with the animals. She asked me to pray for the horses and the donkeys, who would have to weather the storm from the paddocks because the barn would not be safe. I tried to read the text out loud to Kathy, but I burst into tears. I suddenly saw the big picture and it was not stewardship campaigns, hectic schedules or laundry that needed to be put away. It was my people; the lives they had built, the devastation heading their way, the challenges they were about to face and the prayers they so desperately needed.
I had a big picture realization that morning.
The passage that we just heard from 2 Timothy is very much a big picture realization. The letter, itself, is credited to Paul (scholars believe that Paul either wrote it or it was written in his name). The author wrote this letter to his young protégé, a man named Timothy; he wrote it from a prison cell. He was likely facing death and offering his final testament.
As a pastor, I have the privilege of being with people in the final moments before they die. And many of them, in what is known as a “surge,” use that time to share their reflections on life and the wisdom they have gathered. They rarely talk about the times when they were stressed at work or let their laundry sit for days; they talk about the big picture stuff, about the really important things in life.
This was what the author of this letter was trying to do. He was writing to someone (Timothy) who was working hard to build a church in his community and facing the challenges that came with that daunting task. He was getting caught up in the unimportant details and struggling to find balance in it all. The author was trying to use this letter to encourage Timothy to see the bigger picture and to remember the very reason he was building the church to begin with.
The author of this letter wrote to Timothy and said, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” This is something that we, too, need to remember. The resurrection was not a once and done thing; the resurrection still means something in our lives today. It means that we are not alone; that when we face obstacles on our journey, God will always help us find a safe passage. It means that, even when all seems lost and the craziness of life is swallowing us up, God’s love will always win.
This is what we were born into. This is what we baptize our children into. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ, to live into the Gospel, to endure the challenges life throws at us and remain faithful along the way. This passage from 2 Timothy says that if we endure the hardships, that we will reign with Christ and I believe this reign starts right here, on earth, in the lives we are living.
This morning, I make this same call to you – “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” In the midst of your crazy and hectic and challenging lives (and I KNOW they are crazy and hectic and challenging!), I urge you to see the big picture and remember. Remember what it means to be a child of God. Remember what it means to be created so perfectly imperfect in the image of God. Remember what it means to be redeemed and to know that second change are real (and third changes and fourth chances and sometimes 51st chances, if we need them). Remember what it means to be sustained so we are held up when we are weak, put back together when we are broken and given strength to find new limits to our own capacity. Remember the really important things.
It is so important that we step back and look at the big picture. There are a lot of distractions in this world; obstacles, obligations and stressors that keep us from remembering what is really important. We cannot lose sight of what is. And, in the midst of remembering what is really important, we have to remember that we are in this with God, that we are not alone.
“[Even] if we are faithless,” the author wrote to Timothy, “[God] remains faithful.”
God remains faithful. Always.
Even if our lives are crazy and hectic and challenging, God remains faithful.
And so today I encourage you to take some time to intentionally step out of your crazy and hectic and challenging worlds and look at the big picture. Think about what is really important and try to separate that from everything else. Ask yourself these questions: What is God calling you to do? Who is God calling you to be? Where will you find the Risen Christ in your life and how will you share that with the world? How will you remember Jesus in your life?
Do not let life swallow you up; Jesus did not die for that. Remember that, time and time again throughout history, God has proven to be faithful and today, we are living proof of this faithfulness. Our lives can and will bear witness to this promise.
My people were very lucky. What was damaged can be repaired and what was lost can be replaced. And as scary as it was to watch all of the hurricane preparations this week, I am grateful that I had a big picture realization. Because I was reminded in the midst of a really busy season that I need to let go of the things in life that are not worth stressing about and focus my time, energy and prayers on the things in life that are really important.
This is what this scripture is calling us to do. This is how we can really find God’s grace in the world.
Friends, my prayer for you today is that you will not only see the big picture, but that you will also be able to step out of your crazy and hectic and challenging lives and feel God in real, bold and powerful ways. I pray that you will see and experience resurrection in your own lives. I pray that you will have the courage to focus on the things in life that are really important and not feel guilty letting go of the things are not. I pray that you will find grace in the most unexpected ways and places and that God’s love will change your life.
Thanks be to God!
 The letter starts out by saying, “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” (2 Timothy 1:1-2, NRSV), but the Harper Collins Study Bible notes in its introduction to 1 Timothy that, “These letters present Paul as their author, but very few scholars now accept that claim.” (pg. 2015)
 2 Timothy 2:13, NRSV (adapted slightly, but I think these adaptions draw deeper meaning out of an already deep passage – God is faithful to us, no matter what – you don’t get that kind of guarantee anywhere else)