“Living Out the Gospel” 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, October 6, 2013
[Audio of the sermon is here.]
Did you watch the season opener for The Voice this week? If you aren’t familiar with it, it a show where successful music artists Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, and Blake Shelton compete with one another to win the best of musicians who perform for them. If you are a regular viewer, the competition between these judges comes as no surprise to you. To me, the best part is not seeing them compete for the contestant with the most potential. It is in watching their surprise when they have heard just enough from the singer to click the button and have their chairs flip around to see who it is that is singing. Quite often, there is a great look of surprise as they discover out of whom who such a beautiful or powerful voice is coming. Sometimes the most powerful voice comes from the most unlikely person, a great lesson in how big things can come in small packages. You never know what is inside of someone until they share it.
While you may never make it on The Voice, did you know that there is a song inside of you just waiting to get out? The text for today from 2 Timothy 1:1-14 is a great reminder that, as Christians, there is a beautiful song inside of us, there waiting to be shared with the world around us. The challenge for us is the same one Paul gave to Timothy long ago, that the gospel within us needs to work itself out.
Paul began his second letter to Timothy with a reminder of what what inside of him: faith. Paul mentioned how Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice, passed on their faith to him. It was the faith inside of them that they instilled into him, obvious enough inside of Timothy that Paul could see it and comment on it. For various reasons, Paul wanted to make sure Timothy remembered and realized what he contained. We see this also in how Paul called Timothy to do was not only realize the presence of faith within him, but to make it even bigger as one who would fan a small flame into a blazing fire.
News came out this week that a great discovery was made on Mars. It turns out that we have spent trillions of dollars and efforts in space travel only to find that there is tupperware on Mars. Yes, can’t you see those martians having a big tupperware party! Well, actually, it was not so much that tupperware was on Mars, but in Mars. When they looked at what was in the soil of Mars, they found the same chemical that makes up tupperware. As scientists are digging down deeper into Mars, they are finding what really makes up the planet. I guess it is helpful to know such things.
It is definitely helpful for you to know what you are made of; to become fully aware of what is inside of you as a follower of Jesus. We can’t fully participate as we should in the calling of the Christian life unless we understand what dwells within us. And what dwells within us has been placed there by God, via someone in our lives who has nurtured it there. Maybe for you it is a grandmother Lois or a mother Eunice. Maybe it was a Sunday School teacher, a friend or even a Pastor who helped fan that flame and make it brighter within you. Have you seen what is burning inside of you? Is the Good News of Jesus still good news to you? Sometimes the circumstances of life for us as followers of Jesus can be so difficult or challenging that we forget what’s there within us. We can get so discouraged, distracted, and detoured that we get disconnected from the source of our existence as Christians. Paul’s words today call us, like they did with Timothy, back to a deeper awareness of what we have within us as containers of the Gospel.
Paul, as a mentor for Timothy, doesn’t end with instructions for him to do spiritual naval-gazing. He goes on to make sure Timothy understood it was up to him to treasure the faith; the Gospel inside of him. His treasure (although not his salvation) was threatened by the great thieves of the spiritual life: fear and anxiety, worldliness, suffering, discouragement, and other distractions. Paul cautioned Timothy to, Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. He was to do whatever he could, with the help of the Spirit, to make sure the good news of Jesus was nurtured and protected within him.
I love it when a news story breaks about hidden treasure that is found. You think of pirates, golden treasure boxes, and giant X’s marking the spots. You might also think of an Indiana Jones movie, where Jones is trying to get past the traps and mechanisms intended to protect some ancient treasure. Rolling ginormous boulders, poisonous darts, and angry mummies aren’t usually present, but there is usually some evidence of great efforts made to guard a treasure.
As we consider the treasure of the Gospel that God has put inside of us, we too must do whatever we can to guard it. While the circumstances of our lives may be very different than for Timothy, the threat is much the same. We, too, can have the good news of Jesus taken from us, in the sense that we can allow other things to rob us of the reality and meaning it has for our lives as well as for the people around us it is to benefit. As you reflect on your past week, what have you allowed to creep into your life and steal from your treasure? Have you seen any fear, anxiety, suffering, discouragement, negativism, or any anger lurking around what God has given you? Were you fooled into letting any of these take what is yours? If so, relax, you are normal. But, if so, realize the need you have to guard your treasure, putting up your best guards and mechanisms to keep anything from getting at it in this next week. A great way to do that is by what we will do here in a few minutes, as we break bread and share in the cup of communion. We remember and we cherish this gift God has given.
Actually, though, the best way of guarding your treasure is by giving it away. This is what Paul tells Timothy here, Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling . . . and For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. Paul wanted Timothy to know what he had discovered: the Gospel of Jesus comes with a calling. For Paul, the Gospel was by nature a thing to be shared with everyone the follower of Jesus encountered on a daily basis, not something to be kept inside and cherished for one’s own benefit. And, for Paul, it was of such importance to share with others that it was worth suffering and even dying for to share with others. That’s the twist of the Gospel here. It is a treasure one might die sharing rather than hoarding.
Albert Einstein saw knowledge much like Paul viewed his faith. He once commented, “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
He understood the enormous treasure he had, but that it had been given and entrusted to him by others, for the purpose of passing on to future generations.
It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that we will fail as followers of Jesus, as a church, if we only cherish our treasure. Our calling is to be heralds and teachers of the Gospel we’ve received. This calling will lead us to pull from what we have within and give it to those without. It will lead us to live like St. Francis of Assisi did, as noted on his feast day this past Thursday, to preach the Gospel at all times and use words if necessary. This offering of treasure to other people is to be done just as Paul did: without shame, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the responsibility of a manager, and with complete sense of purpose. You can do this as you leave this place and go back home, as you encounter the neighbor next door, as you think about the government shutdown, as you go down the hallway at school, as you relate to your enemies, as you relate to people on social media, and as you serve on your missional team. In these ways and more, God is calling you to get the good news of Jesus out of you and into the lives of other people.
I can assure you that sharing what is inside of you in this way may not get you in front of Ceelo or Blake Shelton, but it will give the best display of reality the world around you will ever see, causing them to take special note, turn their chairs around and vote for what you have. So, keep singing.