Sermon , Pentecost 14th C, Sunday September 15, 2019
1 Timothy 1:12-17 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/20190915_message.mp3
You have to be immensely patient to be a parent. You have to be immensely patient to be an educator. Same for being a life-long partner. Sounds here like you have to be immensely patient to be a pastor and people working together in the mission of God. Good news is that God is “immensely patient” with us!
Paul writes to his young apprentice, Timothy, about the craft of pastoring his people. He calls Timothy to pay close attention to what he teaches concerning God’s grace in Jesus and assures him that the Father is immensely patient with him and his rather ‘interesting’ people.
We hear in these Pastoral Letters that what we believe and teach each other really matters. God patiently teaches us. We patently teach each other and through us the world is taught the good news of grace in Jesus.
Why the patience? Because there is teaching that is sound and true and good for people and there is teaching that is not. And it is hard to tell the difference sometimes.
Careful attention to what we teach and confess from the Word of God is not a straitjacket limiting our freedom, but the source of true freedom in all circumstances.
Paul speaks about what he calls ‘sound teaching’ or ‘healthy words”? He knows that the problem we have is that we find it difficult to stick with those good words of God. It is real battle.
The inclinations of our broken hearts and our needy bodies, the pull of popular belief trotted out in a million places every day, and the work of the Deceiver always upon us, make God’s healthy words hard to hear.
Paul believes and knows from experience that sound teaching is the foundation of a strong forgiving, loving caring family and church; with deeper brotherly and sisterly love and unity of purpose in Jesus.
Jesus is God’s healthy word; God’s sound teaching:
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
That is our core. From this gospel core comes a very good thing; a wide thing; a thing of hope…. Grace received; grace known; grace lived…
The Father’s whole goal of teaching all of us Jesus is – that all may know the grace of God. Faithful teaching and confessing and doing is the heart of fruitful mission.
Paul’s ultimate goal in encouraging Timothy (and us) is that he and the people would enjoy the blessing of “living peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. [Because] This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:3-4).
Sound gospel centred teaching and living creates outward looking and loving people and Jesus’ kingdoms grows….
Sticking with the good words of Jesus is obviously is no easy thing. You can tell this by these letters.
There is unsound teaching that creates unsound practices IN THE CHURCH. And when the church is disordered, disunified, unsure, unclear and unencouraging, it has little chance of being useful in the mission of Christ.
The exact details of the unhealthy teaching being peddled by some in Ephesus is hard to pin-point here, but there are hints.
And the stakes are high. Apparently, this unsound teaching is even causing some people in this Ephesian church to abandon the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).
There are some pretty strong people in the church community who are convinced of some things that are contrary to the sound teaching Paul taught Timothy and the church when he planted it and nurtured it for about three years.
The physical does not matter: A belief that the physical things of life, the material world, God’s created earth and stars and sky and human body and all creatures are somehow almost useless; valueless compared to the ‘spiritual things’. This flies in the face of God’s good creation in all its spiritual AND physical glory.
Jesus is not really human: Because physical things are unimportant and easily done away with, Jesus must not have actually been really human – just a spirit living in a human body for a while. And not raised physically – only spiritually. And so, the same for his baptised people. We are not really made new in any other way than spiritually and when we are resurrected we are not raised bodily, only spiritually. This is the old “Soul taking flight to some cloud in the sky or other world somewhere to float around forever” kind of belief we have talked about this year. Healing ministry is diminished. God does not really know our suffering.
Knowledge is all important (not faith). Because of only spiritual things being important for being accepted by God, the only way to be OK with God is to UNDERSTAND certain things or have certain KNOWLEDGE of spiritual things. The more knowledge of spiritual things you have, the greater the likelihood that you will return from when you came – the ‘spiritual world’. Faith takes a back seat and we become our own saviour’s by our knowledge of secret mysterious things….. and you have no assurance that you are ‘saved enough!
Welcome to being a pastor, Timothy! Welcome to being a community of unified, loving and fruitful Christians in mission! It all sounds pretty hard for both of us, doesn’t it?
But the Lord is at work teaching us, right from the beginning and will do so until the end. “I am with you always as you baptise and teach each other and others beyond, Jesus says (Matthew 28). And everyone has hope because grace is at work in real time for real people. Just ask Paul….
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Thank the Lord today that even the most unhealthy words and skewed teaching and behaviour can be recovered. Even those who have been led off down a dead end can be brought back to the highway. Even a church in conflict with some strange ideas can return to unity of purpose and be of great use in the Lord’s mission to bring all people into his grace.
How so? By what Paul names as the gift of God’s “immense patience”.
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him.”
Paul holds up the story of how the Lord was so immensely patient with him as hope for Timothy in a tricky community, and hope for us striving to be his faithful church here in tricky times.
We all struggle to trust that this Jesus is that patient with us! The mistakes I keep on making, the weaknesses I keep on displaying, the past sins I keep on remembering, the regrets I keep on replaying…..
The Lord Jesus knows all of these and knows the circumstances and the psychology and is still ready to forgive me, assist us, help us, love us, advocate on our behalf when we have no case to offer, no self-justification good enough to speak. This is grace and this is everything for this imperfect pastor and this imperfect church.
Imperfect we be but the Lord’s we still are. Grace still reigns and we have a chance to be part of his grace changing lives, one moment at a time as we patiently speak God’s good words; God’s healthy words; God’s gospel sound teaching.
Your kind and loving heavenly Father has healthy words for you. He patiently teaches you his words of life as you go in his name. He calls you and trusts you as he trusted Paul and Timothy.
He has appointed you to be his woman, his man of gospel healthy words where you live.
And when you don’t listen and get side-tracked, he calls you again and forgives you and us together for past wrongs. He is still patiently directing us.
13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep these words until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.