Weekly sermon synopsis and sermon text
The epistle readings are currently from St Paul’s letters to Timothy. We are getting toward the end of 2 Timothy – quite possibly the last thing St Paul wrote. So the tone is urgent and has a sense of final warning about it – Paul knew he did not have long left in this world. In today’s epistle Paul warns ‘young’ Pastor Timothy against those who have ‘itching ears’ (2 Tim 4:3). That is, those people who ‘accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths’ (2 Tim 4:3b-4a). We’ve always had a tendency to drift toward only what we want to hear. It might well now be as bad as it’s ever been given you can pretty much find an opinion to agree with yours on almost any topic with only a few clicks through an online search. God gave us his inspired word for ’teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim 3:16-17). There is a profound gift on offer here for the Christian life. Seems we better take notice of it rather than the next thing that suits our ears just because that’s what we want to hear! While it sounds dramatic, it is, because no less than salvation is at stake in these matters (see 2 Tim 3:15). Something to be instructed in, thank God for, confess and pray about!
Some things you can’t just be told to do and do. Like be grateful, loving, faithful, gracious or THANKFUL! We need to be motivated, inspired and well… feel it! At least initially… because over time with some good habits and ways of thinking we also know that we can teach ourselves to live more in these things. But what is the initial source of this inspiration? I don’t think it is just being told to do them. The account of the healing of the ten lepers by Jesus in Luke 17:11-19 helps us to see it. It’s only when the Samaritan leper puts together the healing with the fact that Jesus is that priest he ought be, showing himself so that we realise our thankfulness arises out of an encounter with the living Lord. From there we can draw on that, and keep encountering and keep being thankful. Sometimes I’ve heard this text on the 10 lepers preached as a call to thankfulness. That makes me roll my eyes a bit because it’s first and foremost an insight into the living power of Christ and how he changes us. From that springs thankfulness to God as a way of being / doing life / worshipping God in all things. From the outer – an encounter with Christ – to the inner response of thankfulness and back out again to thankfulness for all he has done.
In the epistle reading for the first Sunday of this two-week bulletin St Paul makes the simple but profound statement to ‘young’ Pastor Timothy that ‘… godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Timothy 6:6). I expect there is something in all of us that accepts the truth of that. Yet on a practical level we might rightly ask something like “That’s all good, but how does one be content? How does one be godly? How does one do both at the same time so we can have that great gain?” These questions get asked among a lot of clutter in our lives that hides the reality of St Paul’s statement. Clutter also in our spiritual landscape that further distracts and obscures. Therefore, in a return to basics, both godliness and contentment need to be seen as gifts of God. The two work closely together and indeed might even be one and the same. At their basis is God’s grace…. The free gift of his Son Jesus, his ongoing outpouring of the Holy Spirit and all the life and love that He brings and the faith He gives us. When discontent the equivalent to the happy place when we are upset, needs to be a return to the grace place! So the cross, the open tomb and our saviour Jesus Christ saying ‘Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’(Matthew 28:20b).
Today we continue hearing in detail from the book of Hebrews. This sees us moving on from the examples of those of faith and the great cloud of witnesses of the past couple of weeks to the related issue of what it is we have come into. The writer compares two mountains – the mountain of Moses and the mountain of Christ. It’s essential in the Christian life we remember which mountain we are in front of, and therefore how that shapes what we do.
It’s often the promise of some sort of a reward that spurs us on to endure a tough project. The comfort and utility of a building or renovation project. The prospect of employment after studying. Plenty of rest and ‘doing your own thing’ in retirement after a lifetime of working. The delight of holding a precious newborn after labour. Today we continue on from our reading of last week. There we looked at the what faith is. Especially how it is that super critical thing that grasps (assents to) the promises of God. Today we look at how that faith both puts us on a race and eventually in the stands of heaven sheering on the other saints (See Hebrews 12:1-2). It is all only possible because of Jesus Christ… his ‘reward’ was the joy set before him (Hebrews 11:2b). This joy couldn’t be closer to us. All will be revealed!