24 January 2021†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††† ††Saint Athanasius Lutheran Church

Epiphany 3 / Saint Timothy††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††† Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

ďFor a Home and Care For AllĒ

Text: Matthew 24:42-47; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Acts 16:1-5

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

S

tay awake! Jesus told His disciples.

 

Itís hard to stay awake alone. Coffee makes it easier. So does knowing how long you have to stay awake. Like on New Yearís Eve, you know once midnight hits and the ball drops you can go to bed.

 

But the disciples had neither of those things. There is no such thing as spiritual caffeine. Satan is always singing sweet lullabys into our ears - that all is well, thereís plenty of time, your sins arenít so bad, no need to worry - to put our faith to sleep and make it easier to break into our spiritual houses. And we do not know when our Lord is returning, when that clock is going to strike midnight.

 

So our Lord sets servants over His households, His Churches, to feed them, care for them, and watch. And one of those servants was Timothy. He was of the second generation of Christians, after the apostles, but the first generation of pastors who would care for the church after them. We could have put the red paraments out today instead of the white, for sources say that Timothy was martyred in the year 97. But weíre not commemorating Timothy the martyr today, but Timothy, the Pastor and Confessor.

 

And Timothy, as all pastors and confessors, is to be about one thing: the Word of God. Which is the Word of Christ. Which is the Word that proclaims Christ. The proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is, our Saviour. On this rock, on this confession, Jesus said, I will build My Church (Matthew 16:16-18). So the Church isnít built by our efforts. The Church isnít built on a person, on a Peter, a Luther, a Pope, or anyone else. The Church is built on this confession. And the Church is torn down when this confession is lost.

 

So our Lord sets servants, like Timothy, over His households, to care for them with the Word of God. That he, and they, stay awake and be always ready for when our Lord comes again. To be, as we heard at the end of the Church Year, one of the five wise virgins who were ready, not one of the five foolish ones who were not (Matthew 25:1-13).

 

The apostle Paul was Timothyís pastoral mentor. We heard that in the reading from Acts today. Timothy watched and listened and learned from Paul. But later, when Timothy was serving as a pastor, he also received letters from Paul, to encourage and exhort him. And we heard from one of them today as well. And in those verses we heard today, there were four imperatives Paul told Timothy to do, in order to be a good and faithful pastor: Flee, pursue, fight, and take hold. Now, these are things that every Christian should do, for yourself and for your household. So as we think of them regarding Timothy and his household, his church, know they are true for you as well.

 

So first, Paul said, flee and pursue. Flee these things and pursue these: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

 

So first: Flee these things. What things? In the verses right before the ones we just heard, Paul had talked about three things that are, perhaps, particularly tempting for pastors and Christians: (1.) conceit, or pride; (2.) love of money and the lust for it; and (3.) the craving for controversy. Flee these things, Paul says, for all three of these things lead us away from Christ.

 

First, conceit, or pride, leads us away from Christ and makes it all about me. ††††††† Pride exalts me. Pride is self-serving. But the Church is to be all about Christ and His forgiveness. About Christ serving us. And so a Christianís proper place is not in pride, but in humility, in repentance, in Lord, have mercy. So pride eats away at faith. And a prideful pastor, who puts the focus on himself, hurts his Church. Flee pride.

 

Flee also the love of money and the lust for it. You could probably all name examples of Churches and ministries - and pastors - that fell because they became all about the money. Christians, too, can become too busy and too preoccupied with money and so lose Christ. Because if youíre all about the money, you lose the true riches Christ has for you. Riches bought not with gold or silver, but with the holy, precious blood of Christ and with His innocent suffering and death (1 Peter 1:18-19). Flee the love of money.

 

And third, flee the craving for controversy. In Paulís day, there were philosophers who loved to argue about things, just as there are people today who love to argue. We want to be right. We want to win. But to defeat another person is not the same as to win them for Christ. Instead, we are to proclaim Christ. Confess Him and His truth. And when we do, when we confess the Word of God, the Spirit is the one who works through that Word and works in the hearts of those who hear. So donít try to win - thatís the Spiritís job! Flee the craving for controversy. Speak Christ. Live in Him.

 

So flee those things and pursue these: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

 

Righteousness: the rightness that comes with humility and repentance, by the forgiveness received by grace through faith in Jesus.

 

Godliness: that righteousness not just received, but lived. That forgiveness changing us and having an impact on our lives.

 

Faith and love: these are where our focus as Christians is to be. Faith toward God, to receive all good from Him, and love toward our neighbor, to give all good to her. These are the opposite of self-serving, navel-gazing pride.

 

Steadfastness: confidence, certainty, immoveability; which comes with being anchored in Christ.

 

And Gentleness: this could also be translated as kindness or meekness. It is the opposite of craving controversy. This is caring for others. Being concerned not with winning, but concerned for them. Treating them as better than yourself.

 

Pursue these things. . . . But how often is it true that we pursue what we should flee, and flee what we should pursue? In our lives as Christians, and even as our life together as a Church? Which is like running a race on a track in the wrong direction. Which doesnít make any sense. But satan knows our weaknesses. He is an expert at temptation - at turning us around. The Christian life will always be a fight - not against others, but against our old, sinful selves.

 

Which is why the third imperative of Paul is just that: fight! Fight the good fight of the faith. Some fights are good fights, but not all are. The good fight is the fight of the faith. The fight against our old, sinful selves. The fight against falsehood. The fight to confess Christ alone as Saviour, and to fear, love, and trust in Him alone. And the word for fight there is the word agonizo - agonize. Struggle in the right direction . . .

 

To take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Thatís the fourth imperative: take hold. Grab. Not the things of this world and life, but eternal life. That is, take hold of Christ. Just as you confessed. Timothy did, and you did. Most of you did when you stood here and confessed Christ and said that you would remain steadfast, anchored in Christ, pursuing righteousness and godliness, and living in faith and love, even unto death. That is, even if it cost you your life. You said: I will, by the grace of God. By the grace of God, because you knew you couldnít do it yourself, on your own.

 

But if I asked each of you today how youíre doing with that - and if you asked me - I know what our answers would be. The lullabys of satan work on us. He turns us around. Weíd rather take it easy than agonize.

 

Which is why our Lord gave us His Church and Timothys. That there be a place for us to be fed and forgiven. That no matter how we did this week, no matter how many laps run in the wrong direction, how sleepy we were, or how easy we took it, here we are forgiven; put right again. The Word of forgiveness is proclaimed and it does what it says.

 

For here is not only where our Lord is for us, but where He takes hold of us. He who agonized for us on the cross, the immortal who became mortal for us, the one who dwells in unapproachable light who came into this world of darkness and sin and hung on a cross in darkness and with our sin, the King of kings and Lord of lords who became one of us and took hold of us to save us. To pull us out of our sin and into His life. For He is the one who gives life to all things. Life comes only from Him. Our physical life and our spiritual life. And just as we need a home to care for our physical lives, so we need a home to care for our spiritual lives.

 

There are few sights sadder than an orphan, or a homeless person, or a refugee - people who have no home. And few sights sadder to our Father in heaven than those who have no spiritual home, when there is a home here for them. Where Jesus says: mi casa, su casa - my home is your home. Here is His love. Here is His forgiveness. Here is His Word. Here is His feeding. For you. That you always have a place. And a family.

 

And a Timothy, a pastor and confessor. One put here to serve you. Put here to speak and give on behalf of Christ. To call you to repentance when youíre running the wrong way or falling asleep. But even more, to proclaim to you and give to you the gifts and the love and the care you need. The forgiveness and life that cast out satan and drive him away. To agonize for you and with you. If he becomes all about himself, then he needs to be called to repentance. Because this place is not about him, itís all about Christ. The Blessed one who blesses us. The one who is immortal to make our lives immortal. The one who is Light that we might dwell in that light.

 

That one took hold of you in Baptism, absolves you with His Word, and feeds You with His Body and Blood. That you might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom (Small Catechism). Thatís what the apostles proclaimed, what Timothy confessed, and what we confess today. In our lives, in our homes, in our churches. That when our Lord, Jesus, our Bridegroom returns, we be awake and ready. To welcome Him with joy. Or as we sang earlier: To arise and shine in splendor . . . and be a part of that people withour number, who rejoice to see the Morning Star (LSB #396).

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.