Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sermon -- Festival of St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor (January 24, 2016)



2 TIMOTHY 1:1-7

PREPARE THE NEXT GENERATION 
FOR THE LORD.

In the name + of Jesus.

     If you ever wondered where pastors come from, St. Timothy and his family give you a good example.  Rarely does a man become a pastor because he made a deal that, if God would rescue him from shark-infested waters or a foxhole, then he would become a pastor.  Men usually renege on those deals as soon as they are safe.  Timothy was neither in peril at sea or on the battlefield.  Timothy was at home.  Timothy's father was not a believer, but his grandmother and his mother were.  They taught Timothy the Scriptures even from infancy.  They taught Timothy to pray.  They took him to the synagogue.  Lois and Eunice took great pains to make sure that Timothy knew not only what the word of God was, but also that it was important.  It was through his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, that Timothy was being prepared for the holy ministry.  They prepared the next generation for the work of the Lord—though I doubt they thought that they were.
     The first we hear of Timothy was on Paul's second missionary journey when he stopped in Lystra, which is in modern-day Turkey.  Timothy was a disciple, and the other believers spoke well of him.  St. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and, in essence, be the seminary at which Timothy would learn to become a pastor.  It is hard to know just how long Timothy, Lois, and Eunice had actually known Paul.  Even if they had met Paul on his first missionary journey, their personal interaction with Paul could be measured in weeks.  Nevertheless, Timothy joined Paul and Silas on that missionary journey, and he remained Paul's protege, and later fellow pastor, for the rest of his life.
     As remarkable as it was for Timothy to go with Paul, I am even more amazed at the willingness of Lois and Eunice to let him go.  When Hannah had vowed to give her son, Samuel, to the Lord, she at least knew that he would reside with the high priest at the tabernacle.  Eunice kissed her son good-bye, having no idea where he would be going next.  In fact, not even St. Paul could have told her.  She only knew that she would see her son rarely, if even ever again.  She had raised Timothy and taught him that the word of the Lord was important.  In fact, it was all that mattered.  And now she entrusted her son to St. Paul to preach that word wherever they would go.  With great courage, she presented her son to be a pastor who would preach the word.  It was work that had to be done, for the word is important.  It is all that matters.  It is all that saves.
     Now, I loathe to talk about myself in sermons.  You should hear and learn about Jesus, not me.  Still, I was once asked what made me become a pastor.  Well, get ready for one of the more boring stories you will ever hear.  There was no foxhole, no shipwreck, not even a lightning bolt.  What I had were parents to whom the word of God was important.  I had parents who took me to church.  We never had discussions on Saturdays about what we might want to do the next day.  We always knew.  We went to church.  That's because the word of God was important.  It was all that mattered.  After years of attending a Lutheran grade school and high school, I went to college to study for the ministry.  It was not a burning desire.  I actually decided I would study to be a pastor until I knew I did not want to be one.  Years later, here I am.  I am sure my parents were similar to Lois and Eunice, preparing the next generation for the work of the Lord, but never thinking that they were.
     Now, not every boy will become a pastor.  But if you want to prepare the next generation for the Lord, then devote yourselves to being parents and grandparents like Lois and Eunice.  It is not as hard as you think.  It is simply a matter of bringing your family to church.  Even when your children are grown, encourage them to continue going to church.  You get to continue to highlight by your words and actions that this is important, and that God's word is all that matters.
     I think it I safe to say that parents want what is best for their children.  What do they pray for?  They want their children to be healthy and happy.  They want their children to have lots of friends.  They want their children to prosper and to succeed.  Do you know who prays for that?  Everybody.  It doesn't matter if the parents are Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, or atheists, all parents want these things for their children.  But as nice as these blessings are, none of them will forgive a single sin or deliver anyone from death.
     Your sinful nature will give you every reason to neglect that work.  To make your children happy, you may be inclined to give them whatever they want.  If they would rather go fishing than go to church, you will argue that fishing will make them happier.   If my kids are happier, then they will like me more and complain less, which only makes things easier for me—which means it is more about making yourself happy.  Your own flesh will also insist that sleep is more valuable than the Lord's gifts.  You may claim that Sunday is your day (“Family day” sounds even better!), not the Lord's day.  But understand this: The pattern you set will teach your children what matters and what is important.  If you present church as merely an option, they will learn than Jesus is optional.  And the world will assure them that there are better options.
     Prepare the next generation for the Lord.  We have not only the duty but the privilege of demonstrating to our children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors that the word of the Lord is important.  It is all that matters.  And the reason is matters is because the Lord Jesus Christ has shown us just how much we matter to him.  Even though we have been lukewarm toward his word and have considered faithful, godly living a burden, Jesus has not regarded us as a burden.  On the contrary, he came to lift the burden of our sins off of us.  He took the wrath of God upon himself which we had fully deserved.  Our love for God is often fickle, but Jesus' love for us is constant.  That love is declared in Jesus' sufferings and death for us.  Jesus died for sinners, took the curse for sinners, and poured out his holy, precious blood to pay the price for sinners.  And even though we do not always show appropriate thanks to him with joyful obedience, Jesus still does not turn his back on us.  We still matter to him.  He who rose from the dead still lives to intercede for us and to proclaim his mercy and forgiveness upon us.  He promises that we, too, shall rise from the grave as he did, and we shall dwell in the glories of heaven with him.  That is how important we are to him.  We matter to him.
     Prepare the next generation for the Lord.  They will grow up to see a world that is not faithful.  They will learn that friends—even spouses--can turn against you, that promises are not always kept—and can even be outright lies, and that for all the world entices you with, the only guarantee the world makes is for disappointment and death.  Prepare the next generation for the Lord so that they know and trust the Savior who never turns away, whose promises are always kept, and who guarantees eternal life and everlasting joy.  Jesus does this because you are important to him.  You are what matters to him.  And so he continues to pour out his blessings upon you week after week because you need them.
     Prepare the next generation for the Lord.  When St. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, he was on death row.  He knew that he was about to die for preaching the gospel.  He encouraged Timothy to boldly and faithfully continue in that preaching.  Though death would separate them in this world for a time, they would enjoy a blessed reunion in heaven with Jesus; for nothing can separate us from his love.
     You also, remain firm, bold, and faithful in Christ, and encourage the next generation to do the same.  Your children are the only blessings God gives you in this world which you can see in heaven.  If it is important for you to see them there, then prepare them for the Lord and encourage them to continue in what you have taught them.  No matter what valuable lessons you teach them in this life, most are only for this life.  But it is only the holy Scriptures which make you wise for salvation and which bring comfort to you in this frustrating world.  And it is only Jesus, though his word and sacraments, which saves you.  That is important, and it is all that matters.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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