First Congregational Church
September 25, 2016
19th Sunday after Pentecost, Baptism Sunday
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I was talking to a young gal this week, about how our brains sometimes work. She spoke about how she explains to people that sometimes her brain is like an open package of JiffyPop Popcorn, popping all over the place. It started with our shared appreciation of a posting on Facebook: I do not have ducks. Or a row. I have squirrels. And they’re at a rave. (A rave is a party with very wild dancing.)
We talked about 16 year olds competing at the Olympics and how I still push on pull doors. (Actually, we didn’t talk about that. I just love that saying, and was trying to figure out how to use it in a sermon.)
Or the one with a sad looking monk, who said, “Imagine being lonely in ancient times, and you couldn’t tweet, you would just have to sit there alone with your thoughts and write a Gregorian chant. (I have a Twitter account, but I don’t use because I don’t really know how, and if it’s anything like Facebook, I don’t think I should learn.)
I don’t know if Bill Murray actually posted it, but Facebook says he did, and he said, “Every Olympic sport should include one average person competing for reference.” Going to church is reference for the rest of the week and our lives.
So that you have reference for this morning’s scripture passage, this is the last of three weeks that we’ve been spending with the book of 1 Timothy. The book starts by saying that Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, to encourage him as he raises the new, little church in the city of Ephesus. Paul probably didn’t actually write the letter, and that’s probably not such a big deal, because God decided that the book needed to be included with the rest of the bible anyway.
And Paul writes a lot of things in 1 Timothy that are antithetical to our modern world and ears, mainly because that little church, growing up in a city full of differing religions and practices, needed to look different from those around it. And rather than do the necessary work to understand what was really going on, the antitheticals in this book have - over time - become hurtful and very misunderstood. So it’s been good to look a little more closely to this oft confusing book, and this morning, we look at the very end of it.
1 Timothy 6:6-19 (NIV)
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Final Charge to Timothy
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 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 this command without spot or blame 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 honor and might forever. Amen.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all.
Thank you, Norma. Those who haven’t had as much experience in life may think that these verses are really only about money - and being rich or poor. But those who have been around for a while realize it can be about anything that can take our eyes off of what grounds us: alcohol, drugs, work, illness, busyness, hurt, betrayal and so on. How ever you fill in for the phrase, “want to get rich,” in verse nine, “Those who ___ fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” If I were to re-write that sentence, I’d include the word “can” - “can fall into temptation” - because I don’t know that whatever takes our eyes off God automatically causes harm. But that’s my detail thing, for the time I get to be God for a day.
Regardless of who actually wrote this book, this part of it is good for grounding us in what is important in life. In verse 8, the writer wrote, “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Not if we pray enough or if we do enough charity work, or whatever else. Contentment comes after getting our most immediate needs met, and sometimes we need reminding that contentment is a good and valuable state.
The writer tells Timothy - and all of us helping to grow the body of Christ - to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, to help others put their hope in God, to do good, to be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share, and to turn away from godless chatter, opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. (And isn’t that last bit an interesting thought during our nation’s election season?) It almost sounds like a long list of do’s - vs. an unwritten list of don’ts.
As good as those ideas and thoughts are, they are more or less meaningless unless we realize “why” we should engage those things. It would be like giving little Robbie this list of things to do, and like most any child, one day there would come the question, “Why?”
We could tell little Robbie - or anyone questioning these encouragements - that “God says so, and that’s that.” Like, “because I’m your mother and I told you to do them.” As we get older, we come to understand that truth of line of thought - the thought that we often define as respect. But that’s not the author’s answer - from the scripture passage.
The answer for doing - and not doing - has passed on to us - in verse 19 - “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Actually, he says, “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age,” first, so there is a bit of the idea of doing good so we get points for later on. But it’s not really so much about points as it is about living - the life that is truly life.
The life that is truly life is not just about after we physically die, but how we get to live now, too. The life that we truly live, is as a seed that opens up and grows into what it is supposed to be, rather than turning in on itself, dying to lack of light and breath. It is growing deep and healthy roots, being the best of who we can be, relishing and reveling in God’s love and grace and mercy and light. So shall we pray.
God of Light and Love, we thank you for all that you want for us - the life that we sometimes fail to tend. Forgive us when we forget to water the soil you give us - the grounding of reference that gives meaning to our lives, rather than the other way around. Regardless of our age, ability or even energy, help us all to do all that we can to open ourselves to your light and breath and even rain, that we will all become the best part of the body of Christ of which we are able and capable. Guide us and fill us and raise us, that we can do the same for those around us, and that we are all better for nurturing one another in the life that is truly life. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.