This morning we are going to sway off the norm a little. I could be fired for not speaking on the Gospel, and I hate to mention it, but last week Fr. Harvey talked about Jeremiah and not the gospel, but, I think our Epistle has so much for us to hear, I just couldn’t help myself!
In this morning’s epistle, from a prison in Rome the apostle Paul is writing a personal letter to Timothy, where, soon Paul would be executed by the Romans for his faith.
As Paul suffered in prison, we should remember the words not from the ink in which they were written, but from Paul’s own blood as he sat and awaited his execution, all in the name of his faith in Jesus Christ.
This letter is personal, it’s to one person (Timothy), which is different than most of the readings we hear each Sunday. The readings we usually share are written to a community; this one is different.
So, as Paul sat awaiting his execution, what do you think prompted him to write a personal letter to young Timothy?
Could it have been that Paul thought it was so important to hand down our faith, that even in the mist of death, he needed to remind young Timothy how important handing down our faith really is?
Could it be, because they had such a close relationship. You see, Timothy had accompanied Paul on several missionary journeys and Paul also sent Timothy out on missionary journeys of his own.
Most of us know about the background of Paul, the guy who tormented Christians, became blind and then became a disciple of Jesus.
So, here’s some highlights on Timothy
Timothy came from a “mixed” marriage.
His father was a Greek, his mother Eunice was a Jewish Christian, and his grandmother Lois a Jew – turned Christian.
Before we go any further, I have a question for each of us
How did you acquire your faith?
Did you wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll be a Christian/Episcopalian and I’m gonna have faith”?
Did you have a major life event causing you to think about – “there must be more to life”.
Did you have a mentor, maybe your mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend or a teacher who shared his or her faith with you?
I chose this scripture today instead of the Gospel, because I think of the importance of “handing down our faith”.
And being so close to the start of our Sunday school year – I wanted us think about what we do, what we say and how we hand down our faith to our young people here at St. David’s, so that they will have the faith, much like young Timothy.
In the 5th verse of today’s epistle – Paul writes:
“I know that you sincerely trust in the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother Eunice and your grandmother Lois”.
Through this reading we can see where Timothy acquired his faith. It was from his mother and his grandmother.
These women understood the importance of handing down their faith tradition to their son/grandson. How did they do that?
Did they read scripture to him all the time?
Did they pray and teach him how to pray?
Did they have gracious hearts towards others, serving those in need, sharing that with him?
We can only speculate on that, but it would seem reasonable that it may have been a combination of all the above.
Another question – how do we share our faith with our children and grandchildren?
Do we actually do it?
Are we providing our children and grandchildren the same foundation that Eunice and Lois gave Timothy?
Everything needs a foundation, a house needs a foundation in order to stand or it will collapse, a bridge needs foundations/pillars of which not to collapse, a wall needs primer as a foundation, for the paint to adhere properly, faith to, needs a solid foundation.
Going to Sunday school is great part of the foundation, as the kids make friends, arts and crafts, have fun parties, fellowship, learn some scripture, learn how to pray and share with others.
I would call that the “interior structure”, like putting the curtains in the windows – the “icing on the cake”, so to speak.
The true foundation our kids need comes from each of us as individuals.
As our children’s mentors, we need to share our Christian journey with them. Being transparent about how God effects our daily lives so that they too can share their story to someone someday.
It is our responsibility to teach them that serving others is a major part of the Christian journey. It is our responsibility to show them love, so that they too will show love.
Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed to tell others about the Lord.
We want so much for our young people – we want them to succeed in life, we want them to be happy. We buy them almost everything they ask for (that we can afford), to make them happy.
Why is it so hard for us to hand down our faith to the most important people in our lives?
I can remember as a young kid going to the Catholic Mass at the Irish church many a Sunday with my Aunt Mary. It was a huge old Catholic church in North Adams. I can remember being mystified be the grandeur of the building. I can remember wearing my clip-on tie and soft hat.
I can also remember as a young kid going to the Catholic Mass on many a Sunday with my Aunt Lola and Uncle Karl at the Italian Church. Aunt Lola and Uncle Karl were both Eucharistic Ministers and I thought they were real big shots. Just like some of our Eucharistic ministers here do, not mentioning any names…. Only kidding , we so much value and appreciate their love and service to us all.
I can remember as a young kid and as a teenager going to the Catholic Mass on Sundays with my mother, father and sister where I attended catechism.
I have been blessed with a loving group of people who understood the importance of handing down their faith, in the best ways they knew how.
I must admit, that I didn’t really understand or know at times what I was participating in, nor what to do or believe but, I did get that solid base foundation.
As I grew up, I always prayed. As a young person I prayed that God would bless me and my family, and as I grew in in my Christian faith, I began to pray for others outside my family circle.
And my prayer life continued to change, what was once focused on myself and those close to me has now become much less about me and so much more about others.
The people whom I do not know, people who I hear or read about who are facing struggles in their lives. The people of Ukrain, Russia, Afghanistan through no fault of their own are suffering so. The people who suffer from disease, such as covid and other diseases. People who are sick.
For refugees, people who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. People who want just what we want. Happiness, health and a fair shake in life. People who want their kids to have those same things we want for our kids. That’s why I have felt such a calling to help these people.
For each of you, my church family, that God blesses each of you in your daily lives.
I am forever grateful for those in my young life that taught me in their own way about faith, giving me a foundation.
Who do you have to be thankful for that taught you about faith?
Take a moment this morning and give God thanks for those wonderful people in your life.
How have you handed down your faith to those you love and those seeking God’s presence?
We are so grateful to our Sunday school teachers, who take time out of their lives to hand down their faith in teaching our young people here at St. David’s. These people maybe the folks that our children and grandchildren will one day remember as the people that poured their foundation of faith.
And so, I don’t get in trouble from “you know who”.
The Gospel cop…
In our gospel reading today, Jesus tells us “Even if you have the faith of a mustard seed, the smallest tree in the garden” you can move mountains.
Jesus is telling us that faith of any size can be life changing.
Jesus says that “when we obey him, we are doing our duty”.
So, each of us need to do our duty.
Part of our Baptismal promises we are asked:
“Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith & life”?
We answered - yes
“Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ”?
We answered – yes
We need to remember those promises we made.
If Abraham, if Isaac, if Mary, Joseph, all the saints of the past and yes, Timothy had not handed down their faith, what would we have?
Well, it’s our responsibility to hand down our faith to those who come after us, just like they did for us.
So, I remind us:
Do not be ashamed of your faith, do not be afraid to share how God has made a difference in your life with our young people.
Our words, in sharing prayer, our actions showing love, compassion and our service to others is part of handing down our faith.
Oh- did I tell you that Timothy became the first Bishop of Ephesus – amazing, how that happened, seems that faith handed down to him really made a difference.
Think about this, maybe we have a future Bishop in our mists and don’t know it.
Even if not a Bishop – a loving, caring, humble child of God.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan