The Family of Faith
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on 2 Timothy 1: 1 -10. Focus on how our families become the incarnation of God for us and bring us to faith.
When you think of your faith, do you remember how you came by it? For some like the Apostle Paul it came in a blinding light from the heavens, for others it came from hearing a church organ played for the first time. But for most of us I will wager it came in the from of our parents or grandparents who raised us in the church.
I can remember vividly sitting on my grandfather’s lap listening to him read me stories out of the Bible about a big whale swallowing a little man named Jonah or my father on Christmas morning reading the birth narratives from Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels while my sisters and I placed the creche pieces around the manager as our turn came in the story’s telling.
I remember how my aunt Charlotte would send these wonderful family letters to all of us telling us about the latest goings and doings of my cousin David as he worked on his Ph.D. in Old Testament and then how he, along with a group of scholars gave the world it’s latest Bible translation called the Common English Bible.
In fact if I wanted to run away from my family it wouldn’t be long before something else would be reminding me of how important the Christian faith was to the McClelland clan. The hymn Deep in the Shadows of the Past, which we will sing following the sermon was written by my Aunt Betsy. I’m proud of my family and its hertiage the way Kirk and Debbie are proud of the heritage that we celebrated when we baptized Andrew last week.
You see for most of us it was our family or those we called family, some as close as blood but not blood relatives who raised us and showed us what the Christian faith was all about. And that’s why I love this 2 letter to Timothy because it’s a letter not unlike the kind my Aunt Charlotte would write but in this case it’s from one man Paul a father figure to Timothy writing this rather sweet and tender letter reminding Timothy and us of where it all began.
And where it all began for Timothy is where it all begins for so many of us, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.”
For so many of us faith was not found at a burning bush, or through a blinding light on some distant Damascus road experience, but through the quiet, gentle, loving patience of our families and more often than not that has been due, as it was for Timothy to our mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who introduced us to a bigger family – the family of faith.
What is clear from this gentle letter is something that most of us now to be true, if not for someone in our family we wouldn’t be here.
Of that faith author Paul Hammer writes:
Faith is never a matter simply for an isolated individual. It involves a community of persons that stretches back into the past, embraces people in the present and anticipates a fellowship in the future. Faith involves a cloud of witnesses to God’s continuing faithfulness.
And what does that continuing faithfulness look like? Well if God moves in the thunderstorms or speaks in the accents of naturals disasters that’s not how I have received my faith. If God is some great puppeteer who somehow pulls the strings for good or for bad, depending upon his temper or ours, than I do not want to have faith in that God.
Rather, I believe that God has made the world and loves it so much that he has given himself into our hands and made his work of creation our work to continue and made it an opportunity for us to do good in this world. I do not see God act in the form of phenomena so much as I see God act in the form of men and women.
Ordinary men and women like my mother and father, who took me to church and to Sunday school when I was little. Who gently answered my questions of why we do the things we do with the answer, because that’s what it means to be a Christian. Who raised me and my sisters to see that their faith and the faith of their parents was also our faith born out and understood by doing very practical and sometimes mundane things like simply showing up for church and showing up to be with others who were trying to learn what it means to be a Christian.
By giving money, time, energy until that time when I began to see God in the faces of all those who were gathering in houses of worship like this around me, who remind me each week of how precious the human family is because it reflects back to me the image of God.
It has always been through human beings, first revealed in Jesus Christ and then in Mary the mother of Jesus, the disciples, Paul, Lois and Eunice the grandmother and mother of Timothy right down to my grandparents, mother and father, aunts, uncles and cousins and your parents too and the people who have born our sorrows and shared our joys with us, it has been through them that God has come into our lives.
But we must remember this too, faith is a verb not a noun and it stays alive in our lives only as long as we pass it on to others. So with the prophets of old we too must tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and how he has brought those glorious deeds to fruition in our own lives.
You and I are not simply the objects of a benevolent, a wrathful or an indifferent God, pieces of furniture to be arranged at will, we are literally to be the incarnation, to be God’s hands and feet and heart in this world, for it is through us, our patience, our labor, and our love in a world easily content without God, or with a distorted view of God, that the loving God of Christ will be known and served on this a day in whose name we are called, and whose name we gather and whose name we are sent out into the world to make it look a little more like Christ. Amen