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2 Timothy 1:5-10
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today is the 487th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. In 1530 there was no such thing as the separation of church and state. The Emperor, Charles the V, felt that there should be only one religion in his territories. He thought religious division would hinder his ability to defend his territories against the advance of the Islamic armies of the Turks. He intended to use the meeting at Augsburg to re-establish unity, by force if necessary. The Lutheran Dukes, Princes and representatives of a few Free Cities presented the summary of their faith based on Scripture. This confession, written by Melachthon because Luther had already been declared an enemy of the state, clearly stated what they believed on the basis of Scripture, and what they rejected on the basis of Scripture. I don’t think we can truly appreciate the gravity of the situation. This was not just stating that you believe in Creation and reject evolution before a professor who might give you an F for confessing your faith. This was stating what you believed before the most powerful people in the world, knowing that they were probably going to reject what you had to say and that there could be physical consequences for you and possibly military and economic consequences for the people in your territories.
Seven Dukes and Princes together with the Mayors of two free cities took a big risk. It would have been easier to keep silent, or to acquiesce and compromise. But their bold and faithful confession helped to Pass the Faith. That’s what Paul thanked God for and encouraged Timothy to do. That’s what is still needed today. Pass the Faith. Pass it down to the next generation. Pass it on to others, even in the midst of threats and persecution.
As Paul thinks about Timothy he is moved to give thanks and praise to God for the faith that was passed down to him. When he thought about Timothy he saw the faith being passed down from one generation to another, from grandmother, to mother and then to Timothy. He knows that was not something easy. Lois, Eunice and Timothy didn’t live in Israel. They lived in what is modern Turkey. They didn’t live in a place where the majority believed in the one true God. In fact, when Paul healed a lame man in their city the people thought he was a god and tried to make sacrifices to him. Timothy’s Father is never mentioned by name, only that he was a Greek which seems to indicate that he was not a believer and maybe was not a big part of Timothy’s life. Yet, in spite of all of these obstacles, Lois and Eunice made sure that Timothy learned the Word of God. And, when Paul came to their town and not only performed a miracle, but told them the good news that the Messiah they had learned about in God’s word had come; that as Isaiah had foretold, Jesus had suffered and died for sin and then risen from the dead; they believed. God’s word did not return empty. The Holy Spirit used the word they had learned and the good news Paul proclaimed to bring Lois, Eunice and Timothy to trust in Jesus as their savior.
What better thing could be said of your family than that you passed the faith from generation to generation! The world thinks the best thing would be that you pass on a big inheritance, but that’s not always a blessing, and it can all be lost in some disaster or wasted by ungrateful heirs. The best thing that you can pass down to the next generation is the faith. And unless you realize that, you won’t be willing to do the hard work it takes to make it happen.
No matter who you are, like Lois and Eunice, you will face challenges if you want to pass the faith to the next generation. Like Eunice, you may not have a spouse who supports you. You may live in an area where you are surrounded by idolaters, or have an extended family who thinks you are wasting time, money and effort in trying to pass down the faith. You will have to battle sinful nature- your own that doesn’t want to take the time to do what God says and talk about God and his word with your children at every opportunity throughout the day, that doesn’t want to do the work of having home devotions and saying prayers every night; and the sinful nature of your children who don’t want to put down the tablet, or the phone, or shut off the TV, who don’t want to be weird because none of their friends have devotions and prayers at their house. You might have to put up with scorn and anger from other parents and from your children if you refuse to participate in certain sports teams because it will interfere with worship and Sunday school. But passing down the faith is more than attending church and Sunday school; it’s letting your children see that God and his word are the most important things in life and that you are willing to take a stand, to do a difficult thing, to live your faith, not just talk about it, or go through the right motions for an hour or two on Sunday, but live your faith.
We don’t have the details of what Lois and Eunice did to pass the faith down to Timothy, but Paul saw the results. He rejoiced. He thanked God that the sincere, unhypocritical faith he had seen in Lois and Eunice he also saw in Timothy. The Faith had been passed down. But there was still work to be done. Paul encourages Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God. He reminds him that when the Spirit works faith in our hearts he does not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Lois and Eunice had done something wonderful and important. They had passed the faith down to Timothy, but now Timothy had the responsibility of passing the faith on to others.
Passing down the faith had not been easy for Lois and Eunice and passing on the faith would not be easy for Timothy. His mentor, the one who had told him about Jesus and who had given him on the job training to be a Pastor and missionary was in prison. The temptation would be great to begin to question whether what Paul had taught him was true. If God is so great and loving why would he let his great missionary, Paul, sit in prison? The temptation would be great to be ashamed to be associated with Paul; maybe to deny any connection with Paul so as not to end up in prison with him.
The confessors at Augsburg must have felt those same temptations. Their leader, Luther, had not been imprisoned, but he had been declared an outlaw by the state and a heretic by the chruch. The temptation must have been there to question whether Luther was right when he opposed indulgences and proclaimed salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. (By the way, apparently indulgences are alive and well and you can get one by following Pope Francis on Twitter.) The temptation must have been there to be ashamed to be associated with Luther and his teaching.
Many of you who have had the faith passed down to you face the same temptations. You see how your faith is ridiculed by government leaders and professors and scientists, those who seem to be the smartest and most powerful people, and you are tempted to question whether or not the faith that has been passed down to you is true. You are tempted to be ashamed to be associated with a church, with parents and grandparents who believe those things that everyone else seems to be calling at foolish and a waste of time, if not dangerous.
How do you overcome those temptations and continue to pass on the faith to others? Remember what Paul says, fan into flame the gift of God, which has been given you by the Holy Spirit. Remember that God did not give you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of those who passed the faith on to you. But join them in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. This fanning of the gift of God into flame; this bold and sincere confession of faith even in the face of persecution, comes only as you are reminded every day of what God has done for you. He has saved you and called you to a holy life. He has defeated sin, death and Satan for you. He has called you out of the darkness of sin and unbelief and he has called you to live, not for yourself, but for him. He did this for you –not because of anything you have done but because of his own purpose and grace. In fact, as proof that it wasn’t because of anything you have done, this grace was given you in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. Even before you were born and had done anything good or bad, God chose you to be his. And, now that you have been born he carried out his purpose for you by letting you know that, Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Like Timothy, by God’s grace, against all odds, the faith has been passed down to you. All thanks and praise and glory to God for that gift! By God’s grace you know that all your sins are paid for and that you have something that no one can ever take away, even if they kill you. You have immortality. You have an eternal home in heaven that has been purchased for you by Jesus. Fan the joy of that good news into flame through daily contact with God’s word and through the receiving of the Sacrament. Then others will see the fire of your love; then you will be unashamed as you boldly and sincerely confess the faith with Timothy and Luther and the Confessors at Augsburg and many others. Then God will use you to pass on the faith so that others may rejoice that they too have life and immortality through Jesus.