November 12, 2017
2 Timothy 4:1-4
“Be Ready to Confess Jesus”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Epistle Lesson read from 2 Timothy 4.
My dear friends,
There is just no good way to say this, but there has been a lot of bad stuff this year: terror attacks, terrible shootings in Las Vegas and now in Texas at a church of all places, hurricanes brought devastation to people far and wide, raging wildfires scorched the Pacific NW, not to mention my personal struggles with surgeries and family crisis. Yeesh! That being said, 2017 has also really been a rather amazing year. Recently we celebrated the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. But there is even more to 2017. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, our LWML, which has done so much to encourage and support the sharing of Christ’s gospel within our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and among partners and friends throughout the world. This is a big deal!
In the half millennium since the Reformation began and the 75 years since the LWML formally organized, confessing the faith has not gotten any easier. In fact, it may be even more difficult for us to speak and to live as Christians today. And who knows what the future might hold for us, our children, and our grandchildren? Yet God is faithful and has promised that His church will survive all the challenges that the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh can throw at us. Building on God’s promises, we know that this is our time to be distinctly Lutheran. As confessing Lutherans in a rapidly changing world and in an increasingly hostile culture, we need to Be Ready to Confess the Gospel of Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
Paul wrote to a brother pastor Timothy “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, …preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2).” When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he did so as one writing to a fellow pastor, a man specifically called to carry out the office of the public ministry. And he did so also knowing full well the challenges that faced preachers of the Gospel in the early church. But he did so also knowing that Timothy had come to the faith through the Holy Spirit working through faithful teaching of a committed mother and grandmother. 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 as well (2 Timothy 1:5). How many of you here today are here because of a faithful mother or grandmother in your past? More than a few I bet!
The good news of the Gospel is given to each of us to share with those whom God places in our circle of influence regardless of our station in life. Proclaiming the salvation won by Jesus is not just “the pastor’s job” or for moms and grandmas. Every single one of us is all called to be ready to confess Christ as God opens the doors for us to do so. You are called to be ready to confess!
The content of our confession is what Martin Luther finally came to understand, through the Scriptures, that the righteousness of God is not about us being good enough. The righteousness of God is about Christ who is perfect. Christ, the God-man, who has completed salvation for Luther, for you, and for me, perfectly, once and for all. There is a great exchange that occurs. The filthy rags of our sinfulness and rebellion towards God, Jesus took upon Himself, carried it to the cross, and crucified it once and for all. The perfect righteousness that is His, He now clothes us in and through the waters of Holy Baptism. Where before there was sinner, God now sees his perfectly redeemed child through Christ; where before the person was far from God, there is now a child of God.
Sounds good, right? That will preach, right? You bet! But then Paul wrote this: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). It sounds like a commentary on 2017! How do we faithfully confess Jesus in an age in which people have turned away from the truth and wandered into myths? How do we, like Luther, prepare ourselves to be ready to confess? Would you believe the LWML can help? The answer, friends, is in a renewed passion for missions driven by the Word of God!
The LWML has had a marvelous impact on the mission efforts of the congregations, districts, seminaries, and other entities of our Synod. And it has done so always by carrying out faithfully its mission. Do you know the where, when, and why for the LWML’s formation? I said earlier that the LWML is 75 years old, meaning they formed in…1942! The world had been at war for three years and the United States had joined the effort in 1941. Rations were short, men were preparing to fight overseas, and women were entering the workforce to fill the vacancies left by the new soldiers. The circumstances were challenging, to say the least!
Yet, on July 7-8, 1942, over 100 women met in Chicago and established the LWML. Its purpose was to encourage a passion among women for mission work and to gather funds for mission projects above and beyond the Synod’s budget. Imagine…at a time when self-preservation would have been vital, the LWML committed itself to helping others and not themselves. From this humble beginning— and through the use of the now familiar “Mite Boxes”—the League has blessed the mission efforts of congregations, districts, and synod in amazingly powerful ways!
The blessing of the LWML goes far beyond the millions of dollars raised for missions. Its benefits can be seen in faith deepened through Bible studies, in the befriending of career missionaries, in blankets and clothing gathered for the impoverished, in food shared with the hungry and, above all, in the friendships nurtured and the lives changed by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
“Time marches on,” as we all know so well, and it seems that as we age it marches by so quickly. And through it all the Lord has been faithful and has raised up faithful pastors like Timothy who have preached the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. And the Lord has gathered faithful men, women, and children who have carried out the work of the Lord with zeal and devotion, meeting the challenges and opportunities to reach out to those who need to hear the Gospel. Simply put, our faithful God keeps His promises and we pray today and always that He will always enable us to be ready to confess.