Our Family of Faith

Sunday, Spetmeber 6, 2020
Intern Michael Poeschl

2 Timothy 1:1-7

My grandmother taught me a lot about love. She was also a fantastic cook, feeding me both physically and spiritually.  Today’s reading from Second Timothy 1: 1-7, reminds me  about the importance of faith and family.  Her faith was strong and she shared the love of Jesus with me and with everyone she met.   Preparing and sharing a meal was one of my grandmother’s spiritual gifts.  She grew up in Braham, Minnesota, as a second generation immigrant from Sweden. Life on a farm in rural Minnesota with her two sisters and four brothers was never without challenges, yet I never heard my grandmother complain.  She believed in God and took comfort that their needs would be met.  Her parents taught her to trust her faith and not sit idle when farming became unsustainable. Trusting in God and guided by the Spirit her family moved to South Saint Paul, to work in the meat-packing industry.  The stories my grandparents shared with me and our Sunday family gatherings on 3rd Avenue come alive in their retelling.  Her Swedish Meatballs with white dill gravy was one of my favorites and I was always full, even if that meant I got one more while she got one less, sharing was more important than shortage.

Remembering those stories connects me to the community of Augustana that I am so honored to become a part of.  My roots are nearby, close to my grandparents’ former home in South St. Paul, their congregation at Luther Memorial and their final resting place at the General Lutheran Cemetery. Their abundant gift of faith was always shared, taught to them by their ancestors and passed along in our family.   Sharing the stories of our past helps us to retain our history.  If we don’t tell the stories of our families who will?  Knowledge of our past guides us to make connections we can use today.   Learning the importance of faith with our family creates the connections that reveal the promise of life that is in Jesus Christ for all of us.

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a timely reading for today, when our faith might need some spark, as we are dealing with many distractions from the goodness of God’s promise.  Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy is both personal and public.  It is about the faith of Paul that he shares with Timothy and all of the faithful.  Alone in prison Paul writes as a loving parent to a child, with encouragement and trust. This is not Paul’s first time in prison, but this is probably his last.  Timothy has been hard at work proclaiming the Good News of Jesus in Ephesus, while facing many distractions by false prophets, and enemies of the church.  Paul’s authority comes through Christ.  We share his job description to teach and to proclaim the Good News.

Paul was writing as the experienced missionary to his protege and heir, calling him, ”my beloved child.”  Paul writes as a father to a child to give support and guidance.  Knowing that his end is near Paul is strong in faith and full of encouragement for Timothy. Paul does not mask or hide the risk of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.  While others may abandon us, he encourages Timothy that God will never abandon us.  Just like our own family of faith, who will not abandon us. Together we will continue to teach, to guide and protect each other.  Our gift of faith is given by God and lovingly nurtured in our own family.  Paul is passing on this pattern of faithfulness with the belief that God has assured us of this in the promise of eternal life in Jesus.

Paul met Timothy on his second missionary trip to Lystra, in Asia Minor. More than likely perhaps, even meeting Timothy’s grandmother and mother on his first missionary trip.  Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice taught him about faith in Jesus Christ.  It is through our loving family relationships where we learn how God loves us through Jesus Christ.  Paul faithfully continues the teaching and guidance of Timothy.  Paul recognized the importance of his ancestors for his own faith and saw that faith in Timothy.   Paul and Timothy share an ancestry of faith.  Paul has witnessed and believes that Timothy is well suited to continue to teach, guide and protect the love of God.  Paul is calm and wise, like my grandparents were, guided by his own clear conscience.  This passing of the torch, from Paul to Timothy, is by the will of God. Paul acknowledges a sincere faith that fully trusts in the promise of eternal life with God, that is given by Jesus dying on the cross for all of us.

Faith is the gift of God created in us by the Holy Spirit.  Faith is expressed through the love of our ancestors who practiced this faith daily and passed it on to us.  I experience this daily practice of faith as a loving father to three children.  When I sit down and ask my youngest daughter, who will be a senior in High School, about her faith she tells me that she is the only one in a large friend group that still goes to church. While going to church is a sign of faith I try to steer the discussion into how faith is important to her when it appears that her friends don’t seem to care. How I pass on my faith is just as important to me as it is for her, and the challenges parents face are enormous.  Paul’s letter gives us encouragement to continue to proclaim the Good News in our families. Faithful living in Jesus Christ is often difficult. Proclaiming Christian love can be uncomfortable to some.  Even with Timothy’s strong Christian background there isn’t a guarantee of resilient faith- Paul prays and writes to Timothy to rekindle that faith into a bright blaze.

As a trained volunteer firefighter, I take quick notice of the word rekindle.  When a fire call comes out as a rekindle it means that we didn’t completely do our job. The fire we thought we put out has started again.  For the Apostle Paul this is just the opposite, he is looking for a rekindle. The spirit breathes life into our faith, just like oxygen breathes life into a fire.  Paul is asking Timothy to get the fire of the Holy Spirit rekindled within him.

We are given this Spirit and accept this gift through faith.  Boldly, without cowardice, our faith proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a child I learned the importance of my family of faith and my home in the Church. Instead of asking my parents when we were going to church I would ask, “When are we going to God’s House”, a home where we are welcomed with love.  God loves us so much that he gave us Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our salvation.   Paul, who knew his time on earth was coming to an end, chooses to focus on his relationship with Timothy.  Paul writes to Timothy to teach and model how to continue to use  our gift of faith.  He writes with the unconditional love of a parent for a child. I have experienced this same love by my adoptive parents who loved me as their child.  We have the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit that is nurtured in our family of faith.

And so we remember with love those who came before us in faith.

We remember all of those who are here now to teach and            practice faith in our midst.

We remember who we are and why we are here: called to love, to guide, and to protect and share this gift of faith.

Don’t be afraid to use your faith to love God and one another.

For the glory of God.  AMEN

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