Sermon preached at Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church for the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God–whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did–when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
My tenth birthday looked much like any ten-year-old’s birthday looked. Cake. Ice Cream. Presents. Not loads of them, but enough to make the day feel special. After all, ten-year-olds still like cheap things. Colored pencils. Hair barrettes. Possibly a Barbie or two.
But there was one gift for me that year that wasn’t on the dining room table with the others. My mother brought it to me separately, alone in my room later that night. It wasn’t wrapped in anything—just a blue velvety box.
It turned out to be a ring—but not the little cheap plastic ones like those I already had in my jewelry box. No, this one was valuable—a family heirloom. Already a hundred years old, it had been given to my mother from her great-aunt—and now it was time to pass it down to me.
I liked the ring itself—most ten-year-old girls like shiny things—but I understood from the way my mother gave it to me that it was special. That it was not to be thrown in with all the other cheap jewelry or even worn all that often. That it was something not just to be owned but to be cared for.
And while I don’t remember if mom told me in so many words, I think I knew instinctively that eventually, this gift was to be given away. Passed on to the next generation. That it was mine for a while, but not forever.
There is a difference between simply being given a gift, and being entrustedwith one. I had plenty of gifts on that birthday, given to me because, well, that’s what we do on birthdays. But I couldn’t tell you precisely what they were, or remotely where they are now—probably a landfill, I’m sorry to say. But this other gift—this piece of family jewelry—I know exactly where that is. I’ve tracked it through moves and changes and so far, in my care, it doesn’t have a scratch on it.
I was entrusted with this ring, not simply given it. When we are entrusted with something, it is because someone has deemed us worthyof it. My mother decided at ten that I was finally mature enough, responsible enough, careful enough to have this ring in my possession. I was worthy to take care of it. To be entrustedwith something reflects not just the generosity of the giver, but the capability of the one given to.
Our scripture this morning uses the word entrustedtwice, and I have been caught up on it for months now, ever since reading this passage from a letter to a young pastor. The writer, perhaps Paul, perhaps another seasoned pastor writing in the legacy of Paul, proclaims that despite his suffering, despite his trials, despite his setbacks, “I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.”
We entrust much to God—our hopes, our prayers, our families and loved ones, our futures. And in doing so, we proclaim the worthiness of God—that God truly can take care of us, keep and preserve what matters most to us in this world.
That is beautiful and true. But it is not the radical part of this letter, to my ears.
The writer also urges Timothy, who seems to be unsure in his calling : “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.”
Timothy can trust God—yes—but God is also trusting Timothy, and Betty, and Karen, and Nancy, and Joe. God entrustsus with good treasures plenty—because God thinks we are worthy of them. That we have within us the capability to receive and share God’s love. That we have within us the capability to read and interpret God’s word in scripture. That we have within us the capability to care for and serve the neighbors God gives us. That we have within us the capability to follow the calls God places on our lives.
Sometimes I look at humanity and think God is crazy. How can God trust us? How can God trust us to love each other, serve each other, built each other up, when there is so much evidence to the contrary?
And yet some might have looked at my mother and thought she was crazy, giving a piece of valuable jewelry to a preteen. Yet because I understood its importance, I kept that ring safe, even when the rest of my toys were a jumbled heap on the floor. And I think, when we truly understand the immensity of what God has gifted us with, we too take seriously our call to love, to serve, to share the gospel, to be God’s body in the world.
Today begins our stewardship campaign—you knew I was getting to this—and in the church “treasure” is often code for “money.” And yes—money is among the treasures God entrusts to us, and that we ask you to entrust to us, the church. As the pastor here, I pray that you find the church and what it does to be worthy of your generosity—that you find us to be capable of using your money to worship, to serve, to grow, and to create a congregation that guards all God’s treasure with faithfulness and love.
And I am encouraged that we do none of this alone, but by the guidance and wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit living in us. God trusts us not just with money, or love, or faith, or scripture, or imagination, or salvation, but also with God’s own spirit—God’s own self living in us. God finds us worthy of God’s own presence, each and every moment of the day. That is a treasure worth guarding!
I know where that ring my mother gave me is. I had reason to get it out lately, and it’s just as beautiful and precious to me as I remembered, inscribed with my great-great aunt’s name on the inside. But I know there will come a day when I will choose someone else to carry it forward. The treasure isn’t mine. It’s only entrusted to me for a while—and while I have it, it brings me much joy.
This church isn’t mine. My job is to care for it, cherish it, preserve it for the next generation, even while it brings me so much joy. Pledging my money for the church’s use helps make sure that will happen.
Even God’s love, God’s grace, God’s power—they aren’t mine to keep, to hoard and hide away from the world. They are entrusted me, because God believes—somehow, for reasons I find hard to fathom—that through me God’s love and grace and power can be shared with the world, that I can be a guardian of the greatest treasures God has to offer us.
And so it is with you, too. God has given so much to us—our skills and gifts, our intelligence, our loved ones, our creativity, our passions, our sense of calling, our quirks, God’s love, God’s peace, God’s wisdom, God’s mission. God has given you everything you need to be God’s child on this earth. God thinks you are worthy of these gifts.
The writer of our letter today was concerned that Timothy was faltering, that he might be too ashamed or too afraid to share the gifts God gave him. I think we still struggle with that today—do we have enough? Did God give us enough?
Listen to the words of the letter—beloved, grace, mercy, peace, grateful, worship, prayer, joy, faith, gift, power, love, self-discipline, testimony, gospel, salvation, calling, purpose, life, light, trust, treasure, Spirit.
The answer, my friends, is a resounding yes. God has given us enough.
So don’t be afraid. You are worthy of this treasure.