10/03/13 Sermon (October 6, 2013) World Communion Sunday "Service: The Discipline of Perseverance"

posted Mar 11, 2014, 10:12 AM by David Hawkins

10/03/13 Sermon (October 6, 2013)

World Communion Sunday

"Service: The Discipline of Perseverance"

Scripture Reading: 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.

Sermon: "Service: The Discipline of Perseverance"

For the months of September and October, we are examining the classic spiritual disciplines of the Christian Faith. In the coming weeks we will look at the disciplines of Study and Fasting, and last week, we looked at the discipline of Simplicity, of learning how to tell when we have enough.

You know, I saw a great example of simplicity during this last week, totally out of the blue. Some of you may know that there is a young German exchange student named Johanna up in Tulia. She is part of the same Rotary Exchange program that brought us Gabrielle from France.

Anyway, Johanna had injured her knee on her first day of school, and it hadn’t gotten any better since, and so, after consulting with her parents back in Germany, and her doctors both here and there, it was decided that she have knee surgery to repair her torn meniscus.

Karen and I went up to Amarillo to be with here in the hospital, so that she could have another German speaker with her, if she felt like she needed it.

The surgery went well, and while we were waiting for her to wake up, we were talking with her host parents and the Rotary Liaison from Tulia, whose name was Jeanette.

Her host parents were trying to figure out how they might be able to take Johanna on a trip they had planned for weeks to Six Flags. The doctor had said that it would be OK for Johanna to go, except that she needed to be able to straighten her leg out while travelling, that it wouldn’t be a good idea to have it bent for long periods of time.

Well, that was going to be difficult, because they had a little sedan, and there were going to be four of them, and so they didn’t know how they were going to do that.

Out of the blue, Jeanette suggested that they take her Suburban. After all, she said, she was going to be going to Vermont for a couple of weeks, she wasn’t going to need it.

Now bear in mind, Johanna’s host parents are Jeanette are just acquaintances. They’re not best friends, or really even just regular friends. They just kind of know each other. But here was Jeanette, simply sharing what she had with other people. It was an amazing demonstration of the discipline of simplicity, the idea that what we have is a gift, and is to be available to others. I just thought it was a pretty cool thing.

This week, we are exploring the idea of perseverance, the discipline of serving, and continuing to serve, even when that service hardly seems to make a difference, even when that service results in hardship.

We can see in today’s scripture that Timothy is wrestling with this issue. Timothy obviously is having some problems with his ministry. There is something going on that isn’t really named that is causing Timothy to reconsider his Christian vocation. Something has happened that has made him think that maybe this Christian life isn’t everything that he thought it would be. Something has made Timothy to feel ashamed of his Christian identity.

Now we don’t know what exactly has happened, but we can imagine his feelings. Because there have been times in our lives when we have done something for purely altruistic reasons, out of the good of our hearts, and our efforts were either dismissed, ignored, or stepped on. It seems like we wasted our time, and everybody else’s time as well.

Because the reality is, there are times that being a Christian means feeling like a fool. This business of forgiving 70 times seven, of giving your coat as well as your shirt, of praying for your enemies, of exposing yourself to the diseased, the poor, the thief, the prostitute, the outcast, the tax collector, all of it is really kind of stupid, on the face of it.

Who wants to put themselves in that position? To be mocked, ridiculed, taken advantage of, even hurt, betrayed? What could possibly motivate us to take that kind of abuse?

And what’s the payoff? What’s our reward, our thanks for putting ourselves out there like that? Where are the cheering crowds, the academy awards, the ticker tape parades for people who put themselves into positions of service, who speak for the voiceless, who clothe the naked and feed the hungry?

Well, we know that answer to that. The reality is, there aren’t any. A life of service is a hard, thankless, scorned, and occasionally dangerous job. After all, look where it took Jesus. All the way to a cross.

And so, the question remains, why do it? Why continue to put ourselves in a position of serving a world that doesn’t recognize or appreciate the effort? What’s in it for us?

I’m reminded of my childhood baby-sitter, Twila, who has come to church here a couple of times from Lubbock.

Twila has always been the hardest working person I’ve ever known.

When I was very young, I remember Twila, twelve years old, driving the tractor on my dad’s farm, with her brothers bucking bales up onto the trailer. Later, she and I would pick fruit in the orchards up on Antelope Hill. She saved every dime from her farm work and babysitting, and put herself through college, eventually earning her doctorate in Psychology. She is the first person in her family to go past high school.

She has spent her career counseling hard core criminals in the Texas Prison System, first up here in Plainview, and now down in Lubbock. Many of them are mentally ill, or have been destroyed by years of drug abuse. Some come from abusive families and some from no families at all. They are manipulative, cruel, and dangerous.

Some of them cut themselves with anything they can find in order to find relief from the demons in their brains, or the pain of drug withdrawal, or simply to relieve their boredom. Twila’s job is to keep these people alive. To try to find ways to help them see that even they, even in their horrible condition, still have worth.  And so every week, she visits them, and ministers them in ways that you and I can hardly imagine.

And I wonder why? Why does she do this?

And I realized that there people in the world who simply do the work that has to be done, that nobody else wants to do. Like the trash collection guys at 5:00 in the morning, or the nurses that clean up bedpans, or plumbers, or social words in the inner city, or like countless other people around the world, working in the background, working behind the scences, Twila is doing the work that has to be done if we are to remain a civilized society.

It’s sort of like the old quote that says, you know that you’re an adult when you are the one who reaches into unclog a stopped-up kitchen sink, or plunges the toilet. This is what adults do.

Being a servant means being the adults in a world that rewards the children. Being a servant means doing those things that nobody else wants to do, because its hard, and it’s time-consuming, and there’s no thanks or appreciation or recognition.

And this the heart of what it means to be a servant. That there isn’t a bottom line reason to do it. There aren’t any strings, no conditions. There aren’t any compunctions, there aren’t any threats. There aren’t any incentives, there aren’t any carrots, or sticks.

Being a servant comes, not from an outward imposition of rewards or punishments, but from an inward recognition of the mercy and grace that we ourselves have received.

Being a servant means that we do what needs to be done, not because we are afraid of going to hell if we don’t, or that we might get to go to heaven if we do, but because we would rather this world look a little bit more like heaven than hell, if only for a moment.

And, as Paul reminds Timothy, being a servant means that we recognize that God has given us an amazing gift in Jesus Christ, who came to us as a servant, who took our sins and died for us, and our hearts can hardly contain it, and our lives can’t help but reflect that gift.

There are so many ways to be a servant in our community, by tutoring in the schools, or volunteering at the food bank, or in this church, from serving meals on wheels, to helping in the kitchen for potlucks, to helping out on church work days.

But real servanthood is a way of life, not a particular act. It is an inner sense of having received far, far more than we can ever return, and consequently, dedicating our lives to giving whatever thanks we can, in whatever ways the world needs, whenever the Lord calls us.

Thanks be to God. Amen.