Lectionary Sermon for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 2:1-7   Doing What is REALLY Important!

Wow, September is upon us. I am already planning (or I should say, my helpmate is planning and I am supporting) what we are going to do this Thanksgiving. There is a practice that is gaining in popularity on Thanksgiving.   The practice is having people at a family gathering state for what they are thankful. Now a story of how that can go wrong.

At one family gathering, a husband stated that he was thankful for how his wife forgave him when he acted like a jerk, which was quite often.  He stated that he didn’t know how she did it.  He said to his wife, I say so many hurtful and mean things to you, but you just take it and go on.  How do you deal with it?  The rest of the family pressed her, how do you deal with it?  She stated, I go and clean the bathroom.  “You go and clean the bathroom, how does that help”, the husband retorted in a condescending tone.  The wife looked at him and said, “I use your toothbrush to do the cleaning.”

The Lord we worship is a God who puts up with a lot from us.  Have you ever wondered how God deals with it?  God responds to our many misgivings with love and grace.  This is the true essence of thanksgiving, that our God gives us love and grace.

In the Scripture, we just heard or read, the statement “I ask” means more than simply asking.  “I ask” is a translation of a word centered on personal involvement in what the request desires. 

The translated word should indicate deep concern and desire.  Used here in the Word of God, we dare not ignore the request due to the results and consequences implied.

The writer of this passage urges first (meaning of first importance) that we pray for all people. We do that. Really, do we really pray for people? Now let this sink in for a moment.  If we are believers, people of faith, and part of God’s family the church, we have an obligation, a duty that we are urged to perform. It is not something that is forced or commanded because to do so would go completely against the nature of God. 

Now, wait a minute.  If we are supposed to do something asked of us by the One who gave his life so that we might have life, why would we need to be urged (with deep compassion) to do this?  Why would we need to be told, “first of all?” 

These are good questions.  Why, we may ask, because too many of us who believe have allowed the world to stunt our spiritual growth.  Far too many believers have lost the vision for God and have grown complacent about responsibilities God gives us.” This is likely the biggest enemy of believers today.

We are called to care.  A call to care is a call to prayer.  It is also a call to share, with others, what we know is true about Jesus.  We are instructed to tell what he means to us. 

In this, we find one of our most important responsibilities we have as disciples, prey. In this, we do what is important. In this, we honor our Lord.

This passage of Scripture is most likely written to the church at Ephesus.  The church at Ephesus started as an outreach to the members of the synagogue but quickly became a gentile-dominated church.  The church at Ephesus became an influential church, a wealthy church.  However, its success became its undoing.  It became a church that thought of itself as special in an elitist manner.  It was a church that became judgmental.

The Apostle John pastored this church after Timothy.  The church’s failure to do what was important took center stage when John sends a letter to the church recorded in the second chapter of the book of Revelation:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  They had forsaken their first love. This is not a way to show gratitude.

I wonder how most of us church-going people would define our relationship with Jesus?  It is a relationship of familiarity?  Is it a relationship of culture (good people go to church bad people do not)?  Is it a relationship of habit? Is Jesus your make-believe friend?

God says it needs to be a relationship of love, of first importance.  A love expressed in caring, praying, and interceding for others. This is the way to show our gratitude.

If Jesus is active in our lives, then there will be evidence of love, or else there will be an emptiness.  A relationship with Jesus is established by faith, but it is sealed by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will not let us ignore our responsibilities. However, we can stifle the Spirit, we can grieve the Spirit. We can ignore the discernment the Spirit seeks to give to us.

The Spirit will urge us to do what is of first importance, we will be urged to do what really matters.  We can resist the Spirit, we can learn to ignore the Holy inner voice.  We can hide behind religion and activities, or just make excuses or comparisons with others so that we don’t look as bad.

We can be like the Ephesians.  God’s grace is beyond measure, but we can reach the point where our love grows cold.  The cure, the prevention, and the recovery from a lack of love is to pray for others, actively lifting them up to God.  This brings us to the second thing that really matters that we are told we must do.  Look again at verse 2, “for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

I am aware that there may be some in this room that does not like the actions of our current President or are troubled by our former president. There are also those who love our past president and so who love our current president. There are probably some with very strong opinions for other politicians, local, state, and national among us.  There are those some like and some loathe.  That is fine. This is a country of rights and choices. They are trying to govern people in a fallen world. They need all the help they can get.

However, like or dislike we are told to pray for our leaders.  This has nothing to do with politics or power.  It has everything to do with peace. It has everything to do with what God says is important.

We should pray for our political leaders to have compassion.  We should pray for them to have a conscience.  We should pray for them to have conviction.  We should pray that they will be open to the leadership of Christ. This is our duty as thankful people. When we do this we are praying for peace.  We are praying for justice.  We are praying that evil will not prevail. 

When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, Satan came to him and said, all the kingdoms of the world are mine.  Jesus did not dispute this. We need to pray that Satan’s influence is limited in how he moves to create chaos in the political systems of our world.

These are things that please God.  These are things that show that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  It means we have begun to awaken to the importance of every human soul.  And are thankful to God for every person.

Verse 3 tells us that when we are a people of true faith, a people of intercessory, caring, concerning prayer, and our hearts are in tune with the heart of God wanting everyone to know (that is not just right thinking but right thinking and doing) so that they can experience the growing presence of the Kingdom of God in their lives, then God sees this a being good.  This is not good as opposed to being bad, but good as in being spiritually beautiful, in being morally righteous, as being immersed in the best.  This is what pleases God. Is this not the least we can seek to give God in light of what God has done for us?  Is this not a good way of showing our thanks?

Look at verse 4, “who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This verse states God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s desire for all of us.  God wants us safe in God’s Kingdom. Now some would say this is a one-time event.  If this is what you believe the Bible teaches, good. Who am I to disagree?

However, I have come to believe salvation is more than an event, but a process.  In our text, the word saved is an infinitive, its tense is expressed in a past action that is still ongoing.  What God desires is that we understand so that we can live a life of being saved and saved and saved and saved. 

Each day, each encounter of life is an opportunity to live in grace, grow in grace, depend on grace, and be blessed by grace. 

I also must believe and seek to help if a person is not being saved. If they are being saved they are in danger of being lost, separated, and ignorant of the truth of grace.  They are in need of our prayer and there are many in our community who face this threat as well.

2 Peter 3:9 explains this desire of God in the negative: not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. The word for want (desire) is tied to the event.  God’s desire is that this event, perishing, does not happen but that repentance will happen, restoration will happen, and community will happen.

Let’s think about this.  Who is going to perish if they do not enter and remain in the ongoing saving relationship with Jesus?  It will be someone’s child, mate, parent, or friend. 

Do you want someone praying for the people you know and love?  Do you want someone to be reaching out to them?  Would you not be thankful if they are?  Should we not do the same? This is doing what is really important! This is showing we are faithfully thankful to our Lord and our God.  This is the word of the Lord.

There is a song I sing in prayer.  It is a simple song.  I would like to end this sermon with you singing this song with me as a prayer if you know it.

In the Lord I am every thankful

In the Lord I will rejoice

Look to God

Do not be afraid

Lift up your voices the Lord is near

Lift up your voices the Lord is near.[1]


[1] Music from Taize. In The Lord