Skip to main content

Living the Life

This is the sermon I preached Sunday, 9/25 at St. Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran Churches. The text is 1 Timothy 6:6-19.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that started out like this, “Jim, how are you doing? I haven’t seen you in so long.” Jim replies, “I’m living the dream!” Sometimes it seems to mean the respondent is doing great. Other times I’ve heard people say this in a sarcastic way because they’re in a very hard place. I would like to make one small change to that statement so that it says, "I'm living the life."

At first glance, we think it's obvious that this passage is about stewardship; and it is. But it is about so much more. There is a little phrase at the very end of the passage that I cannot shake. Every time I read this passage it hits me again and again: “…take hold of the life that really is life,”(v. 19b). What does that mean? Does it mean that those who are going their own way, not following Jesus, are missing out on something? It seems to me that there is a false life being offered to people, one that claims we will be happy and fulfilled if we only make enough money to own all the really cool things. We've all heard the expression, "He who has the most toys wins." After all, God wouldn’t want to deny us now, would he?

I have some questions about this "life that really is life." First of all, what is it? How do we get this life? What good does such life do us? Once we have this life, what do we do with it?

What is this life? It is life in Christ. It is connected to the "treasure of a good foundation." One stores up heavenly treasure because it will last for an eternity. Riches stored up on earth are fleeting and can disappear at any moment. For example, a stock market crash, a devastating fire or death.

Life in Christ is something available, accessible and something people of faith can take hold of. It is not beyond us or out of reach. In the midst of worldly temptations such as endless toys, never growing old, wealth and security, we can experience our joy in God's call to live a life in Christ which manifests signs of mutual love and compassion, justice and kindness, from beginning to end, secure in all that God will bring about at the right time.

First Timothy contrasts our desire to accumulate earthly wealth that can disappear in a second with the Christian focus of accumulating heavenly wealth that will last for eternity. "Godliness with contentment" becomes the aim of our life pursuit. It is connected with contentment because of the capacity to be satisfied with what is ours instead of being driven to possess what isn't ours. Contentment is something that is difficult to live. When I'm in the parsonage and looking out towards Lake Chautauqua, and I see boats out there, I admit I think, wouldn't it be nice to have a boat? And then I think, wouldn't it be interesting to have Ray drive it? Those of you with boats probably struggle with other things that produce envy in your life. If we were never envious, I don't think we would be human. When we live our life in Christ, we confess our envy to God, receive his forgiveness and move on.

We come into this life with nothing and we leave this life with nothing. We've all heard the phrase, "You can't take it with you." We collect riches, possessions and decorations along the way. In reality, there's only so much you can stuff into a coffin, and even less when you're cremated. According to Paul, all we really need is food and clothing.

There is a verse in this passage that is often misquoted. We hear people say, "money is the root of all evil," but that is a misquote. The verse correctly reads, "the love of money is a root of ... all... evil" (v. 9). It is our insatiable desire for money and the toys it buys that is the cause of all evil. Money in itself is not evil. It's when money becomes our god that it becomes evil.

If God has blessed us with riches in this life, this passage instructs us to not be haughty. We must remember that our good fortune is a direct result of God's favor on us and has nothing to do with anything we have done. We are urged to rely on God, who is the source of all we have (v. 17). Riches are positive if we do good works, are "generous, and ready to share" (v. 18). If we use our possessions wisely, we find ourselves engaged in doing good. Our motive for doing this is to lay "a good foundation for eternity" (v. 19).

How do we obtain our life in Christ? There is nothing we can do to obtain it. It is a gift from God, freely offered by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God makes us his own through our baptism. As we read God's word, we learn more and more about God's love and how he sent Jesus to redeem us from sin and the distractions of this world.

What good does life in Christ do us? Life in Christ, is a different kind of riches. We are not consumed by the riches and things of this world. The life of Christ in us turns our entire world upside down. Paradigms of our life shift. Some are destroyed. Paul writes that "there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment" (v. 6). The life of Christ in us makes us godly.

It's interesting that Paul uses the word "gain" to describe the good life in Christ. He also writes about financial gain throughout this passage. Material gain seems wonderful at first, but after a while, you only want more.  We never have enough. But then the great gain Paul speaks of is something that is not a fleeting emotion, but something we have for eternity.

We don't have to worry about our stocks sliding, the devaluation of the dollar, how many Rolls Royces we drive or how many mansions we own. Our gain in life in Christ is eternally in the black; giving us the ability to live life in a way that is beyond all of our expectations. Paul says that "God ... richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (v. 17)

Once we have accepted our life in Christ, what do we do with it? We need to share this life. It's funny how easily and quickly we tell everyone when we have gotten a great deal on something. We can hardly keep quiet about it; posting it on Facebook and telling everyone who will listen. We want them to know how they too can get a good deal.

But why are we so timid about sharing what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives and in the lives of all believers? I know this isn't easy to do and I have to confess that even for me, a trained pastor, I have my timid moments.

One of the reasons for the growth of some of the larger churches is because part of the DNA of the worshippers is sharing their faith with others. It is easy to find ways to take something said in church and use it as a means of gently sharing the gospel. We do a great job in this congregation of inviting others to join us at church and sharing with others.

But a part of learning to share is also learning how to listen to those who you are sharing with. You need to be able to hear and understand the context of where the person you are sharing with is coming from.

While living in Palestine, I learned the art of listening to those of a different religion. I learned about Islam from Muslim university students and as a result, they were curious about Christianity. This made it easier to explain what our faith was about. If we are open, God will provide opportunities to share the life of Christ with those who are not yet following him.

Accepting God's gift of a life in Christ, is what today's second reading is all about. We are God's children because God gives us life. I challenge all of us (myself included) to look for ways to share this wonderful and abundant life we've been given. We live in a world full of hurt that sorely needs to hear about the abundance and generosity of our God. Let's not keep God's good news of his heavenly riches to ourselves.



Popular posts from this blog

Dancing with the Trinity

This is the sermon I preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Trinity Sunday, 6/16/19. The text was John 16:12-15.
This is Holy Trinity Sunday. What comes to mind when you think of the Trinity—questions, confusion, a puzzle, a mystery? It seems to me that just when you think you have a bit of understanding, it all starts to unravel as you think of something else. This is a difficult concept to wrap our minds around. For centuries, the early church struggled with a right and proper interpretation and understanding as they formulated the doctrine of the Trinity.
The more I read, the more I see the wisdom of Dr. Jerry Christianson who taught The Early Church and its Creeds my first year of seminary. He explained the Trinity as a love relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as God is all about relationship, so too the Christian life is all about relationship: our relationship with God, our relationship with each other and our relationship with our community.
John’s gosp…

Come To The Light To Become The Light

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Jan. 6, Epiphany at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Matthew 2:1-12
Now, this is a story we know. We’ve seen the scene of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus so many times in so many pageants. Epiphany is a time when we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light in God’s way. The Magi are drawn from the east to come and pay homage to the Christ child. There are many theories as to who the magi were: from Zoroastrian priests to astrologers to magicians to kings, while some believe that the Magi were simply a literary device utilized by Matthew. They may have been any or all of the above, but the point is that they were foreigners and gentile outsiders and yet, God spoke to them through a star, through the light and they followed that light. 
Unusual astral phenomena were associated with the birth of a new ruler according to pagans of the time. There were Jewish traditions as well connecting the hoped-for Messiah to the “star out of…

Thanks Jesus

This is the reflection that will be sent out to the people of St. Timothy this Thursday. This is not an easy text of scripture with which to grapple and I would like to hear your insights. Let's dialogue!

Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
  7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
  9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earth…