To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on 1st Timothy 2:1-7
In the early days in the city of Chicago, some bold engineers succeeded in an amazing feat. They actually reversed the flow of the Chicago River. Instead of dirty water flowing into Lake Michigan, the river was dredged and channeled to flow out of Lake Michigan to a canal that eventually connected to the river system that would flow into the Mississippi River.
A similar challenge awaits a church that follows the Great Commission. The natural flow of most churches is not toward outreach and evangelism. The reason includes a culture that is becoming more and more hostile to the Gospel message along with the fear of rejection in sharing our faith with others. Another problem concerning outreach is often there is too much of an inward focus upon our own needs. Our passage this morning from 1st Timothy begins to address the issue of ministry beyond our walls. The kind of faith addressed in this passage is not one that seeks to drop out of our community and only cater to our spiritual needs. Rather we are encouraged to practice a faith that seeks to engage our community and make a difference in the lives of others. How does this begin, how can we begin to practice our outreach? The answer is to put into practice proclamation. According to Paul one of the first priorities in proclamation begins with the practice of prayer. A modern paraphrase of the New Testament entitled, THE Message, translates verse 1 this way:
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.
Paul affirms the importance of prayer and the need for prayer on behalf of all people. We see Paul urging prayers and intercessions for public leaders and high government officials, so that they might secure public peace. In the words of Paul:
So that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. (verse 3)
This may seem very easy for us to do in a democratic society, but the authorities in first century Ephesus were the enemies of Christians. Paul urged his fellow Christians to pray for those who were in fact their enemies, those who had imprisoned and persecuted many brothers and sisters of faith. Today, our government plays an important role in establishing order and security. I believe that when a government and its leaders have established peace and order that it allows churches to share the peace of Christ more effectively. I think of those missionaries who are serving in third world nations and how difficult their task is sharing the message of Christ given the fact there are unstable governments where they reside.
As Paul began setting up this ministry of public prayer, we today are reminded to bring the joys, sorrows and needs of the world into the presence of Christ through our prayers. Prayer should not be the only thing we do, but it should be among our top priorities as Christians. I often wonder what would happen if the first thing we did was to pray for the leaders of our nations and churches rather than critique them. I wonder what amazing things could take place in our church and community if we began praying that God would allow us to share our faith more openly with others. On this particular day, 15 years after the terrorist attacks that forever changed our nation and world, we must remember to continue to pray for those affected by those losses, pray for our leaders, our military and all who protect us everyday in our lives.
Paul does not dwell entirely on the subject of prayer. Paul writes about proclaiming the Gospel. He provided for us the message we should proclaim when he writes:
For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all… (verses 5 &6)
One of the definitions of proclamation according to Webster’s Dictionary means, “to praise or glorify openly or publicly.” We would think something so important in our life like our faith, would result in us having a desire to glorify God’s love more openly but that is not always the case. Why are people not motivated to practice proclamation? I believe that some of those reasons include the following:
- People are out of touch with New Testament principles of being a disciple.
- People are out of touch with what their faith means to them.
- People accept being a “light” for Christ, without igniting others.
Paul shared that God wants all people to be saved and to know the truth. The only way we can do this is by speaking the truth. In relationship to proclamation, to sharing God’s love with others, Mark Mittelberg, co-author of Becoming a Contagious Christian, in an interview with Leadership Magazine once said following: Sometimes we try to assume the Holy Spirit’s role, but the much greater problem is hoping the Holy Spirit will do our job for us. One popular version of evangelism says, “If I just live as a consistent Christian, people will see it, figure it out, and come to Christ.” But that approach isn’t biblical, and it doesn’t work.
We as a Christians, we as a church often forget our calling to be a life saving station, not a religious club. An illustration that first appeared in a magazine called the Ecumenical Review in October 1953 is entitled, “The Church as a Lifesaving Station” is one worth sharing even sixty three years later:
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought to themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. This wonderful little station saved many lives, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time, effort and money for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life saving station grew.
Some of the members of the life saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the life saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Few members were interested in going to sea on life saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.
About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some had different skin color. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life saving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life saving station was found. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit the seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most people drown.
The church’s role, the primary task of church is found in our bulletin this morning under our sermon notes. The Church is called to:
- Reach out and receive people just as they are.
- Share with them the love of God.
- Help develop and equip them as disciples.
- Send them into their communities and help make our world more loving and just.
God has the desire that people around us accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To accept Christ as our Savior, to have church become a priority in our life is important. God desires to rescue us from our sins; he proved this through Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. Our safety net of grace is found through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus is our lifeboat our life saving station. Everyone one of us here this morning and those who are absent must get our paddles in the water and help bring others into God’s Kingdom. God desires that those who on the outside be brought inside into his loving embrace. God expects our obedience and our willingness to serve the Kingdom, through our prayers and our proclamation. We must be ready, willing and able to serve. God needs this everyday in our life.
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
September 7, 2016