Homily – Sunday, the 2nd October
Reading: 2 Timothy 1: 1-14
If someone ever invented a machine called “faithometer” that would gauge our faith levels how welcome a machine would it be. ?
Paul consistently maintained that the three significant elements of a joyful Christian life are Faith, Hope and Love.
Though we do not know anything about the next steps or what tomorrow holds for us amidst all the fragilities in life, it is faith that helps us live with confidence, face darkness with courage, find meaning for scars and gives us the resilience to take risks for the sake of our neighbours.
It is faith in God and in humanity that makes us use simple words that makes life more meaningful words like- Thank you, Sorry, I love you, I trust you and more so- I have faith in you- You can.
Khalil Gibran once said- An astronomer can speak to you volumes of his understanding of space but he cannot ever give you his experience. So is faith in God. Each one of us need to experience it in unique and very personal and at times corporate ways.
Imagine the first person who in public said- the Berlin Wall would fall and we would Unite as a Nation again. As we celebrate the Reunion Weekend, we are in fact celebrating the faith of many of our contemporaries.
Paul is writing to Timothy. He is appreciating Timothy’s faith and, in a nutshell, explaining to him the nuances of faith. I would draw your attention to a few basic facts about Timothy’s faith or the faith that Paul is talking about here.
We read this in a context of increased war hostilities due to reports of expansionism and when the Coroner decided Molly Russel did not commit suicide but her death was triggered by social media content.
The Traits of Faith
A Faith that is Sincere
Unhypocritical Faith. The first affirmation of Paul is that the faith of Timothy has been genuine and true. There was no hypocrisy.
In Greek drama hupokritos was the mask that was used when the same person took stage as different characters. It masked the real person.
Can that happen with faith?
Can we play act as if we have faith?
In several occasions where the Church has lost its face and space we realise it is because people who were the faces of the church let us down.
Faith can be a mask some people wear
In Timothy’s case his faith was genuine and authentic.
DL Moody defined faith as human weakness trusting in God’s miraculous strength.
A little boy visited a Candy shop owned by his father’s friend. The shop owner opened the candy box and said- you can grab as much as you want. The boy refused but instead said- you can give me the candys. The shop owner did so. On his way back the father asked the child- why did you not grab the candys yourself. The boy smiled and said- my hands are small and his is bigger.
Friends, if someone is asked to describe us in one sentence would they say- this person has a sincere faith in God.
A faith that is Living
A faith that lives in you, which makes its home in you, which was in your grandmother Louis and your mother Eunice. And then passed on from them to you.
For the question- which version of the Bible do you cherish most- the most loved answer is- the version according to my mother.
Faith formation begins in the womb. The lullabies that mothers sing unto the newborn ones and the stories that the Oppa and the Oma teach the small kids form the basis of faith. It creates a space within the inner being of each person wherein faith can abide.
Henry Francis was an Anglican minister who composed a wonderful hymn which was sung for his funeral in November 1847. The original words were based on the prayer of Luke 24: 29- stay with us O Lord and was composed at the bedside of a close friend dying. But even as tuberculosis was taking his life Lyte sang with confidence
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
A faith that is constantly rekindled.
One of the specialities of fire is that it needs constant rekindling. Once rekindled it flares up with new vigour. It does not go extinct or lukewarm. Paul talks of a faith that rekindles the gifts within oneself.
Faith is not a set of dogmas and beliefs. It is about communion with God. It is the fire deep down in our soul.
Faith sometimes for various reasons reduce into an ember within our chests. It only needs a spark to fire it up again.
Sometimes that spark takes the form of adversities, sometimes profound wisdom shared by a friend or context but mostly it is the smile of the divine that sparks the fire of faith within one self.
A life away from faith is but a temporary phase which can transform into the outflowing of the gifts of the spirit in just the choicest moment.
When faith is kindled the Spirit lives within filling the inner chambers of our being. And this spirit is not of one of cowardice but of dynamism, love and self-discipline
A faith that us Unashamed
Paul talks of a faith about which he is not ashamed. Friends, each of us here worshipping today, are here on this long weekend because we are not ashamed in publicly confessing our faith and enjoying the bliss of worship in the company of our fellow believers.
There is no disputing the fact that there is quite a lot of negative light cast on religion and faith-based communities today- by default, by design or by delinquencies.
People are ashamed to take a position for faith fearing peer bullying and shaming
People frankly say that they have not had a genuine encounter with God but would not mind being part of the fellowship but not the faith.
Elsewhere in Romans 1:16 Paul says For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
If you are not ashamed of your faith you will be willing to take risks and suffer if need be for the sake of faith.
Suffering is part of life and in several parts of the world there is persecution in the name of faith ad beliefs. People are forced to flee, migrate and live as refugees. Leaders are implicated, arrested and dealt with in hostile ways. The Psalm we read today, 137 is a lament. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. The people in exile did not have a song to sing. But hanging their harps in the trees of the foreign land they sing a song hoping restoration. A lament amidst their suffering but filled with hope knowing that suffering is part of the journey.
William Shakespeare in King John Act III Scene IV makes Lewis say to Cardinal Pandolf
There’s nothing in this world can make me joy:
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
And bitter shame hath spoil’d the sweet world’s taste
That it yields nought but shame and bitterness.
A faith that is Proclaimed
Paul talks of faith that is sure of the One in Whom faith is anchored. Paul is clear about the content of our faith. It is a faith in Jesus Christ- the author, core and end of our faith. It is not about doctrines and dogmas. It is about Jesus.
This faith which is a good treasure that cannot be valued in earthly measures cannot be left hid in the bushel. Paul says he is called to Proclaiming the faith as a herald, apostle and teacher. The faith that we have is a faith that should be shared with others. It is like a hungry person having found food, obliged to share it with those dying of hunger.
Our faith stories hold unique transformative influence for one another, and we better share them with each other.
The gospel of love is too good to keep it to yourself.
Sharing our life stories are important not because those stories are of extra ordinary people but because they are about an extra ordinary God who makes ordinary people special in his sight. Special by divine presence. Moses makes this clear in Exodus 33 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
May I bring your attention back to the faithometer. In a flash of a light if we had the readings of our faith indices for us to gauge the heath of our faith how would we take that diagnosis forward.
Let us in silence thank God for giving us this morning
Thank you for speaking to me Jesus
Thank you for meeting with me here
Thank you because you love all people
Those both far and near
October 2, 2022