Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bethany Bullet - September 24, 2013

King Solomon in his wisdom from the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes noted, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”  (Ecc. 3:1) There was a time when everything had a season.  Sports and politics, school and holidays, even the church has seasons. But it seems like the lines have been blurred and we are constantly called to get ready for the next season.   Perhaps Nike had it right with their ad campaign entitled “There is no off season.”  Today we are focusing on our Parish Theme and the word “Ready.”  We will focus on what makes us ready as followers of Jesus and what we are to be ready to do.

Players in the National Hockey League are doing it now.  Students were engaged in this activity a few weeks ago.  Cities with major league baseball teams hope to do it in a few weeks.  What is this activity?  They are getting ready for the season. 

As the puck drops in a few weeks and baseballs second season gets underway, people are getting ready.  A new football season is upon us, be it under the lights of a high school field or media spotlight of the NFL, people are ready.

Sunday was the first day of a new season.  Fall is here.  Are you ready?  I know I have gutters to clean and repair, yard work that has been ignored and a list of projects too long to complete.  I’m not ready.

The stores are getting ready too.  Halloween decorations abound and candy fills the aisles.  My brother sent me a picture from a store near his house that has their Christmas items proudly on display in September. 
Seasons come and seasons go; are you ready? 

As we talk about our Parish Theme, we will look at what it means to be ready. 

Let’s dive into our text from Sunday that comes from 2 Timothy the 4th chapter. Paul is giving a charge to the young preacher Timothy.  Previously in the book he has shared with him the importance of self-discipline, he reminded him of the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he encouraged him to flee the desires of youth and of the flesh, he warned him of what is to come in the last days and now he gives him this charge, from verse 2, “Preach the Word; be prepared [we might say get ready] in season and out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2a)

Get ready, not just for the season but for all seasons. 

Timothy heard the strong words of Paul in this letter.  Paul was not beating around the bush, he tells the young pastor to proclaim Jesus at all times. 

Unfortunately in the 21st Century we have the notion that preaching is to be left up to the professional clergy.  Timothy never went to seminary, he was not officially called or installed by a congregation, most likely never garnered a paycheck to preach, but was charged to proclaim the Word of God in season and out of season. 

The term “preach” was first used not in the context of worship but within the structure of government.  The king’s herald was to preach a message from the king.  The herald was not an ambassador with the privilege of negotiating, but he was to be a messenger with a proclamation to be heard and heeded. 
For me, the preaching season comes on a Sunday morning, in worship, for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Seems like a short season and I need to be ready for it, but Paul’s words are for me too.  I need to be ready to preach the Word in season and out of season, at the front of the church and at the doorway, in an email, or meeting, at the grocery store and at the gym. 

But it’s not just me.  All believers in Jesus have the charge to preach the Word to be ready in season and out of season, whether the time is opportune or not, but to proclaim like the heralds of old, in a loud and clear voice so that everyone can hear that Jesus is Lord.

We are not simply called to talk about the Word but to preach the Word.  Church is not a place to just engage in spiritual talk, but to come face to face with the Spirit of God who can change lives. 

Look at Paul. He came face to face with Jesus who changed his life and afterwards he used every opportunity to preach.  He proclaimed the Word in the temple courts, in the synagogues of the cities, on the stormy seas and even in prison. 

I know that at times you don’t like all the words that come out of the mouth of the preacher. Perhaps you have complained at the length of the message or the content of the sermon. Perhaps you have been uncomfortable because what is being condemned is what you really like to do.

There is an old saying that the job of the preacher is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”  Let me do some afflicting right now.

Why must we preach the Word?  Paul continues in our text, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths.”  (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

A few weeks ago we talked about being surrounded.  Pastor Kevin talked about how it can be seen as a positive thing and a negative thing.  Let me dwell on the negative for a moment. 

What have you surrounded yourself with?  What do your itching ears want to hear?  Is your presence in God’s house for your own ego? Are you here out of guilt or obligation?  

Many people in power surround themselves with people who will say “yes”, people who will bend over backwards to please them, who will tell them anything they want to hear. Pundits and politicians pump people up with prognostications that promise pleasure whether it is true or not. Soon the platform is built on myth, far from the truth and the Word. 

In his younger years Paul surrounded himself with the trappings of religiosity. He gathered around him a great number of teachers who said what he wanted to hear. As a Pharisee he was blinded to the promise of the Messiah and sought to destroy the followers of the way. 

Do you simply desire the religious novelties of worship or the appearance of spirituality in a world that finds it fascinating?  Are you blinded to the truth of what Jesus is all about?

If this doesn’t describe you now, the time will come, says Paul, so be ready.
In the recent Discovery Channel program “The President’s Gatekeepers” about the men who have served as the Chief of Staff in the White House, James Baker, Ronald Reagan’s first chief said, “You have to be the one to tell the president what nobody else will, you have to have the courage to tell the president no. The job is not to say what the president wants to hear, but what he needs to hear.”

Preaching the Word is not just saying what you want to hear, but what you need to hear so listen closely.
10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14   “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
  (Romans 3:10-18)

True words to describe the state of humanity; we are all guilty and give in to lies and myths.  The words of Jesus to the Pharisees in our Gospel reading could very well be directed at us today, “Jesus said to them, “You try to justify your actions in front of people. But God knows what’s in your hearts. What is important to humans is disgusting to God.” (Luke 16:15)

We are to preach the Word, all of it, whether we like it or not. 

Are you afflicted enough? That feeling that you want me to stop is not just boredom, the thoughts of, “How long will this guy talk?” or the distractions to read the Chimes and make a list of all the things you need to do today is the devil attempting you to not encounter the Word of God, and His law.

It is the job of the law to get us ready for the sweetness of the Gospel.  If you are not afflicted by the law, the Gospel loses its meaning.  The law hurts, condemns, kills, and makes us ready. 

But I would not be preaching the Word if I did not proclaim the Gospel message so let me proclaim some words of comfort, let me preach the Word, are you ready? 

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”  (1 Timothy 1:15b)  True words not penned by me but by Paul to Timothy. 

Hear Paul’s words to the believers in Rome, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Jesus was ready to leave heaven for earth for you.  He didn’t wait for us to be ready; His act of love on the cross and His victory over death provides the way to heaven for all.  He makes us ready.  His Word is proclaimed here today so that we can preach the Word and be ready in season and out of season.  He makes us ready, sets us upon the rock of His Word so that we can go and bring the good news to others.  Are you ready?

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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