2 Timothy 4:1-5
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
I am honored and humbled to be able to bring a word to you all today on the occasion of the Installation of your new Pastor and Associate pastor, D and E. And while neither of these men are really “new” to your congregation, both having served you and with you for a while, their new positions lead us to this time to recognize them and set aside a time of celebration for their new relationship with you.
I have had the privilege of knowing E for 16 months and D, for longer than I care to admit! Both of these men have amazing attributes and qualities. Both are dedicated servants of God, both love the Lord and want to do God’s work. And both will fall short.
That may not be what you want to hear today, but it is the truth. Neither one of these men is perfect. Neither one of them is without fault. Neither one of them is the savior of the congregation.
These men are here to help you draw near to the savior, to come to know the savior and to assist you in serving the savior, but they are not the savior.
D and E have come along side this congregation for a time as leaders, and as fellow travelers. They will help lead, guide and direct you through times of struggle and through times of peace. They will see you through growth and decline. They will love you even when you are unlovable. DO the same for them!
Because this relationship that you have called them to is not a one sided relationship, where they serve and serve and serve you. It is a relationship where you work with and serve one another, so that the kingdom of God may be shown, built up and grown through you all!
There are many things that I want to say to you as a congregation about loving your pastors, about appreciating your pastors, about praying for your pastors. I want these relationships to grow, to prosper to be blessed. I could give you a whole list of things to do and ways care for these men, and perhaps that’s what they would want me to do.
But today, I feel called to speak to them about their relationship with you. Hopefully y’all will get something out of it as well!
2 Timothy is a letter to a new minister, to one who will continue the work that has already been begun. It lays out the struggles Paul has had and the pitfalls he wants Timothy to avoid. It reiterates God’s call in Paul and Timothy’s lives and reminds Timothy of the rolls he is to fulfill.
It is in these five verses in chapter four that I feel God speaking to D and E today. Paul says “proclaim the message” when it’s popular and when it’s not. You will do no one any good if you only proclaim the things they want to hear. God’s word is rarely easy and even less frequently what people want to hear. Speak it anyway.
Speak God’s words of peace in the time of war. Speak God’s words of love in times of great hate. Speak God’s words of forgiveness even when there is no desire to forgive. Speak God’s words of reconciliation when things are broken. Speak Gods words of healing when things fall apart.
Remember as you teach, preach and serve that you are doing so with the people, but at the call of God. This is an important distinction. God’s word and God’s ways are not always popular, are not always well received and there will be times when you will need to stand up and be counted. D and E, all I can say is do it. The people will both hear and repent, or they won’t. Either way you must be faithful to your calling as a minister of word and sacrament.
St. Francis of Assisi said “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” In your actions and words, may you share the gospel in good and bad times. Because both will come.
Do so with patience, knowing that for every step you feel the need to take it may take 10-15 “church sized shuffles” as my former pastor Sam Estes was fond of saying. People do not move quickly as a group unless they are afraid, and then they move without thinking. So have great patience with this congregation. They will follow but keep it slow so no one gets left behind.
There is a story of a man who took a new church and for his first sermon preached a well-received message on forgiveness. Everyone was enchanted. The next week he again preached a very good sermon on forgiveness, the same he had given the previous week. The church members smiled and nodded at one another simply assuming he had left the old manuscript on the pulpit and had decided to deliver it again rather than admit the embarrassment. The third Sunday he again stood and delivered the message of forgiveness. After the service one of the elders came up to the pastor and said “Pastor, that was a great sermon on forgiveness, I really liked it, but isn’t it the same sermon you gave last week and the week before?” The pastor replied, “Yes it was.” The Elder said “Well, as good as it was, I think we’d like to hear something different next week.” To which the pastor replied “Once you all get this forgiveness thing right I’d be glad to move on.”
There are things we need to have repeated for emphasis and things we need to repeat for real learning to take place. Don’t be afraid of the basics, everyone could use a refresher now and again.
In verse 5 Paul calls Timothy to the part of ministry that I like the least. Suffering. I really wish he’d left that part out. But being so intimately involved in the lives of others, supporting them in good and bad times, there will inevitably be some suffering. Endure it. Do not toss in the towel when things get tough, when you disagree with things, when the bank account is low. Endure.
Share that the reason you can endure is because you know that God’s mercies are new every morning. Share the good news at all times in all things, even when you have to struggle to do it, because that’s the work of an evangelist, to bring the good news. Sometimes that means something as simple as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Give the joy you have been given, the hope you have received and the grace that you treasure to others daily.
Part of your ministry will be coming alongside others. There is a term in woodworking called sistering. This means to take a new strong piece of wood and bring it alongside a warped or cracked piece to strengthen it. These boards together bear the weight of the load and sure up the foundation of whatever structure is needing support. While it seems odd to tell you both to be good sisters, the idea is the same, help support one another and those in your congregation so that the foundation is strengthened by your service here.
And I know it will be. I know that the gifts you, D, and you, E, possess will help to build up this congregation. I know that God will use you both in amazing ways. I have no doubt that your ministry will be effective and blessed. Because I know you will give it your all. I know that you will place yourselves and this congregation in God’s hands every day. That you will turn time and time again to God for direction, guidance, reassurance, and hope, and that you will find those things in abundance.
God is good, all the time my friends and all the time God is good. I thank God for calling you both here and for establishing this relationship between you and this congregation.