Sermon from Sunday, October 16, 2022
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Man seen this morning comes from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Second Timothy. The third chapter. I’ll start the 14th verse and read through the fourth chapter, the fifth verse. Here these words.
But as for you, continuing what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how, from your childhood, you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training and righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in the view of His appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you proclaim the message. be persistent Whether the time is favorable or unfavorable. convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching 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 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and carry out your ministry fully.
Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Words such as manny and emoji are born. A manny is a male nanny, an emoji you are familiar with. That’s that little picture in the text message expressing an emotion. Before the 1990s, these two words did not exist. They’ve been born in our generation. Words also die. The old English had a pronoun, wit, wit. It meant we to. If you were part of a large group, you could say we had a meal together. But if you were dining with just one other person, you could use the more intimate pronoun wit had a meal together. Kind of cute. Too bad it’s dead. Words in the English language have a life cycle and word death is a part of that natural life cycle in English. Ellen used to mean courage. Now it’s simply a woman’s name. “Wer” used to mean man. But now it doesn’t mean anything in English. It’s not even in the Scrabble dictionary, so don’t try to use it to get six points. There are some great words that have passed away out of the English language. One of the neatest one is Twitterlight. You, of course, know Twitterlight is the background on your Twitter feed, right? No. Twitterlight is how they described Twilight in the 17th century. It’s Twitterlight. Bramble is a loud argument. I witnessed a bramble yesterday at broke cheers as people were fighting over the big bananas and the mini bananas. I have discovered mini bananas. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s for a very small banana pudding. Beefwitted. Beefwitted. That’s a good one. Beefwitted is the way in the 1590s of saying someone was dumb. They’re just beefwitted.
Words come into our vocabulary, and they go away. They become, as the Oxford English Dictionary says, obsolete. But there’s one word that should never die. Specifically, the words connected to the Lordship of Jesus Christ inspired by God and useful to us as Christians. The Apostle Paul begins the epistle of Second Timothy by commending Timothy and giving thanks for the faith that he already has. a faith that was brought to him by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. Paul reminds his younger colleague that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of self-discipline. Then Paul stresses the importance of the sacred writings for salvation through Jesus Christ. He says All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training and righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God might be proficient. Proficient. equipped for every good work. This book has eternal importance, according to Paul, because it’s connected to Jesus and connects us to Jesus. In addition, it is inspired by God. These writings are useful to us as we train, are trained in righteousness, and as we are equipped for every good work. individual words will die, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. So how does it work?
The writer of Hebrews said it like this in the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets and at many times and in various ways, but in his last days, the Greek says he has spoken, son. He has spoken through his son, Jesus Christ. He has made clear that which was hinted at or that which was mysterious in the Old Testament. The Gospel of John begins, In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. And this word has come into being was life. And the life was the light of all people. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory. We saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the Old Testament. We saw in Jesus what God was getting at back there. that humanity never quite caught up to or never quite lived into or understood that Jesus is the purest and the simplest revelation of God. and it is to Christ Jesus that God’s word points. This book gives us the path of salvation. This word becomes the living word for us. And because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, these words bring God’s Spirit to bear in our lives. These words open up our hearts to the movement of the Holy Spirit, where God breathes life into us through the Scripture. The Spirit heals us and calms the guides us and pulls us together is the body of Christ. So, these God breathed words should never die.
And these words, then, because they are breathed by God, become authoritative words of life. Now, the authority of Scripture is one of the things that has gotten the Methodist Church in the conundrum we have been. That is what we’re actually fighting about, the authority of Scripture. These words are definitive and declarative words of life. But, you know, we like to argue about which words should we accept as authoritative. Which words can we ignore? Which words are simply old fashioned? We don’t have to pay any attention to them anymore. That’s antiquated thinking. After all, we have modern psychology, sociology, and anthropology, so we know better. Much of the difficulty that surrounds this problem of authority has arisen from the attempt of the Church to make God’s authority tangible, visible and incontestable in a way that was never considered by the prophets, the apostles, or Jesus Himself. the authority of God’s Word everywhere in Scripture is invisible, intangible, and contestable. for those who experience it, though the authority is overwhelming. all human authority has become secondary in relative or their silence before it. Finally, the Scripture teaches us in righteousness. The Old and New Testament says that righteousness is being rightly related to God and rightly related to each other. The Book of Leviticus says that we’re to love our neighbor. The Book of Deuteronomy says that we’re to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. And Jesus combines them into the great commandment, which is central to our teaching in righteousness. And Paul says, we need to become proficient in understanding how to live and how to expound, and how to explain righteousness? Proficient.
I was watching the little one sing and I remembered our daughter, And She came to a point that she announced that she was a big girl. How do you know you’re a big girl? Because I used to drink milk from a bottle, and now I eat food from a plate. And that is the differentiation between a little girl and a big girl. Food from the plate. And Paul takes on a similar analogy when he says, and so brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now, you’re still not ready for you are still in the flesh.
The writer of Hebrews says a similar thing. for though by this time, you ought to be teachers. You need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. I have heard it said about other churches, never about a church I pastored. Thank you very much. Someone will start unfolding their spiritual biography and they will start naming the churches they belonged. And they will get to a church and say, you know, I went to that church. I went to the church for a while. But I just wasn’t being bed. Hmm. I just wasn’t being fed. Do you know whose responsibility that is? Yours. I just read it to you. Paul just said it. Some of you are infants. Have you ever seen an infant self-feed? You got to hold something for them for them to get a little nourishment, don’t you? You got to help them out until they reach such a point that they can eat the spaghetti with their fingers. It is at that point that you start taking pictures. They’re self-feeding. They can nourish themselves. They can take on solid food, real food. It is the difference between the milk of the word and the meat of the word. and what people who say I wasn’t being fed in that church. What they are telling me is that they are spiritually immature. You are response symbol for your own spiritual feeding, according to the New Testament.
Uh-oh. It got quiet in here. I’m having to preach a low beam sermon because we over killed the fog machine today. I can’t put my brights on. Are you out there? Oh, there you are. We’re to become Proficient in the word. Who’s responsible for that? You are. We can teach it. We can preach it. We can model it. We can engage you in small groups. But ultimately you answer for it. and you are responsible for your proficiency in righteousness. Scripture equips us also to do good work. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that we’re to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger. Care for the sick visit in prison? That’s our response ability, according to the word. Paul also told Timothy, always be sober, endure suffering and do the work of an evangelist. Carry out your ministry fully. The words of the Bible are never just philosophical insights or spiritual reflections. They are instructions for righteous living and doing good work in the world. The challenge is to take these words to heart. the great commandment of Jesus, or the timeless command of Amos to let Justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. We need to show some real Ellen. Remember, Ellen? it’s courage. as we live out and organize our life around this word, Paul urges the young man, Timothy, to proclaim the message, be persistent, Whether the time is favorable or unfavorable, convince, rebuke and courage with the utmost patience in teaching.
There were some people ready for me to get to that rebuke part. Yeah. Rebuke. And that’s the one people always get to. There was a fellow I referenced this morning, and he was known by another minister who was in the worship service that every Monday after communion service, Bob would come in the church office, just spitting nails, mad that the preachers did it again. Because Bob knew that the Bible doesn’t want you to drink fermented beverage. And Bob would come in insisting that the preachers change the communion ritual where we pray that we bless the gifts of bread and wine. Bob wanted wine changed to Welch’s. and I was preaching one Sunday. I was preaching y’all, on John 2. And you may remember John, too. It’s the wedding feast. A Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turns the water into what wine? A lot of good wine. And this lady in the middle of the worship service, in the middle of the sermon. The preacher. You’re wrong. The wine in the Bible was not fermented. Really? No, sir, it was not fermented. No wine in the Bible could get anybody drunk. So, I said, so you took the grapes, and you smashed them up and you put them in a camel bladder. And sewed that up and you took the camel bladder and poured through it on the back of a camel, and you ran across the desert for two or three weeks, and that didn’t ferment. Now, a brother, Doug, it was Welch’s grape juice. Oh, goodness, goodness, goodness. So let the reader beware. Knowing the difference between a noun and a verb. Owning a very expensive Moroccan leather Bible doesn’t make you the owner of the contents. It’s God’s word. And He’s sovereign. And the words printed on these pages give a witness to the life and the love and the Ministry of Jesus Christ. These words point me toward creation and then toward salvation. They point me to a God of love and forgiveness, a God who brings life and hope and peace. And if I failed to listen to these words, if I failed to submit myself to the sovereignty of these words, if I respond to God’s love out of arrogance or being impersonal in my behavior to others, I’ve become one of those people that do an enormous amount of damage in the name of Christian living by bad Bible reading.
Let the reader beware, because this is not this is not devotional literature so you can sleep better at night. This is the marching order of an army. And we find the church has transferred itself from the service of God to the service of itself and its members. We turned inward on ourselves rather than outward on the world. We call the church the Body of Christ. But it remains a body so much or in so much as it is open, responsive and obedient to the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ that confront us every time we open this book. Let the Bible cease to be heard in the Church, and soon the remembered Christ becomes the imagined Christ shaped by the religiosity and the consciousness and the unconscious, if it were, desires of the worshipers. and every renewal and every revival that’s ever happened in the Church has happened as church people have rediscovered the Word. persistence, encouragement, patience are all going to be required if we’re going to live out God’s God breathed words and let them be a part of the heart of our lives as Christ followers. And Paul knew that members of the Christian community, the Christian community, would turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. He predicted that they would accumulate for themselves, teachers, to suit their own desires, and he feared that they would turn away from Scripture and find a message that was easier for them to hear and accept.
And we did. And we are. John Wesley described himself as a man of one book. His loyalty to Scripture gave rise to his own personal salvation, and it gave rise to a revival that happened in the British Isles and transferred itself to North America. And we are spiritual, great grandchildren of John Wesley. But we struggle with what the words of the text seem to say, and we struggle with how to make this the living Word of God to our culture.
What happened to us?
I blame it on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It’s not a math thing. It’s a Methodist thing. The Quadrilateral is described by a line in the Book of Discipline where it says Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, verified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. However, Wesley never said any of those things. He never used the term quadrilateral. He never made a clear argument for any of those things being used. And what the Quadrilateral does is it teaches that in order to do theology, you have scripture, tradition, reason and experience. Wesley Being a man of Scripture would say, you’ve got Scripture. What about those other things, John? Naw, nah that’s Methodist Church in the late seventies and the early eighties Coming up, an excuse for doing things they want to do. So, they have to add tradition, experience and reason in there. Wesley and Quadrilateral was articulated by an SMU professor named Albert Outler. And it is a method of doing theology, but it has inserted itself into Methodist culture. Richard Heightson, writer who unlocked John Wesley’s journals. In his diaries, he figured out the code that Wesley was using and his edited the front part of the discipline. The theological section talked about teaching Sunday school classes in Methodist churches and saying, Ladies and gentlemen, what are the distinctive of the Methodist church? And somebody invariably would answer the Quadrilateral. We used to be people of the book. One book, the Bible. Albert Outler, said of his own words The term quadrilateral does not occur in the Wesley Corpus, and more than once I have regretted having coined it for contemporary use because it’s been so widely misconstrued. Methodists are people of one book and the face of the danger that some in the church might weaken the word, Paul urged Timothy to proclaim the message persistently to encourage his fellow Christians to show the utmost patience in teaching. Timothy did this, and so can we. We do it every time we turn to Jesus, the one who has the words of eternal life. We do this when we share the God, breathed message of forgiveness, of peace, of healing, and of hope. We do this when we organize our lives around what’s in here, showing the courage it takes to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. That’s the way we prevent word death and to spread the word from God that will never die.
Would you stand and pray with me?
We thank you, God, for your word of life and love. And we pray that as Jesus followers, we would learn to be faithful in following you on the journey toward Christ likeness. Show us the Father Lord, and it will satisfy us. Show us what you want us to be and what you’ve called us to do, and those things we will do. Oh, Lord, let your word live in all of us.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.