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2 Timothy 1:1-14

Recently I returned from a Work and Witness Trip, the fourth one my wife and I have participated in the last 5 years. Similar to other Christian communities our church sends groups to other places to help another local church by doing practical projects like construction and gardening. These trips have been particularly special because we travel with friends and fellow believers from our local church. The leadership of my daughter-in-law and son made our first trip extra special. Being able to share faith stories and worship with believers from another culture has also enriched my faith and has expanded my sense of Christian community. I have more memories of the people we met and worked with than I do of the projects we worked on. Community is always an important factor as to whether one continues to practice faith. The testimony “Jesus is all I need” may be the expected thing to say but most of us flourish when there is a supporting community of believers. In this week’s lectionary passage from 2 Timothy Paul recognizes the importance of community. He clearly lets us know about his relationship with Timothy and his concern for him: “to Timothy, my beloved child … I remember you constantly, in my prayers night and day, longing to see you,” v. 2-4. Paul also recalls Timothy’s faith and that of his grandmother, Lois and mother Eunice, v.5. Timothy’s faith had been shaped by his spiritual mentor Paul and his family. Can you remember a spiritual mentor or family member who cared about your faith? You may want to share your gratitude for their influence upon you. Is there someone among or outside of your family in whom you take a special interest?

This week’s lectionary passage comes during the High Holy Days of Judaism beginning with Rosh Hashana or the Jewish New Year commencing on the evening of September 29 and going to the evening of October 1.   The holy days culminate with Yom Kippur which begins the evening of Oct 8 and ends on the evening of Oct 9.   Rosh Hashana uplifts “repentance” providing opportunity for one to remember and make right their relationship with others.  Remembering our relationship with God becomes the focus of Yom Kippur.   Special fasting is a requirement for Yom Kippur.   One should fast certain physical pleasures such as eating or drinking, wearing leather footwear, bathing or washing, applying ointments or engaging in any form of spousal intimacy.[1]  Essentially our focus moves away from normal things we do for our comfort or enjoyment to give our attention to God. How might we put aside the temporal and ordinary to focus upon God?  Is there a certain time when we might stop and mend a broken relationship with someone inside or outside our religious community?

One aspect of Yom Kippur observance relates to the Timothy passage’s emphasis upon community.  During the Yom Kippur service one may pray a special public community prayer for those who have died.  The “yizkor” prayer is to be recited primarily to remember and honor the deceased.   One often commits to doing charity or “tzedakah” in their memory since the dead can no longer do so in this world.   Jewish communities may differ on who is included in the prayer and who should pray, but remembrance of loved ones and support for those who have lost someone is an important aspect of community life.[2]  Christians may do something similar in memory of their loved ones.   My wife’s parents died during this time of year and she frequently remembers them and honors their faith through an act of charity.   One year we brought food to a local food bank.   Through Facebook members of the family share memories and also acts of remembrance they may have done.   Another thought of Paul relating to remembrance is that we join together in suffering for the gospel, v.8.  Part of our memory for those who have died is for those who have died or suffered for the cause of the gospel.  

In verse 9, Paul begins to help Timothy to remember the nature of his “holy calling.” Sometimes the call of a Christian has been narrowly conceived as relating primarily to a Christian vocation. This became one of the issues during the Reformation period. The Medieval Church placed value primarily on those called to religious vocation. Worship was a task primarily done by monks and nuns. The layperson mainly watched what went on during worship. The special holiness of the clergy accorded them a special place in the kingdom of God. The clergy were considered the true Christians. Martin Luther and Katharina Schultz Zell refocused the church on the importance of the general call given to all Christians. Zell emphasized that an average Christian could worship God through the humble tasks done by a father and mother as much as the clergy did in singing Latin songs in a worship service. Perhaps Paul points in this direction when he admonished Timothy: “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” The Holy Spirit is the power that enables us to live ordinary life as if we are called by God to do so. Practicing our faith in ordinary living is one important way that we guard our “good treasure.” Practicing spiritual disciplines might also be a way to develop Christian faith: prayer, fasting, reading scripture, worship, journaling, and serving others. This refocus on the call to live faithfully by each Christian should not devalue the experience by which God does call some into a lifetime of serving as clergy. My personal call is something that stays with me all the time.

Paul finally urges Timothy to remember the core of the gospel:  “Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light,” v.10.  Death is the ultimate enemy.   One of the reasons that we should remember those in community who have died is that we have hope because of death’s defeat.  Christ’s victory over death brings hope to all who face suffering.   We testify to this as Christians because this is the gospel message.  We might even be able to join with Paul and testify: “for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard that day what I have entrusted to him,” v. 12.   _________________________________ [1] [2] Ron Wolfson.  “Yizkor: The Jewish Memorial Service.”