The Life That Really Is Life

Meditation on 1 Timothy 6:6-19

Pastor Karen Crawford

First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown

Sept. 25, 2022

These last few weeks have been hectic. Volunteers and staff have been working hard, preparing for the installation and reception this afternoon. I hope you all are coming! Thank you to those who joined in with this labor of love with body, mind and soul—our trustees, elders, deacons, and others! Thank you to Pablo and all our musicians, children and adults laboring through numerous rehearsals to add the joy and beauty of choral and instrumental music to our worship. God bless you for your kindness!

Our granddaughter, Madeline, turned 5 on Sunday. In this extraordinarily busy season of our lives, Jim and I were blessed to be with her and the family for her birthday celebration—for the first time ever—on Monday night in her Cambridge home. We sang Happy Birthday, and she blew out the candles on her ice cream cake. Her mother asked if she had made a wish. If not, it wasn’t too late, she said. The little girl paused, nodded.

My wish had already come true. We were able to share, finally, in some of the important moments of our granddaughters’ lives.

Before the party, we watched Maddie and Jessie in their gymnastics programs. We had never done that before, either. Jessie, at 8 and a half, works out at the gym 2 to 3 hours a night and five hours on Saturdays. She travels for competitions!

 A Ukrainian woman named Masha leads her class. Jessie is the smallest and youngest, but she keeps up, with encouragement from the group. Masha wears a microphone and a leotard and barks out commands over the music as she models the correct movements– up on their toes like ballerinas one moment, pulling their feet above their heads, doing gracious bends and sweeps with their arms, then leaping and doing scissor kicks, handstands, and spins.

Masha watches and calls each one individually to work on skills, while the others watch. That would be intimidating to some. But not Jessie and the other girls. Their long relationship with Masha has built trust. They know she is helping each person and thus the group to be the best they can be. They respect her teaching methods—though they seem a little scary to me—because she has helped them learn to do far more than they ever expected to do.

They watch and listen carefully because they want to be good gymnasts, like Masha!

***

     Timothy was young when Paul met him on his second missionary journey.

When Paul and Barnabas first visited Lystra on their first missionary journey, Paul healed a person born with a severe handicapping condition. The healing leads many of those living in Lystra to become Christians. When he returns a few years later with Silas, he meets Timothy, who has become a respected member of the Christian congregation. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul lifts up Timothy’s Jewish grandmother and mother (Lois and Eunice) as models of faith and godliness. He speaks of Timothy as being acquainted with all the Scriptures since childhood.

    Paul mentors him, whose own father is a Greek, a Gentile, and not religious. The young man becomes his companion, with Silas. They travel to plant, encourage, and correct churches embroiled in conflict and led astray by false doctrines and teachers. Timothy, because of their close relationship, trusts Paul enough to submit to circumcision to be accepted when he shares the gospel in Jewish communities.

   Timothy’s personality is a sharp contrast to Paul’s sometimes brash, blunt, outspoken manner.  He is reserved and shy and possibly prone to anxiety and insecurity, at least in the beginning of his ministry. Paul writes to the Corinthian church, with its conflict and divisions, “If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am.” (1 Cor. 16:10)

    He addresses Timothy’s youthfulness in I Tim. 4:12—how it might have already been a problem for him. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” Paul says, “but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

     Here in this closing chapter, we find Paul’s final charge to his friend and fellow laborer to be who God has made him to be and the man Paul has taught and shown him to be. Don’t look around and join in with people in the church with sinful behaviors and wrong attitudes, he says. Live a simple life, Paul says. Be generous. Be like me. Be like Jesus.

     “Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he says, “and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

   This is where our reading begins today—with Paul shifting gears and saying in verse 6, Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” He quotes the familiar saying in verse 7, “For we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” And finally, the verse that is sometimes misquoted, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

     What does Paul mean by “fight the good fight?” The fight is not with other people! It is a fight within ourselves—fighting the temptation to be anything less than our best selves, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

    The reward of the good fight is that we remain focused and faithful to the One perfect model we have, the one through whom we have eternal life. The good fight leads us to seek to change the one person we can change—ourselves. We learn to trust in the One who provides everything we need and more—for our enjoyment.

    This is how we take hold of the life that really is life!

***

     I have invited our Confirmation class to my installation this afternoon. I told them how this is an historic moment for the church—and for them. At 15, they are too young to have attended an installation for a called pastor before. The last installation was with my predecessor, Reverend James Hulsey, who began ministry here in July 2002. He followed the long tenure of Reverend William Edwards, arriving in time to help the church prepare for its celebration of 300 years of ministry in 1975.

    Reverend Edwards writes in Surrounded By So Great A Cloud Of Witnesses, his Tercentennial message in July of that year, “We are celebrating during a troublesome time for our nation and our world. The old foundations shake and the future seems uncertain. The pressing question is this: Is there in our heritage a fountain of hope and energy for our troublesome time? From the beginning, the churches have offered a vision to carry us toward the future; what vision do we have now?”

   He speaks of religious movements in his time that impacted the church’s message and mission—of supporting minority groups, women, and the poor and working for the rights of individual conscience, saying that there has been some progress. But “to have something to say to the times in which we live,” he writes, “we must hold both together: social awareness and a deep personal faith.

   “So we celebrate our beginnings not as past accomplishments,” he goes on, “but as unfinished business. We are sustained by a faith our forebears shared, which we have made our own.”

   Friends, we have reached a milestone in our ministry with the service of worship and installation this afternoon. Today, on the 11th anniversary of my ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, we will mark and celebrate the beginning of the 34th called and installed pastor’s tenure. According to our history books, we have had a number of Bills, Jameses, Johns, Richards, Nathaniels, and Henrys, even an Ebenezer and an Ithamar serve as pastors—but never a Karen, and never a grandmother!

    We don’t look back with pride at all our church has accomplished in its long history. Rather, we remember with joy and gratitude, and some sorrow and tears at the hard times that our congregation endured and overcame as recent as the last two years of pandemic. We marvel at all that God has done in, with and through this flock still in pursuit of righteousness and godliness, seeking to be faithful in worship, witness, and compassionate service.

    There is in our heritage a fountain of hope and energy. And we cling to our vision of our Savior’s promised return to gather his Church and to make all things new. May we be found faithful when he comes again.

    Our faith still sustains us when the very foundations shake and the future seems uncertain.  We will always have challenges and temptations. We are never alone, so we need not be afraid. God’s eye is always on the sparrow, as we sing in that beautiful hymn. With God’s help, the Spirit’s teaching, and Christ’s peace, and surrounded by the Great Cloud of Witnesses, we will do far more than we ever expected to do.

   We look ahead, determined to attend to the unfinished business of loving one another, being gentle and patient, learning contentment, showing mercy and sharing our faith, like our forebears did for us, praying the next generations will embrace it and make it their own.

    Together, we will take hold of the life that really is life!

Let us pray.

Gracious and generous God, thank for your encouragement today in your Word to live a simple life and not fret about all the details or worry about money. For you will supply all our needs and more for our enjoyment. Teach us, Lord, to be gentle, patient, gracious, and merciful, like you. Give us strength to endure and persevere in this joyful ministry of worship, witness, and compassionate service for at least another 200 years. Sustain us with your vision of our Savior’s promised return for the Church and all things made new.  Help us, Lord, to be found faithful when our Redeemer comes again. Until then, lead us to take hold of the life that really is life. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Minnie, a toy poodle.

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