The text that I want to share today and
next Sunday is from the second letter to Timothy. But before I do,
I have to confess something to you. I goofed last week. Not
sure if anyone noticed, but the scripture that I was reading and
preaching from was not the same one printed in your bulletins.
A few people noticed -- a few people
asked "where the heck were you?!". I didn't catch it,
and I think people assumed it was a typo. Truth be known, it was a
typo, but it was MY typo -- in the note I sent to those that print the
bulletin, I had it wrong. To compound the error, I didn't catch it
when I proofed the bulletin, as I was the only one that could have known
it was wrong.
And I tell you that now not only to get
our capable office staff off the hook, so you know it wasn't there
fault, but also because it allows me to introduce you to some of the
sticky issues that arise when we are reading the Timothy correspondence.
The passage that was printed last
Sunday included these verses:
I desire, then, that in
every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or
argument; 9also that the women should dress themselves modestly and
decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with
gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10but with good works, as is proper
for women who profess reverence for God.
[Now, one could maybe get a good message out of that, might make a few
people (women in particular) uncomfortable, with what they happened to
choose to wear that particular morning. But if you were reading
ahead, you would have noticed that the passage that you thought I
was preaching on skipped the next two verses, which are:]
11Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12I permit no woman
to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13For
Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the
woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved
through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and
holiness, with modesty.
[From a woman in the
congregation: Amen!]. Well said J.
An example right there J.
Now we know why this is written in the scripture!
And you would have assumed that I was
skipping it intentionally because I am no fool. No matter what I
said on this text, I was bound to get in trouble. Or, because I am
chicken. No matter what I said on this text, I was bound to get in
But truth be told, I have no problem
preaching on this particular text. Because it's about time that we
men assert our superiority over the women, right? J
[Un-easy comments from the congregation] You're a livelier group
than the first service -- they were all kind of stunned, they had never
heard this before. What, that's in the Bible?
Well, seriously, this passage makes
several things very clear. Other than the obvious fact that women
who speak up in church are inspired by the devil J.
First of all, that women in fact were NOT keeping silent in the early
church. Otherwise, why would the author address a problem that did
not exist? Just the fact that it is in here is evidence to the
fact that women were speaking up.
Secondly, this letter could not have
been written, as it claims, by the Apostle Paul, the same person who
wrote to Galatians 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male
nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus'. And who goes on in
several of his letters to lift up and praise women by name in various
leadership positions in the church. Including Junia, who Paul
refers to as an Apostle in the 16th chapter of Romans.
There is simply no way that he could
say on the one hand 'here is an apostle' and 'who I do not permit to
speak in church, who must keep silent'. They could not have been
written by the same person.
Thirdly, it is evident, I think, that
the radicalism of Paul's equality in Christ was simply too extreme for
the cultural norms of the Greco-Roman world in the first century, and it
had to be toned down in order to be accepted in a patriarchal
society. And 1 Timothy, then, is a witness to that effort to make
the message more acceptable.
I cite that example because the Apostle
Paul has gotten a bad rap on this issue. We need to set the record
straight. Not only for the sake of history, but for the benefit of
women in so many cultures and families where they are still unjustly
silenced. And, for the benefit of the church and our effort to
adequately and properly proclaim the good news and what it means in the
So, we need not be shy, and we must be
clear to say that not all passages in scripture are of equal
value. Some, in fact, are even contrary to our values as
Christians such as this one that devalues the role and humanity of
women. And I know that causes us to be a little uneasy when we
come to that realization. So in spite of the presence of this
passage in our text, I have to tell you that I'm thankful that it's
Because it forces us to think about
these issues. To think seriously, to bring our mind to the reading
of scripture. And, it reveals to us the humanness of the early
church that stands in contrast to divinity of Christ. And that
therefore, scriptures are a human vessel through which the sacred is
conveyed. And that is a message of hope.
If the word of God, as Christ is called
in the first chapter of John (not the Bible, but Christ is the word of
God), if the word of God can be conveyed to us through that imperfect,
inadequate instrument of human will such as this letter to Timothy, then
hear this message of hope: that in spite of our human frailties,
God can work through us. Indeed, God can do great things
through us as well. Just as God does through texts like this.
And that is precisely the message of
our text for this morning, from the second letter to Timothy. A
letter, which like the first letter, claims to be written by the Apostle
Paul. Because of it's very personal nature, some scholars are more
willing to attribute it to the Apostle Paul than the first letter of
Timothy, but for a host of reasons I don't want to get into (language,
content, plus the very common practice in antiquity of honoring deceased
heroes by writing in their name), most mainline scholars have concluded
that this letter as well was not written by Paul.
But regardless of that, whether it is
written by Paul or by a student of Paul writing in his name, what is
most important for us is not who wrote it, but to who it is
written. For it's quite apparent that the intended audience of
this letter is not just Timothy (the beloved companion of Paul that he
mentions many times in his letters and in Acts) but rather to all who
revere Paul and who follow Christ. Hence it is, in a very real
sense, a letter that is written to all of us.
So hear, then, the message of the good
news to you, in this introduction to the second letter to Timothy:
Paul, an apostle of
Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life
that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my
Grace, mercy, and peace
from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I am grateful to
God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors
did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with
joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in
your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives
in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that
is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give
us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and
Hear again the central message, then,
to each of us: that we have a gift of God within us.
Do you believe that?
If you believe that, then I want to
hear you say: "I have the gift of God within me".
Yeah, that's right, that's exactly
right. And note that the author says about this gift that it does
not come with a spirit of cowardice. If you have the gift of God,
it's nothing to be timid about.
So I want to imagine yourself at the
[Duck] game yesterday at Autzen stadium watching the Cougars get the
pants beaten off of them by the Ducks, cheering your victorious home
team on, and with that spirit say: "I have the gift of God
within me!" Now I know we're going to the Rose Bowl!
Can you imagine Al Gore winning the
Nobel Peace Prize (Amen), by going around and saying things like
"Well, you know, I think that perhaps, the time might come soon
when maybe we ought to think about doing something about this thing that
might be a problem". Who would listen to him?
You may not like his message, you may
not agree with his message, but precisely because he speaks with
such power and authority and conviction we at least have to listen to
Is not the message that we have, of the
good news that comes to us, every bit as important as that? For
the message of the good news of God's love that we have for our world
includes not only our care for the earth, but love for our enemies,
justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, liberation for the
captives, sight for the blind, hope and new life for all people.
How can we believe such a message and
be timid about sharing it? How can we proclaim such a message and
not be bold in claiming it? With all that is happening in our
world, when pre-emptive wars are fought in the name of peace, when
torture is condoned in the name of freedom, when the wealth of a few
rises up exponentially along side poverty of many in the name of free
enterprise, when discrimination is justified in the name of religious
freedom, when the religious right claims to speak for Christian faith,
the time for us has come to bury the spirit of cowardice, to stand up
like Martin Luther and to say "Here I stand, I cannot do
We have a General Minister and
President that I'm very thankful for. Speaking of women, who are
supposed to keep silent (not). The Reverend Sharon Watkins, who
was at a press conference called by Sojourners in Washington D.C.,
after, with great bi-partisan support, S-CHIP was passed, the children's
health insurance program that would expand health coverage for an
additional 4 million children. Regardless of your own feelings
about that issue, I want you to hear the message from the Reverend
Watkins that she proclaimed in that press conference, and the spirit in
which it is given:
[Click on the picture
below to view the online video]
The Reverend Sharon
Regardless of the particulars, clearly
that is a voice calling for our moral obligation as citizens of this
country to do something for the uninsured, and especially the children.
That is the spirit of power and love
and self-discipline. Claiming the gift of God to speak truth to
power. It may not be the gift of God that each of us would claim,
but it is the gift of God we can and must claim as the body of Christ if
we truly wish to bring good news to our world today. News that
will bring life and hope and peace not just for children but for all.
And the importance of that power,
combined with love, is so evident and obvious. Dominic Crossan
said "Power without love is brutality. But love without power
is nothing more than sentimentality".
You see, we need both if either is to
do us any good. But what about this self-discipline that the
author calls for? Why is that important?
When we lived in Fresno, Judy had a
boss at the hospital where she worked, a chaplain there, who had an
opportunity to march with Martin Luther King Jr. And the day
before the march, all the would-be marchers gathered in the basement of
a church for some training in non-violence. One of the trainers
came up to one of the marchers and shoved him. And the guy
immediately put up his fists to defend himself. And the trainer
said "You're not ready -- out!".
Self-discipline is not just a virtue to
be admired, it is a skill to be learned, if we are to claim this gift of
God and to use it for its fullest potential. And a key
self-discipline, so important for us as Christian stewards, is managing
our money so that our money does not manage us. Though controlling
our spending habits may seem trivial in the larger scope of the world's
problems and the mission of the church, it is anything but
For when we gain power over wealth
rather than wealth gaining power over us, we multiply our personal
power. So that the gift of God can be all the more powerful in
us. And we are free to speak the truth to power. There is no
other force in our society that is as corrupting as wealth. And
yet, which guided by God's will and used with love, can also do so much
And thus our need for self-discipline
is not only essential where money is concerned, it must increase as does
our own personal wealth if we are to remain free from wealth's
corruption. And the same, even more so, then, for us as a body of
people and us as a nation.
Today we are going to dedicate our
estimates of giving for next year, those that we received this morning
as well as those that came in the mail and those that will continue to
come in the week or two ahead. We dedicate them precisely as gifts
of God given to us to be used with power, love, and self-discipline as
we seek to boldly proclaim the message that God has given to us.
Are we going to change the brutality of
the world? Are we going to end the poverty that we see all around
us? Probably not.
But never, never underestimate what God
can do when we dedicate our gifts and we dedicate ourselves to being
God's light to the world. That the gift of God might not only be
visible in us for all to see, but that it might truly make a difference,
to change lives, perhaps even to change the world.