2 Timothy 1:3-7 Common English Bible (CEB)
Thanksgiving and prayer
3 I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. 4 When I remember your tears, I long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. 5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. 6 Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.
I want you to consider Mothers and Grand Mothers – ponder the very best of them. For me, Florence Osterlund Kershaw-Canfield, my father’s mother, was a powerful force in my life. She was a woman of faith who talked about her faith – not to convert you, but in an easy way in the midst of conversations. She was also a blessing through her music. She is probably the most instrumental in connecting me with my love of the piano. Ellen Bustad Benson, my mother’s mother, was someone I never truly met (I only met her as a baby), but knew her influence in my mother. Mom has a love for faith and is a person of great empathy. She tunes into you and your feelings, then seeks to understand them and support you.
Paul was the champion of ‘saved by grace alone.’ James offered the counter balance when he reminds us that ‘faith without works is dead.’ Paul, however leads us down the harder path for human beings. We want to earn our salvation, and he reminds us that it is only through God’s grace. In this passage this morning, Paul claims his heritage (vs.3). “I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did.” He claims the best parts of his Jewish roots. He was raised in the faith and trained as a Pharisee. He very easily could have turned away from the errant Jewish roots of his time. Instead, claimed the essence of his ancestral faith and let it live in him as he followed Jesus Christ.
Faith is a family tradition, whether blood family or families of choice. I want us to consider tradition in the best sense of the word. There is a wonderful story about how ham was prepared in a family. The tradition was to cut off both ends before putting it in the pan. One day the daughter asked her mom, “why?” Her mom was not sure, but was privileged to have her mom still living. So, she asked her mom, “why?” Her mom shared that it was because her pan was too small! Talk about an empty tradition. Paul brings it to life in Timothy in verse 5. “5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you.” He speaks of Timothy’s “Authentic Faith” as passed down through his family. It is unique that Timothy’s faith is traced through his maternal lineage – grandmother and mother. Who are the influential people in your lineage of faith? For many it will be moms and grandmothers. For others, it may be aunts or neighbors, Sunday School teachers, school teachers, the list goes on.
For Timothy it was also Paul. From 1 Timothy 1:1-2, the opening verses go like this, “From Paul, who is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God our savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul claims Timothy as a child of his in faith. Do you hear the transmission of faith?! What a family tradition!
In verse 6 Paul encourages Timothy, “Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Revive in the Common English Bible is translated “Rekindle” in the New Revised Standard Version, “fan to flame” in the New International Version, and “Stir up” in the King James Version. Each of the images conjures up tending a fire, keeping it going. If you let the embers completely go cold, they will never glow again as they did before. This implies that we need to do something with our heritage in faith.
I see there are two responsibilities involved here. The first is a responsibility as a parent to a child (no matter their age). It is a high calling of transmitting the faith to our children and the children around us. It is the grace of passing on the faith. On one hand it involves passing on the basic principles of the faith. But there is more. The companion to that is passing on how we out the principles into action. J.D. Walt of Seedbed Ministries speaks about our life’s core essential message. He asks, “What does the combination of our words and actions speak to our children and the people around us?” I saw in my grandmother both the words of faith and actions of faith. She has a commitment, and a passion for faith. It was an indwelling presence in her life. She showed it in her actions. Her commitment to the church and its ministries was wonderful. Her commitment to sharing Jesus with everyone was exemplary. I also still see in my mother both the words and actions of faith. As this pandemic wears on she longs to be back together with her church family. At 94 years old, she is not computer literate and has no smart phone. She really misses her pastor and his wonderful messages. In Janna, the mother of three of our children, I see the passion of her faith in prayer, and word, and action. She continues to be an inspiration to our children and myself as well. We have a responsibility to share the grace of God through our connections.
Further, we have a responsibility as a child to a parent. That is the high calling to stay close to our roots in the faith. It is the grace of receiving and cherishing the faith. That doesn’t mean clinging to “the way it’s always been done.” Rather it is holding close to the essentials of the faith. My Grandma Canfield was fond of telling stories of her upbringing. She told of playing cards on a Sunday afternoon – o my gosh! That was kind of a “no-no” at the time. They would spot the preacher coming up the walk, and suddenly they were hiding the cards under the cushions of the sofa. My grandmother was a great example of letting go of empty traditions (any card playing) and holding to the essence of our faith. It is in those roots that our lives of faith find nourishment and expression. In 1 Peter 2:2-3 the writer makes an invitation: “ Instead, like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of the word. Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good.” We are to desire the pure spiritual milk of faith. Our hunger for faith can help parents continue their own growth.
So, Paul’s advice to Timothy is also advice to each of us. Claim the gift of your ancestors in the faith, and the gift given to you to be a transmitter of the gospel to next generations. There is no greater blessing to our mothers, grandmothers, and the influential women in our lives than to pass on this amazing faith to another generation! Amen.