21st Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 23 – C)
II Timothy 2:1-13
October 9, 2016
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the second half of the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
In 1836, “Remember the Alamo” was the rallying cry of the Texan army as they charged into battle at San Jacinto. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was found on posters to encourage enlistment and to motivate Americans to support the war effort. Remembering the events of 9/11 led many to valiantly serve in our armed forces in Afghanistan and other far-away and dusty places. These important events, and others like them, change history and they change us, so we can’t help but remember them. “Remember Jesus Christ!” isn’t much of a rallying cry but it’s still one that should be on our lips, because those of us who believe in Jesus should take time to remember Him.
What we have to keep in mind when it comes to remembering Jesus is that remembering is more than just thinking about Jesus in general terms. It’s more than just seeing Him as a person of great historical importance. Only those who are willfully blind will deny that Jesus had a huge influence on the world. To those who don’t believe, remembering Jesus in this way is fine. For you and me though it’s a completely different kind of remembering because we remember, most of all, that He’s our God and Savior.
Remembering that Jesus is our Savior conjures up a number of different thoughts. We might remember His love, His cross, His resurrection. We might remember that He is the Good Shepherd or the Great Physician. What I want you to think about today is that as our Savior, He is always faithful.
He’s faithful because that’s who He is, and nothing can change that. I was born with an X and a Y chromosome, which makes me a male. I can take drugs and have surgery to change my appearance, but I cannot change my gender. I was born a male and I’ll always be one. Jesus, as the Son of God, is faithful and He always will be. He’ll remain faithful to His promises even when we are unfaithful. We’re fickle so we often shift with the winds and the tides, but Jesus doesn’t. Paul says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” He remains as He always has been. As the Lord said through one of the prophets, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change his mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19)
This is very good news for us because it means that God will never give up on us and He will always be faithful to His promises. He’s faithful even when we’re not. He keeps His Word even when we break ours. We’re faithless at times, and I would even go on to say that because of the Sin that lives within all of us, that we’re frequently unfaithful, and yet God stands firm. A person unfaithful to their employer can be suddenly unemployed. Because unfaithfulness is often punished, it’s natural to think that God would withdraw His faithfulness from us.
But He doesn’t! He promised Eve that one of her descendants would be the Savior, and no matter what human beings have done in the last ten thousand years, He kept His Word. We remember the Son of God who set aside the majesty of Heaven for the humility of earth all to save us from our sins and the sins of others. The Lord promised that the Savior would die for His people, and He did. And no matter how mankind has sinned against Him, God repeatedly and unconditionally offers forgiveness through His Son’s bloody death. This is the Gospel for which Paul is suffering, imprisoned and in chains. The Gospel which says, “You, you who have been unfaithful, are forgiven. You are forgiven because God remembers all His promises to you.”
In Philippians 2, Paul says, “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” His death shows His faithfulness to us and it shows His faithfulness to His Father in Heaven. He was sent to do His Father’s will, which He did. Jesus promised His disciples numerous times that His Father’s will was that He would die and after three days come back to life. He did both of these things by keeping His Word He has proven that the Gospel gives life. It is the Gospel which not only gives us faith, but keeps us in the true faith so that one day we will hear Jesus say to us as He did in the book of Revelation, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
To remember Jesus as more than just as a historical figure is important, but just as important is remembering Him on days other than Sundays, special holidays, or when you’re sick or in trouble. To remember Jesus is an ongoing activity for the Christian, in other words, we never stop. We do it, and we continue to do it. It takes work, it takes the presence of the Holy Spirit, but with God’s help, Christ Jesus is always on our minds. And His presence in our minds, and our hearts, motivates us to live as those who aren’t just thinking about Him, but are consciously remembering what He has done for us.
Paul recognizes this, and he’s where he is precisely because He is remembering Jesus. He’s sitting cold and alone in a Roman prison cell waiting for Nero to take his head. Paul says, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” In spite of his situation, Paul remembered Jesus and what Jesus had done for him, and he was patiently suffering so that all that people would learn through him of Christ’s faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness encouraged Paul and kept Paul’s focus on the eternal glory that was waiting for him.
As we remember Christ, we are encouraged too. Not encouraged as if Jesus will magically enable us to survive what we’re enduring. Rather we are encouraged by His promises and His Word that aren’t bound in chains but that go unfettered out into the world. As we remember Jesus, His sacrifice and faithfulness, the Holy Spirit brings to mind the promises that God makes through His Word. A promise like the one found in our Epistle, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him.” In Baptism, our sinful selves were killed and in their place new men and women emerged who remember, every day, who we are – forgiven and faithful people of God.
Now it is tempting, and sometimes easy, to lose sight of Christ and to not continually remember Him as we should. We also put Him out of our minds when we deny Him through our thoughts, words and deeds. To deny Him, Paul says is to be denied ourselves, and to deny God is to invite the punishments that He he’s also promised on those who hate Him. He has promised to punish those who deny and reject Him, and He will. However, as we remember His promise of forgiveness we’re moved to confess our sins and to repent of them. When we confess and are forgiven we remember who we are; we are the elect, chosen by God to be part of His kingdom. And as subjects in God’s kingdom we can remember the salvation that belongs to us, a treasure that is for all those who confess Christ.
Certain events, good ones and bad ones, should never be forgotten. We remember 9/11 so that we remain diligent in the fight against terror. We remember July 4, 1776 as the birth of a free nation, and we remember Christ. We remember Jesus not as an historical figure but as life changing. You’re not always going to remember what you should, but remember this trustworthy saying: The Gospel promises are for you and your children, and God who is faithful will forgive our your and cleanse you from all unrighteousness, and this is something that is well worth remembering.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.