Note My Grandmother’s name was Louise Roberts not Lois Roberts. My grandmother was my Father’s mother and not my mother’s mother. These facts are not clear in the recording.
As I’ve listened to folks here at Calvin one fond memory, one common theme, is the talent show you all put on several years ago. Indeed, I know you all to be a very talented congregation. Well I also participated in a talent show. After seminary I attended a church called East End Fellowship. And on our annual all church retreat I performed a kata, which is like choreographed martial arts dance with punches and kicks. I performed this kata to one of the defining songs of my childhood, Stan Bush’s The Touch. The Touch was featured in 1986’s transformers the movie which featured one of the defining events of my childhood, the death of the noble transforming robot leader Optimus Prime. What would it be like for to see me go kung fu fighting on a stage to one of the best eighties songs of all time? To get a taste of it you have to hear the opening lyrics.
“You’ve got the touch!!!! You’ve got the power!!!!
In our passage today Paul isn’t saying that Timothy has been touched by the righteous transformers of the 1980’s. Instead, this minister of the Gospel, at the end of his days, has been persuaded by his young protégé Timothy, that he has been touched by the hand of God. Paul has been persuaded by this young man in his thirties that he has the touch of faith, and Paul is ready to pass on the torch, confident that his spiritual son Timothy will carry the mantle of faith, confident that Timothy will fan into flames the gifts that have been given to him through the laying of hands. Timothy had the touch of the Holy Spirit. And I believe we here today have that same touch.
The Good News: When we know the Spirit by which we have been touched we will see stewardship in a new light. What is the Spirit with which we have been touched? The Holy Spirit is
- A Spirit of power
- A Spirit of love
- A Spirit of self control.
First, we see that we have been given a spirit of power. Did you know that whatever age you are, whether you are young or old, you have been given power by the Holy Spirit? I think the scriptures teach that the primary way the Holy Spirit works his power through us by our words. As Proverbs 18:21 declares, The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The book of James compares the power of the tongue to the power a rudder on a ship. To quote James, “ Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boast.” Pastor Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church describes the conversation God had with him about the power of his words in his relationship with his wife Debbie. To quote Pastor Morris,
“I was not a Christian when Debbie and I got married, but I soon came to the knowledge of Christ as Savior. However, it was not until many months after our wedding that God got hold of me regarding the power of my words. In the years before I came to Christ, I had become a master of verbal manipulation. I could win any argument, even when I was dead wrong. And I carried all of these dark skills into our marriage. When, as most young married couples do, we had arguments, I instinctively put of these dark skills to use. When we disagreed, I wasn’t interested in finding agreement and harmony. I just wanted to win. And in order to win, I began to use my words to beat up on Debbie. I never laid a hand on her physically, but emotionally and verbally, I was a brute.
May I tell you something I have learned since those days of immaturity and insecurity> When you have manipulated and verbally bullied someone and he or she acquiesces simply because you are a more skillful debater- you have not won. In fact, you have lost- big time. My approach to relationships was costing me more than I could possibly imagine.
But all that changed one day. Nine months after our wedding day, Debbie and I were having an argument, in which I , true to form, had twisted everything that she had said and had turned it against her to make her feel stupid. It was at this moment that God decided to get my attention.
My precious angel of a wife had just left the room in tears when I, a very young Christian who was just beginning to hear and recognize the voice of God, heard Him speak as clearly and firmly in my heart as I have ever experienced.
“You Stop That.”
“Excuse me, Lord?”
“Robert, do not ever do that again.”
“C’mon Lord, I’m just blowing off a little steam. Everybody does it. It’s healthy!” Then, in the most serious tone of voice I’ve ever heard the Lord use he said,
“You don’t have the right to blow off steam at my daughter. You’re hurting her. Stop it right now.”
The scriptures tell us that the church is the bride of Christ. And if we don’t have the right to blow off steam at one of Christ’s daughters we certainly don’t have the right to blow off steam at Christ’s bride. And yet we do, focusing on all that is wrong, instead of all that is right. God has given us this great power, the power of our words. Like money words can cost us if they are wasted. Unlike money life giving words are free to give and they are guaranteed to reap a harvest if we don’t give up. We have the power to invite our friends to church. We have the power to encourage those who suffer next to us though their suffering may be different from ours. Our invitation is free. Our encouragement only costs us our compassion.
Next we see we have been touched by a spirit who is love. Our scripture today suggests that love can transfer the gift of faith, a gift that is more precious than gold, down through the generations, even without us realizing it. Paul tells us that Timothy’s sincere faith first lived in his grandmother Lois in his mother Eunice, and now lives in him. This reminds me of my own faith journey. My mother Deborah Roberts and my grandmother on my father’s side Louise Roberts, have been very influential in my faith journey. But as I reflect on my childhood I can’t really recall that either of these women of faith sat down and talked to me about Jesus or the Gospel. My mom took me to church. As she sang in the choir I would fight with my sister under the pews. My grandmother died my Sophmore year of college. My family would travel up to her estate in Oneonta, New York for my birthday and Christmas every year until I was 22. She made amazing pancakes, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, she would always send me birthday cards filled with money. For my high school graduation I still remember what the card she sent me said. It said, “shoot for the moon even if you miss you shall be among the stars.” But as far as I know my grandmother never talked to me about Jesus and she did not attend church regularly, even though my grandfather, who died when I was three, was a Presbyterian minister.
The scriptures say that God’s patience and kindness are meant to lead us to repentance. And I guess these two women in my life passed down their faith to me in that way. My mother was often sick when I was a child. She has a lot of physical ailments. Seeing pictures of my mother before I was born, and seeing that she looked healthier, I came to believe as a child that my mother became sick because I was born. But even in her struggles she was patient and kind. After college I learned my mother’s story for the first time. The doctors had indeed told her that if she had children that it might make her an invalid. But still she gave birth to me and my sister knowing this risk. And I saw that her body was broken for me as Christ body was broken for us, and perhaps that had something to do with the faith she passed down to me though I don’t remember any particular conversation.
As far as my grandmother I remember the last time I saw her on my birthday when I turned twenty two. She was dying of cancer. She lived in a very large house. That summer my dad had repainted many of the upstairs bedrooms. My grandmother lived on the first floor. She hadn’t been upstairs in years. One day she decided she wanted to climb twenty or more steps so she could see the rooms my dad painted. So I got behind my grandmother to hold her up and my father got in front of her to steady her. And together we guided her up all those steps. She looked inside the rooms and said something along the lines of isn’t that nice. And then she was basically like okay I am ready to go now and we had to repeat the process all over again. After I became a minister I would learn from my mother that my grandmother said I would become a minister when I was twelve years old. And yet, I only remember having one conversation with her about my grandfather and about faith. And I don’t remember what she said. But I remember that she was kind and she suffered well. I remember that she told me to shoot for the moon even if I might miss, and I continue to do so.
Patience and Kindness seem to transfer faith from one generation to the next. Those traits are not something that can be taught in a program or bought with money. It requires a loving touch. And the good news is you all already have that touch. Perhaps we don’t get as many new people as we might like to join us in our family of faith. But as a minister who is fairly familiar with churches in the Presbytery, and churches in general, you get far more new families than most churches your size and age. Every church I have worked in has had a preschool. None of them get families from that preschool. Yet, this church consistently does. The secret isn’t a program. The secret is that children ask to come to Calvin and their parents follow them. That is a powerful gift. Just imagine how much more powerful we could be if we combined that with the power of our words.
Finally, we learn that we are touched by a spirit of self control. In the life of the church I think self control is expressed by controlling the Spirit of fear. Fear of what might happen in the future. In the scriptures this is expressed best by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. A talent was a large sum of currency in Rome. About twenty years wages for most workers. Someone with one talent would be a millionaire or a billionaire in today’s language. In this parable a Master goes on a journey. He gives servants five talents, two talents, and one talent, according to his ability. The Master went away for a while. The servant who had five talents invested them and made five more. As did the servant with two talents. But the servant with only one talent buried it in the ground. When the master returned he applauded the servants who had made interest off what he gave them but he punished the one servant who buried his money in the ground. The servant’s excuse for not investing his master’s money? He accused his master of being harsh and lazy. The servant with the one talent accused the master of not being willing to work to reap his own harvest. This of course was not true. For the other servants had set an example of how to make a return on the master’s investment, put it in the bank.
From this parable the modern church takes the idea that good stewardship is to spend your dollars as conservatively as possible and invest them in banks and other worldly institutions so we can literally make interest off of it. But in the very same Gospel Jesus tells us not to store up our treasurers on Earth where moth and rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-21). So while taking your money and sticking it under a mattress, or spending it haphazardly isn’t what this parable means by stewardship, neither does it mean investing it in worldly banks. We know this because Jesus says elsewhere in the very same Gospel that is not what he means. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:16, that we invest our money in the Kingdom, not by having reserves, but by being rich in good works, being generous ready to share, for by doing so we store up treasures for ourselves in heaven. The bank that Jesus is talking about is people. Because when we invest in people and pass on faith to them that is a return on God’s investment. He gets no return on investment if we as a church keep our reserve funds in a bank. As Paul tells Timothy the faith his grandmother and mother gave him is a good deposit. 1 Peter tells us that our sincere and refined faith is more precious than gold (1 Peter 2:7).
One of my other talents, beside kung fu fighting to 80’s songs, is funerals. I put a lot of time and effort into funerals because I know that getting it right, honoring your loved ones is priceless. But Vacation Bible School, passing on faith, to one child, is also priceless, and we should treat VBS with the same reverence as we do funerals. In VBS we rejoice at faith being passed on by the work of our hands. At funerals we celebrate that fulfilled as our loved ones enter into God’s merciful hands. Both take a lot of effort. But we don’t do them because they make economic sense, we do them because we want to hear a well done good and faithful servant from our master. When Calvin met at little creek elementary so many years ago it didn’t make sense as far as time, talents, and treasures go. There were other churches already built, other congregations with more programs, music, and money. Those who came before us just decided it was more important touch the next generation with the gift of faith. My friends we’ve got the touch, we’ve got the power. All we have to do is use the power of our words. All we have to do is not worry about tomorrow, for we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self control. As my grandmother once told me so many years ago shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you shall be among the stars.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.