“St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor” by Pastor Steve Sommerer
January 24, 2021
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
My family was having a discussion at the dinner table this week about a comment from one of their teachers that making the sign of the cross is a Catholic ritual. That led to our dinner discussion, because it’s true that making the sign of the cross is catholic. But it’s wrong to say making the sign of the cross is Roman Catholic; rather, it’s part of the universal practice of God’s Church, centuries before the church split East and West. The sign of the cross doesn’t make someone a Christian or not a Christian, but it’s an ancient practice. Already 1800 years ago in the Apostolic Traditions, making the sign of the cross was included in the church orders for Baptism and other services. And signing with the cross was so common it would be impossible to trace when and where exactly it started.
You’ll have to wade through this with me as I try to connect the dots, because this is no criticism. We appreciate deeply Galesburg Christian School and her teachers. When the teacher said that in class, it wasn’t meanness. To say the sign of the cross is catholic is a pretty common misconception in parts of Protestantism, including parts of the Lutheran church.
Galesburg Christian School is a tremendous blessing to our family. Still, it was a good reminder to check and talk about the things our kids are taught and learn. And that’s just as true if your kids are in the public school – and I’d argue even to a greater degree, because at least in the guidance from the state board of education there is an institutional commitment to the worldview of naturalism – and a commitment to downplay morality as coming from a Creator. I’m thankful that many public-school teachers don’t share what is actually a false religion of naturalistic evolution. But no matter where kids go to school, you have to talk about the things they hear and correct what needs corrected.
I’m not really surprised a non-Lutheran teacher doesn’t know Luther’s Small Catechism teaches us to make the sign of the cross in remembrance of our Baptism. And that’s much more easily corrected than an evolutionist teaching kids they’re descended from apes with no real value as an individual created in God’s image.
And, now in case you’ve been wondering, all this has been a long-winded way to get to our sermon… The reason I was thinking about our family dinner discussion is because some would think it strange that this morning of January 24 is observed in the Church Year as St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. People would think that’s a very Roman Catholic way to talk, so what gives? Why this day to commemorate St. Timothy? It’s certainly not that we pray to St. Timothy, nor that we seek his prayers for us. We definitely do not kick Christ off his throne today and worship Pastor Timothy. There’s a lot that is idolatrous and wrong about the way some people and churches talk about the saints. But there’s another extreme to be avoided besides idolizing the saints which God strictly forbids – there’s the danger of cutting ourselves off from the centuries of faithful saints that have gone before us. The primary confessional document of the Lutheran Church, the Augsburg Confession says, “The saints may be remembered in order that we imitate their faith and good works, according to our calling.”
The Lutheran Church’s take on the saints is that we remember their teachings; their faithfulness in pointing us to Christ; and insofar as we can learn from how they lived out their calling, we ask God to help us be faithful. So, as a pastor, I pray God help me to serve Mt. Calvary the way Timothy served the churches in Corinth, Philippi and Ephesus. As Christians in a society with many competing ideas about who “god” is, Timothy, stands as an example for you and me of godly courage to confess the truth.
Leaving aside the steroid era, the greatest home run hitter of all time died on Friday, Henry Aaron. It would surely be wrong to go the Baseball Hall of Fame and worship before his bronze bust, but baseball fans can go and stand before it remembering all he accomplished. So, on this day, we don’t worship, pray to or ask intercession from St. Timothy, but we are grateful to God.
All that God gives is for our good, and in His goodness and blessing, we are thankful for those who have gone before us, including Pastor Timothy or St. Titus whose commemoration is Tuesday. In the same way, we rejoice in God’s gifts of Christian parents or Sunday school teachers, or perhaps a former pastor now home with the Lord, who shared an important part of our walk and by their words and example pointed us to Christ. You may even now, remember a grandma or grandpa of Sunday School teacher who cared enough to point you to Christ, who now rests in His bosom. The body of Christ is one in Jesus. We aren’t dislocated from our dead. Their view is better in heaven, but when the Church gathers for her Divine Service we humbly join our voices with all our beloved dead, “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” Hebrews 13 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of the life, and imitate their faith.”
Is it possible for someone to make a false god out of a dead loved one – imagining the dead loved one as their angel watching over them? Sure, it is. But can we be thankful for faithful men and women who have shared God’s truth with us, including today, St. Timothy. Certainly, we can.
Today, as we remember St. Timothy, I’d like you to hear again, Paul’s words in our text: “As for you, O man of God, flee these things.” In case you don’t remember, what Paul is telling Timothy and you to flee or run away from is “the love of money which is the root of all evil.” Run away from it. When you and I have a lot, we love our money and what it can do. When we don’t have any, we fear we don’t have our money god to take care of us. We turn things into false gods. Your phone isn’t God, but if you’re like me, a lot of days it gets read more than the Bible. Your spouse or job isn’t God. “You shall have no gods before the living and true God.” And if you worship false gods like money, which cannot see and cannot smell and cannot taste and cannot touch; if you worship that kind of God, you’ll end up just like them. Flee from it. Run away from idolizing stuff. The ads that bombard us with the idea we can’t live without this or that gadget are all lies and distractions. Jesus said, “You fool, this very night your life will be demanded of you, then who will get what you’ve stored up for yourselves.”
If God has gifted you, use all that you have gifts and talents and dollars to serve Him and His Kingdom. Next, Paul tells Pastor Timothy and you and me: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Maybe Paul is challenging you and me to put our phone away, turn off the tv or get away from unchristian influences and ways of thinking. Lift your eyes past your little reach to see others in need of your help and love and compassion. Where you have anger or enemies, see others in need of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation.
Pursue righteousness and faith. Maybe God’s telling us not to live in terror of the virus or focus our fears on it, or our hopes on medical science, rather to be steadfast in faith, and focus on things that build up rather than some more reportage that only induces anxiety. In Philippians, Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
“Fight the good fight of the faith.” Then and forever there are things worth fighting for. A year before the Council of Nicaea met in 324 AD, Emperor Constantine tried to get the bishops to stop arguing about how to confess God. Constantine thought it was a useless, harmful distraction, unbecoming of pastors. “As long as you continue to contend about these small and very insignificant questions,” Constantine chastised, “I believe it to be not merely unbecoming, but positively evil, that so large a portion of God’s people should be divided.” You cannot compromise with error. It’s not truth that leads to division in God’s Church, it’s the refusal to confront error and the temptation to quietly look the other way.
Imagine if Athanasius, a deacon then, and the heroes of Nicaea had listened to Emperor Constantine. If they had agreed to disagree for the sake of peace, rather than confessing that Jesus is “God of God, light of light, very God of very God; begotten not made.” Imagine if they had been unwilling to fight for God’s truth, and every succeeding generation lost God’s certainty that the hands stretched wide in death on Calvary’s cross were the hands of God who was born to die for the sins of the world. True Churchman are men of peace, but God’s peace is ever-ready to fight the good fight of the faith.
Paul’s word to Timothy is true for you when you’re confessing Christ to your neighbor or having to stand up to your son or daughter and tell ‘em they can’t wear that trashy outfit. On many things, like where you’ll eat dinner, there’s room for compromise. But God calls you to plant your feet in the truth of His Word and never flinch. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said, “but My Word will never pass away… Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and I will be with you always.”
Especially, our young people are indoctrinated by the devil and a lying culture to speak in terms of your truth and my truth. There is no your truth or mine. There are truths in Jesus and the devil’s lies. There is a right and a wrong. Paul told Timothy and us, “Fight the good fight; keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Today, as we commemorate young Pastor Timothy, we remember the content of his teaching. As you fight the good fight of faith and hold on to your hope in Jesus, your victory in battle was once and for all achieved by Christ who lived and died for you and me. For us who too often fail in the fight or fail to flee idolatry, Jesus never failed, in His heaven-appointed task of living a perfect life and dying in your place. You are redeemed, loved and have a God-given heavenly future because the Lord of Life fought the good fight for you and me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.