Rekindle the Gift

10.2.22 Homily on 2 Timothy 1:1-14 by Pastor Galen

In 2 Timothy 1:6, the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”

Before the word “kindle” referred to an electronic book, it meant “to light up.” And so to “rekindle” means to “light again.” If a fire has to be “rekindled,” it means that at one time the fire was hot, but it has started to die out, and it needs to be fanned back into flame. Or it needs more kindling (small dry twigs and branches) in order to make it burn hot again.

Paul writes to Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God” that is within him – meaning that perhaps Timothy’s passion for God has started to die down. He was at one time “on fire” for God, but he needs his faith to be rejuvenated or revived.

Timothy was in many ways a “spiritual child” of Paul (see 1 Tim. 1:1). Paul had mentored and discipled Timothy, and trained him up to be a leader in the church. Paul and Timothy had ministered together in Ephesus, but when Paul felt led to move on to a new city, he left Timothy behind in Ephesus to minister to the church there. Paul obviously placed a great deal of trust in Timothy, and he cared about Timothy very much, but he also seems concerned that Timothy’s faith might be waning.

I don’t know exactly what was going on in Timothy’s life, or why Paul felt that the flame within Timothy was beginning to die down, but I do know that there are times in all of our lives when we may feel beaten down by life. We can become discouraged, doubtful, or downtrodden, and we need the flame within us to be rekindled. The burdens and cares of this life can be overwhelming at times, and we need to be reminded of the faith that is within us. That is what Paul is seeking to do for Timothy.

Paul says that he knows there is a deep faith in Timothy because it existed “first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (1 Timothy 1:5, NRSV). Timothy’s faith had been ignited by his mother and grandmother who had instructed him and modeled for him what it looks like to live a life and faith. And Paul wants to see Timothy’s faith reignited – he wants to see his passion for God restored, he wants Timothy’s faith to burn hot once again.

And so he exhorts him to “rekindle the gift of God that is within” him, reminding Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Power, love, and self-discipline. What a wonderful description of what it looks like to live a life of faith! What a wonderful faith to aspire towards.

A Legacy of Faith

It is striking to me that Paul reminds Timothy of the faith that had been passed down to him from his mother and grandmother. Often in our society we think of faith as something private and individualistic, and so it may seem odd to some of us that Paul appeals to this legacy of faith that had been passed down to Timothy.

It is true that when we’re old enough to make decisions for ourselves, each of us must individually decide whether or not we are going to place our faith and trust in Christ. But there is a way in which our faith can be ignited and rekindled by those around us. And there is a way in which, when we are raised in the faith, it can often be easier for us to believe.

This is why, in our church, when someone brings their child to be baptized, the parents or sponsors are asked to commit to nurture the child in Christ’s holy Church, that by the teaching and example of the parents and sponsors the child “may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life.” Being a parent, or grandparent, or sponsor of a child is a sacred task and a sacred responsibility. And it doesn’t end with just bringing them to church. It means being mindful of the fact that our children are often watching what we do just as much as they are listening to what we say. And what we say and how we live our life outside of worship can often impact them even more than what they will ever hear at church.

Timothy’s mother and grandmother not only instructed him in the faith, but they also set an example of what it looks like to live a life of faith. Paul knows that Timothy has a strong foundation of faith, and he wants to see that faith reignited. He doesn’t want Timothy to live a life of fear, ashamed of the Gospel. Rather he wants him, like his mother and grandmother, to live a Christian life marked by “power and of love and of self-discipline” like his mother and grandmother before him.

Now some among us may not have had that legacy of faith handed down to us by our family. Perhaps, like many people, the family you were born into was complicated. This was true for Timothy as well. Notice, for example, that Timothy’s father is missing from the list of people from whom Timothy inherited his faith. (All the more reason why Paul’s mentorship and discipleship of him was significant!)

But even if you were not born into a family of faith, that’s OK – because as members of Christ’s Church we are adopted into the family of God, and we gain a whole new set of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and relatives. Not just here in our own congregation – but the global body of Christ throughout the world, and through time and history. As followers of Christ we inherit a whole legacy of faith that has been passed down from generation to generation, throughout the years.

This morning in our youth confirmation class we talked about the history of the Christian Church, and the reality that our faith has been passed down from generation to generation, ever since creation. Faithful women and men have sought to follow God, and have passed on their legacy of faith to their children and grandchildren, or adopted children and grandchildren. And the faith that Jesus passed down to his disciples has been passed all the way down to us, and has spread all throughout the world through the faithful witness of Christ’s followers.

Revival

But just like we as individuals often need our faith to be rekindled and revived, so too the Church of Christ as often needed to be rekindled in its passion and enthusiasm and faithfulness. In fact, this morning at the Confirmation class, we talked about how one of the reasons why there are so many churches and denominations in the world is because of this need for revival.

In other words, there have been many times throughout the history of the Church when passion for Christ started to wane. And often, in the midst of that, God raised up an individual or a group of people to revive or rejuvenate the Church. Often these people worked within the established structures to revive the church, but sometimes the leaders or the institutions were not open to change or transformation, and so the individuals or leaders branched out and started something new. Sometimes those new structures existed alongside the more established structures, sometimes they were folded back into the established structures, and sometimes they became something altogether new.

This happened in the early church, this happened with the various monastic movements in the middle ages, this happened during the time of the Protestant Reformation. It happened during the beginning of Methodism, and during the revivals of the Great Awakenings. Time and time again, God has raised up people to revive or restore or rejuvenate God’s people. Sometimes their message was well received and had the desired transformational impact – at other times they were forced to create new structures and institutions where they could live out the mission and mandate to which they felt called.

Indeed, this is one way to think about the founding of our own church – Hampden United Methodist Church – which was established back in 1868 as Hampden Methodist Protestant Church.

“The Church of Constant Revival”

Something that blessed me greatly when I became the pastor of this church was reading a book written over 100 years ago by Rev. Dr. Edward Daniel Stone, who was at that time the pastor of this congregation. The book provides a detailed account of the first 50 years of our congregation. We are privileged to have several copies of the book here in our church library.

In the book, Dr. Stone recounts how, in 1867 a group of 35 fervent believers gathered together for worship in the home of John Knight, in what was at that time the village of Hampden. More and more people began to join them, and they soon outgrew the house, and so they erected a temporary tabernacle for their worship services. But when they outgrew that building as well, they made plans to build a more permanent church building right here on this very ground.

When the congregation was established in 1868 there were 71 members. And in the first 15 years, the congregation grew by leaps and bounds. In 1869 there was a revival that lasted for over a year. In 1873, a report of one of the revival services in that year stated that the altar was “crowded nightly — one hundred added to the church.”

In those early years, our congregation sent out missionaries and church planters who planted churches in Remington, Roland Park, and a church further down Falls Road, near North Avenue. Our congregation supported a Japanese missionary in Japan. And, at the time that the book was written in 1917, there were several young people who were in the process of being trained and equipped to do ministry — a young women named Sarah Cullen who was in training to be a deaconess, and another was a young man who was on his way to Moody Bible Institute to be trained for ministry. Dr. E. Daniel Stone, writing in 1917, said that “Hampden Church has been called often, ‘The Church of Constant Revival.’ He said that “Thousands have been converted at her altar” (Stone, 22).

But the growth – spiritually and numerally – was not always steady. There were various times and various seasons in the life of our church when the worries and the pressures of life had grown strong, and people’s faith had started to grow cold, and revival was needed. In 1913, for example, when Rev. Stone arrived as the new pastor, he says that the congregation “was told by prominent officials that ‘Hampden Church had about outlives its usefulness,’ and the only thing left to do was to sell out, move away and start new at some other site” (Stone, 45). The men’s Bible class, for example, had just a handful of men. Rev. Stone looked around the streets of Hampden and he saw multitudes of men hanging around the street corners who didn’t attend church anywhere. Rev. Stone mobilized the men in his Bible class to go out and reach the men in the neighborhood. According to Rev. Stone, “with faith and much prayer and love we went out after them.” That men’s Bible class grew rapidly to become the largest Men’s Bible class in the Methodist Protestant Church – and we have many pictures of the men’s and women’s Bible classes here in our church building.

Revive us Again!

And so, whether or not you were born into a family of faith, whether or not you saw an example of faith modeled for you from an early age, know that as members of Christ’s Church, we have inherited a strong legacy of faith. There are times in all of our lives when we need to have our faith rekindled. But know that, just as God has done it in the past, God can and will do it again.

So let us be open to what God is doing in our midst. Let us hold fast to the faith. Let us seek to live a life that is worthy of the calling we have received. And let seek to live lives marked by power, and love, and self-discipline, that we may pass along this legacy of faith to the generations to come.

Amen.

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