In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Beloved brothers and sisters called to a life of faith and love in our Savior:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has called us to be his holy people. The Creator of heaven and earth has, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with his gifts, revealing the mystery hidden before the ages began, the revelation of our Savior come in the flesh to overcome the sharpness of death and open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. In this Gospel, in this Salvation, in this Christ and Cross we put our faith, and by the grace of God we keep and ever hold fast the precious treasure entrusted to us — for our salvation and the salvation of those around us and the salvation of those who will come after us.
This morning we hear from Saint Paul's Second Epistle to Saint Timothy; the inspired Word of the Lord from a faithful, loving apostle to his beloved child in the faith as he nears the finish line he so longed to cross in order to receive his Lord's commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant, pastor, apostle, teacher, under-shepherd."
Any cursory reading of the apostle's ministry shows the extent to which he had suffered. Paul had been beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, jailed and put on trial, all because of his witness to the Word of God made flesh and hung upon a tree of death in order that it might become a tree of life for all who would believe. And now Paul was more and more convinced that the dungeon he now was chained in would be the last stop in encouraging all the churches and pastors placed under his care as he tirelessly proclaimed the saving Good News of eternal life in the one whom he once persecuted but now has freely served. Paul therefore pens his final epistle to both Timothy and to all who will hear it read with him as God comes to redeem through his Word in the divine service.
Through Saint Paul the apostle, faithful Timothy — and all of us — are reminded that God has entrusted us with his precious, saving gifts: the gift of Christ — his perfect life and sacrificial death and glorious resurrection from the dead; the gifts by which trust in his Word has been created and sustained: Holy Scripture, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Holy Supper; and the gift of a joyous and courageous heart that can not but give witness to God and our neighbor in need. And as the blessed apostle exhorts his son in the faith to follow the pattern Paul has held up before him and all the churches, so we this morning are also called to serve the Lord with a clear conscience, a true faith, a resolute spirit, and a readiness to share in the sufferings of both Christ and all who would follow him.
It is as if Paul is saying,
Let cowardice give way to the courage given to you in Christ Jesus. Do not be ashamed, but treasure the one sure Treasure. Do not believe that heaven's promise of life for you is based on your great and mighty works, but confidently put your faith in the unshakeable promise that because of the grace and mercy God has made manifest in the once-for-all sacrifice of his Son, he has declared you holy, his dear child, and an heir of heaven.
And what the Lord says to Timothy through his chosen apostle he says to the Church today, "Though you are by nature timid and tense and uneasy, in Christ and united with him in Baptism, be an unashamed steward of what has been entrusted to you. Follow the pattern I have held up before you. Follow the life of faith I have lived. Follow me as I daily confess my sins, and, trusting in the Gospel of forgiveness, give the good witness that Christ came to rescue sinners broken under the crushing weight of the Law."
God, in Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has called us to be his people, robed in the righteousness of Christ, and sent as his ambassadors to those God has placed in our lives — to witness clearly to Christ and serve their needs in a way that says,
"We care — for you. We care for your salvation."
Our Crucified and Risen Lord has promised to bestow upon his Church on earth everything necessary to carry out what he has called his people to be and to do. By his Word and Spirit, may we continue to believe that in the Lamb who once was slain, we have been blessed for all eternity — that we might be used by him to be a blessing to many.
God keep you under his Word, in the grace of your Baptism, and the forgiveness and strength of his Table.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.