August 2, 2015
Delivered by Rev. Dr. Camille Cook Murray / Sermon title: “Family Traditions”
Text: 2 Timothy 1
My father saved letters that he exchanged with his grandmother, who was very funny and gave great commentary on daily events. A few lines from my great-grandmother Cook:
“…That’s why I had 21 (teeth) pulled all at once. Told him I was too busy to keep coming back, and Jim, it nearly killed me, oh was I sick? I lay in that old bed bleeding like a dog. Now I have none, I get along fine without them. I had a wonderful Dentist but I was too busy to keep going back to have out 2 at a time.”
“It’s 97 today and no Rain. So maybe the world is coming to an end. Lois thinks so I’m sure, she’s so religious, she makes me sick. I’m glad your Dad and Mom go square dancing, fancy Lois doing that. Your Dad is as good as your Aunt Lois any old day.”
These letters are treasures from one generation to the next. Today we read another such letter sent from the older generation to the younger. Paul is writing to Timothy something of a last will and testament to his friend, giving advice, giving thanks, and giving encouragement all in a very impassioned way.
At this time, Christianity had grown enough to become a threat to the Roman establishment. Consequently Paul, a known evangelist, is in jail, yet again. The only thing for him to do now is write letters and encourage others to carry on the work.
Paul builds his case by appealing to Timothy’s ancestors in the faith. His grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who both were faithful women, who helped instill that faithfulness into Timothy. Paul is reminding Timothy that faith was a family tradition. This is who you are, these is your people.
We know nothing else about Lois and Eunice other than their relationship to Timothy and Paul’s comment on their faithfulness. Lois and Eunice are the people in our lives who taught us about this faith through their words or their actions. The grandparent who never missed a Sunday. The parent who taught Sunday school. The uncle who served as a church treasurer. The friend’s family who prayed before their meals. The people who were the links in the chain of faith from their generation to ours – they passed on the family traditions in one way or another.
Now we do not simply regurgitate the faith of the previous generation, we believe we are reformed and always reforming, but the faith of our ancestors shapes us and guides us.
Our personal story, our private faith, finds greater meaning with the larger communal story of God’s people. No one gets to faith without traveling within the company of the saints. Our faith is held in trust, as part of a sacred family tradition. Faith is deeply personal and uniquely communal. So it is always our faith profession alongside the Apostles Creed. Our private prayers alongside the Lord’s Prayer. Our personal diaries alongside our communities history books. Our letters from relatives alongside familiar passages of scripture.
No one arrives at Christian faith all by themselves, we are part of a tradition, part of a lineage of the faithful, which connects us all the way back to Christ himself. Jesus commissioned those first disciples, who passed the message on to their followers, who converted men and women, who baptized and taught their children, who traveled abroad and established churches, who kept the light of Christ unbroken for two thousand years, that is our history, our heritage, our tradition.
Paul says to Timothy: Remember your roots. Do not spend your inheritance in this faith unwisely. I am counting on you to pass this precious, life changing good news along to the next generation. Don’t let me down. Remember your grandmother was faithful. Remember your mother was faithful. Remember God is faithful. Now it’s your turn.
Who are the people in your life that have influenced your faith? Reflect on the ways that they communicated the importance of faith in their lives.
As a Christian, we are called to be witnesses in our own lives. Think about the people that may be looking to you as an example. How do you communicate your faith to others?
Reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit, the sustainer of our faith. Pray, “Holy Spirit, thank you for sustaining me. Please continue to lead me on paths of righteousness. I am grateful to be a recipient of the story of God, and I am grateful to pass that story along to others. Help me and the whole church as we continue to live out our lives in light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”