Bold Inviting

22nd Sunday after Pentecost
October 16, 2016

I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

In Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, a young woman, Emily, died during childbirth. In one scene, town folk gather in the local cemetery for her funeral, but Emily is not quite ready to depart this world. She convinces the Stage Manager, who is a kind of Godlike figure, to go back to her life for one last earthly experience.
She chooses her 12th birthday party. Expecting joy, Emily feels only pain, because she now sees life from the perspective of her death. She can’t understand how everyone at that birthday party seems to take life for granted. At the close of the scene Emily laments:
“Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
With that the Stage Manager answers:
“No.” He then pauses and adds: “The saints and the poets, maybe they do, some.”

Tom Long in his commentary on 2 Timothy writes: “When we look at life from the end, what counts changes. The town folk in Our Town, caught in the swirl of life, could not appreciate what really counts.”
But as the Stage Manager comments, “maybe the saints do.”
Why would that be? Why would people of faith understand what really counts? It’s because we have a story. We have a story that matters. We have a story that touches heaven with earth.

If you back up in 2 Timothy from our lesson this morning, the writer of this letter shares with Timothy other stories that are being told in Timothy’s day. In 2 Timothy 3 Paul writes about people who have become lovers of themselves and lovers of money. He talks about the all of the boasters in the world, the arrogant, the abusive, the disobedient. He talks of those who are lovers of pleasure as opposed to those who are lovers of God.
This is what happens when we let the stories of this world dominate, and drown out the story of Jesus. Now in our lesson this morning the writer of 2 Timothy warns his student:
For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.

So many stories of our day tempt us to turn away from the truth and wander away into myths.
One dominant story being told today is that our identity is revealed through brand loyalty. We are what we buy.
Listen to car commercials. They no longer tell us how well the car is manufactured. Instead, they tell us what kind of person we will be when we buy their car.
I’m struck by Subaru commercials because I drive a Subaru. These commercials tell me that I am an outdoors person, a progressive, someone concerned for others and the world.
Maybe these ads work. I’m struck every time I drive Hannah to adoption camp. All the parents dropping their children off have something in common. Despite the obvious. I’m struck by how many Subaru’s. I never see that many Subaru’s in one place.
It’s a part of our story. My car tells me who I am, never mind that I had to stick $1100 into my Subaru this week.

The writer to Timothy speaks about people having “itching ears.” “Itching ears” listen to stories that we want to hear. Stories that suit our own desires. Stories that often come into direct conflict with the story of Jesus.
We listen to the dominant stories of our world that tell us:
“you are not enough” “you should be afraid”
“winning is everything”
But the questions that needs to be asked is, are these stories sufficient? Do these stories speak to our deepest needs and concerns? Or do they leave us searching?
Like the town folk in Our Town, do we fail to see the wonder of the earth? Do we fail to see what truly matters? Do we take life for granted?

As people of faith we have a better story! The Christian story tells us that through our baptism we are told that we are not known by the car we drive, we are known as a beloved child of God. Hence, our story in Jesus Christ tells us that we are more than enough. Our lives are of such value that Jesus was willing to die for us.
And when we truly believe this story, a story that speaks to resurrection, a story that speaks to a power stronger than death, we need not be afraid of losing. In fact, we need not be afraid, period!
Again and again our story tells us in both the Old Testament and the New, “Be not afraid.”

This morning Paul instructs Timothy to draw on his reservoir of faith. It’s the very first verse of the lesson this morning:
Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.
Paul reminds Timothy of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice you have taught him the faith. He calls on Timothy to remember the lessons Paul has taught. He tells Timothy to remember the Christian story, so that in the midst of all the other stories being told, stories that are life draining, Timothy may draw on the reservoir of faith, and invite others into this faith, boldly.
I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
To be persistent is to be bold.
Bold Inviting
We talk about being a welcoming church. We talk about hospitality. This is important, but if you think about this it’s about being passive. We can be the most welcoming church in the world, but we’re still dependent on others coming to us.
Inviting is bolder, because inviting is active. It entails going out.
I read this week that two thirds of the word God is Go! Perhaps that should entail two thirds of our work as the church. We need to Go. We need to take our story out to where we live and boldly invite others into the Christian story. So that along with Saints we get it. We draw on our reservoirs of faith, and boldly invite others into the story of our Christian faith.

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