Sunday, October 6, 2013

Remembering Forward

II Timothy 1:3-14
A Communion Meditation

Paul, in writing to his dear friend Timothy remarks, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, in you.”
A few weeks ago in the Adult Sunday School class someone complimented me by saying. “Your face lights up when you teach us the Biblical stories. Where did you get such a love of the Bible?”  While I could pick the names of many teachers who thrilled me with their incredible love of scripture, like Timothy, I was blessed with parents and grandparents who adored the Bible.  Notice the word I picked. I could have said “they studied the Bible”, or “they revered the Bible” or “they honored, or obeyed”, or a lot of other appropriate words. But the one I chose was “adored”. What does it mean to adore? In the evening as I gaze upon Lake Monacan a phrase from Wordsworth comes to mind. “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free; a holy, quiet time, breathless with adoration.”
There is something holy in the idea of adoration. Perhaps that is why at Christmas one of our most beloved hymns breathes, “O come let us adore Him.” Adoration is beyond love. It inspires, it uplifts and even makes us a bit crazy. Romeo loved Juliet but Don Quixote adored Dulcinea. When I pick up my Bible, it comes alive with voices, speaking from their past, speaking from their experience, speaking from their faith, speaking from their fears, always urging me to wrap both my heart and mind around a story more improbable than an aging knight jousting with windmills. Faith, seen through the cold eyes of calculating reason, makes no sense. But faith, swayed, even manipulated by adoration, leaves critics wringing their hands in disbelief. To the critic, faith is a delusional misuse of our greatest gift, that being our intellect. I have never understood that argument. Based on the witness of those who have gone before us, faith gives one the courage to explore possibilities logic has deemed imprudent. The critic might suggest I believe in nothing but I know I have never had that kind of courage.
After wonderful praise aimed at Timothy’s linage, Paul uttered an odd statement, “Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.” What on earth was Paul talking about? Can you imagine Timothy being ashamed of his grandmother’s or his mother’s faith? Can you imagine Timothy looking on the accomplishments of Paul with anything other than pride? Don’t be too quick to answer that. Remember, Timothy was a novice and Paul knew this. Timothy had probably spent a couple of nights around the campfire singing, “Kum Bah Yah”. He probably attended a couple “Young Life” meetings, or went on tour with “Up with People”. Everything Timothy knew about the gospel was upbeat and positive. Everything Timothy knew about God was filled with hopeful anticipation. Timothy had not experienced “midnight in a cypress swamp”. Timothy had not been dragged off to jail. He had not dealt with the death of someone close to him. He had not been laughed at because he was bold enough to believe in the power of the resurrection. Last but not least, Timothy had not been disappointed by God. But Paul, writing from the confines of a jail in Rome, knew that all those doubts and fears and disappointments and disillusionments would soon be part of Timothy’s future. Paul knew not once, not twice but more than three times Timothy would stare into the deep abyss of his own soul and wrestle with his faith. Paul had been there, Peter had been there and I dare say Lois and Eunice had taken the same difficult journey.
I invite you to read “Come Be My Light”, the private writings of Mother Teresa. While we might question why she would choose to live the majority of her life among the poor in Calcutta, few would doubt the faith of this saint. Yet her prayers often reflected pain, doubt, disbelief and sorrow. Surely if Mother Teresa in her darkest moments could question the mercy of God then we can be forgiven for our lapses into doubt.  
The amazing part of the book was she received her courage from the faith of those who surrounded her. She spoke lovingly of her fellow sisters. She praised the priest with whom she worked. Most of all, she thanked God for never leaving her.
Sometimes it is the faith of a mother or a father. Sometimes it is the words of a dear friend. Sometimes it is the silence of a cherished companion. Sometimes it is the wisdom of one we never thought of as wise. Sometimes it is someone we hardly knew. But when needed, some particular person, in their own peculiar way, invites us to have an audience with God.
And in that holy moment God says, “Do not be ashamed of your doubt; do not be ashamed of your fear; do not be ashamed of your anger; do not be ashamed of your faith. Remember who you are and who you were. Remember those who came before you. Remember those who will come after you. Take the bread and remember. Take the cup, and remember. Today, as we celebrate World Wide Communion, I ask you to remember the living and the dead. Remember those who offered affirmation and those who raised questions. Remember those who brought you up and those who brought you down a notch. Remember those who were never ashamed of the gospel. Eat the bread. Drink the cup.  Remember……You are never alone.     Amen.    

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