Remember, Rekindle, Guard

2 Timothy 1:1-14
Confirmation Sunday
Elizabeth & Richard Deibert

Today we celebrate the first confirmation of baptism in the life of Peace Presbyterian. It is Andrew’s moment to claim the Christian faith into which he was baptized, to become Christ’s disciple first and foremost, and the son of Elizabeth and Richard Deibert second. But as much as this is Andrew’s day to kneel before the Lord (screen) and turn his life over to Christ, it is also everyone’s day, a day to remember those who led you to faith, to rekindle the gift of God within you, and to commit yourselves again to guard the good treasure of grace which has been poured into your lives by the Holy Spirit.

Early in the life of the church, baptism was practiced for people of all ages. Adult converts and their entire households were baptized. In some of the earliest stories of adult conversions in Acts, baptism was followed by one or more of the Apostles going to speak to the new believers and lay hands on them and pass on the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17) That’s the origin of confirmation.

In the time of Reformation, the Anabaptists began to promote a believer’s baptism, thinking that persons should be at an age of accountability when baptized because profession of faith was crucial. Only in recent years have Baptists added a baby dedication because it seemed something was missing. Eastern Orthodox Christians have always done baptism and confirmation together in infancy or whenever someone is baptized. They call it Chrismation because the sign of the cross is marked in oil all over the body, sealing the gift of the Holy Spirit. That baptized and confirmed infant is the first to receive the next Eucharist, and welcomed to the Lord’s Table from that day forward.

Meanwhile, Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians and other Protestants have baptized infants and older and then celebrated confirmation when the persons were old enough to profess faith. In the churches with bishops, confirmation emphasized the presence of the Holy Spirit coming through the very reverend church leader. Many Protestants emphasized church membership, denominational understanding, and preparation for receiving the Sacrament of communion. In the 20th century, Presbyterians called confirmation, communicants class. In the 21st century, we are now focused on the sacred journey of faith, which prepares a person to be a Christian disciple.

The letter Paul writes to Timothy is often called Paul’s “last will and testament” because it is written from prison. In today’s introduction, there three themes that help us understand our journey of faith. The first theme is relational. Paul charges Timothy to remember the people who have led him to faith – his mother, his grandmother, his mentor Paul. Secondly, Paul charges Timothy with the responsibility to keep the fire of his faith burning. Rekindle the gift of God within you. Thirdly, Paul charges Timothy to hold onto the gift of God’s grace. Guard the good treasure.

Andrew and Richard are especially close as father and son. (After all, they are out-numbered in a house with four women.) So the Rev Dr. Deibert, Pauline scholar and Hospice chaplain, loving dad will help me with this proclamation today. He will read the scripture from his seat and will come forward for the second half of the sermon.

2 Timothy 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I am grateful to God — whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher,12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Andrew was baptized by our companion and mentor in the ministry, Calvin Chesnutt on the same day that Immanuel Presbyterian Church dedicated a first sanctuary building. January 16, 1994. He was surrounded by family and congregation who loved and supported him, much as he was surrounded this past Thursday night at the Leadership Team meeting by wonderful people, representing all of you who have cared for him in these last four years. He has received letters of encouragement from other family members and by church family as he has prepared for this day.

All of you have people in your lives who have inspired your faith – a Sunday school teacher, a coach, a youth leader, a special grandmother. Some of you have mentors and friends like the Apostle Paul who showed you the way and some of you have had family members like Lois and Eunice who taught you the faith by word and deed. I’d like us to acknowledge these people right now by naming them aloud. Who are the people who have taught you faith? Say right now in full voice “Thank you God for _______ . Thank you God for ________. Thank you God for ________.

Now the question is this: Are you being that kind of mentor and friend to others, such that their faith will grow because of you? Are you being an encouragement to others to grow in Christian discipleship? When you are old, or when you have died, who will say that you helped them to become more like Christ?

Andrew, this is a big day. I know it may not seem like such a big day because we cannot see with our eyes exactly what is happening to you today. If we could see what is actually happening today, we would see the whole host of heaven — angels, cherubim, all the saints, including your grandfather Walter and grandmother Barbara — singing God’s praise as the life-giving Holy Spirit is sealed within you to live inside of you forever and ever and ever.

Now I want you and your sisters and the Peace Church to understand the gift of God that has been given you. When you were baptized 15 years ... and 18 weeks ..
and two days ago, in the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, in Montgomery, Alabama, you were joined to — united with — the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who had already given you the gift of grace. Look at the radical truth Paul shares with Timothy from prison, Andrew, in verse 9:

God saved you and called you with a holy calling ... before the ages began.
Not before you were born. Not before the earth was born. Not even before there was a creation. But in verse 9, “before the ages began” — literally, “before the time of the ages.” You were called by grace to trust your life to Jesus Christ before anything — anything! — existed. Andrew, I know this is impossible to understand, but when there was only God — no earth, no universe, no time, no thing — but only Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all the grace of the Trinity was entrusted to you. Think about that! You can’t think about that, it’s completely beyond thinking. To use a favorite word of your generation, that’s totally awesome!

Paul understands that this is beyond us, so to bring this totally awesome truth down to earth, Paul says it another way that we can understand. Paul says that for you, Andrew, death has been abolished and life and immortality have been given to you by Christ Jesus. Andrew, by God’s grace, you are immortal. Today, we are confirming your immortality, we are sacramentally sealing with oil the life-giving Spirit of Jesus Christ within you.

And this is why your mother and I are raising you to give your life in service to people in need. I need to explain to the congregation that I routinely say to our children that they may choose to do anything they wish with their life, so long as it is serving people in need. Yes — and all you child psychologists may now shudder — I will not be a happy father if any of my four children choose to do something with their lives that is not serving people in need. And I will tell them so.

Why? Because they have been given the gift of immortality and they are expected to live not with a spirit of cowardice or selfishness or uncontrolled desire, but with a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline! It’s not just me or Elizabeth or the Apostle Paul, but it is the Triune God who expects my children to live their lives as if death has been abolished and only life and immortality matter. So live your lives giving your selves to other people, because you are unafraid of dying.

The last thing I want to encourage you to do Andrew, and my other children, and all of you, is to guard this treasure of faith that has been given you. I hope you see a little more clearly what an awesome treasure it is to trust in Jesus Christ. Paul calls your faith, literally, the “good deposit” or the “deposit of goodness.” Paul emphasizes what a valuable treasure it is to be able to put your trust in Jesus Christ and he urges us to guard this good treasure entrusted to us before time began. Andrew, your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is the most valuable gift you have. Your faith is not something to be ashamed of. Your faith is worth becoming a preacher or a teacher of. Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth going to prison for. Your faith is worth a life of suffering. My son, today I charge you to guard your faith in Jesus Christ with your life.

Andrew, Catherine, and Rebecca, almost every morning I stand before your bedroom door (Emily, I stand before your baby portrait), and I pray a prayer to
your Guardian Angel from the Eastern Orthodox Prayer Book. This prayer is a beautiful summary of Paul’s deepest desire for his “child” Timothy, and of my deepest desire for you:

Oh angel of God, Andrew’s holy guardian, keep his life in the fear of Christ God; strengthen his mind in the true way; and wound his soul with heavenly love, so that, guarded by you, Andrew may obtain of Christ God great mercy. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. (1)
(1)“Canon to the Guardian Angel” (Troparion, Sixth Tone). Prayer Book, Fourth Edition, Revised (Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2003), p. 250.