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Sermon for Ordinary 27

The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

The Spirit within us

The epistle reading today is from 2 Timothy, probably the last letter ‘written’ by Paul.

(In reality, many theologians believe Titus and 1 & 2 Timothy to be too different in vocabulary, style and grammar from letters which are genuinely Pauline and depict a church which is far more developed than in the letters directly attributed to Paul and are therefore not written by Paul but pseudonymous epistles reflecting Paul’s style and probable teaching in the pastoral situation of the early church to urge the leaders to maintain ecclesial and societal structure and order).

As some of Paul’s last words they are often seem as his ‘Last will and Testament’. His life is coming to an end and he refers to his life being poured out (like a libation or drink offering) 2 Tim 4 v 6

Paul wants to leave the early church with some last words as to how they should live their lives and conduct themselves in the times ahead, which could be very difficult and challenging for them. As such, he says many important things in the letters to Titus and Timothy.

So if it’s important, what was he saying and in particular just what was is he was saying in his letter which was today’s epistle reading?

In Paul’s letters to Titus and Timothy Paul makes some important points about how Christians should live their lives, how they should develop their spiritual lives, what they should do, and how they should encourage each other in speaking out for God in the world today.

In today’s verses Paul encourages the disciples in their development and speaking out about their faith to others. He says three important things:
- fan into a flame the gift of God which you have been given
- we have a spirit of power, love and self discipline (bottle and courage), not of timidity and drawing back
- do not be ashamed of what we believe (because it is the ultimate truth)

‘Fan into a flame the gift of God’, he exhorts the disciples. Take what they had, us it and encourage it in themselves and others. Take action. As believers we should not just sit around waiting for ‘God things’ to happen, we are to be part of those things happening ourselves under the guidance and power of His Holy Spirit.

But perhaps more importantly he reminds the disciples that the gift of God is not a spirit of timidity or ‘shrinking back’, but of power, love and discipline, ‘bottle’

Some people may have noticed that there was a big decision to be made earlier this weekend. Did England play Mike Catt or Andy Farrell at centre against the Australians? (The decision by Gordon Brown not to call an election was arguable another big decision made this weekend.)

If we picture the England rugby team, and especially the forwards and the front row in particular we get the image of a group of individuals who had both self belief and a spirit of power and discipline. When we think of them we do not get the image of individuals who are shrinking back in the face of the opposition

And whilst we might not all have the size and height of England’s rugby team we get the picture of what Paul was trying to convey. We are on the winning side and we should have that same spirit of power and conviction in our actions as we see in a team of rugby players at the world cup. A spirit of dynamism and ‘bottle’

The rugby side drew confidence from those around them, all of whom had the same self belief in their cause. And, it’s important that we as Christians realise that there are others around us with the same belief too. And it is easier to be confident if those around you are confident. But as Christians we are not just confident because of those around us, we are confident because we have God Himself with us.

God did not leave the early believers alone as just a group of people with the same belief, He gave them His Holy Spirit to inspire, guide and protect them, just as He does for us today, He gives us His Holy Spirit to encourage and empower us. A Spirit of power, love and self discipline.

That is why we are able to testify about our faith and what it stands for in the world and to tell others about the good news of the kingdom.

It is Jesus Himself who empowers us through His Holy Spirit. He gives us the strength and conviction, the insight and even the words to say – to speak out and not be ashamed

Are we proud of what we believe or are we defensive when challenged? How do we respond when someone asks us whether we really believe all that God stuff? Do we respond with a spirit of confidence or of apologetic acquiescence? Yes we need to listen to what people have to say and the questions they raise but we also need to have the courage of our convictions to answer them confidently, knowing we are on the winning side. Not because of ourselves, but because of the God who is in us and goes with us wherever we go.

Paul is encouraging the believers not only to have confidence in what they have to say but that they should be challenge the world with their faith and values. To speak and live out what they believe.

Not to be ashamed but to be proud of what they believe, not defensive and seeking to agree with all those around them but to be confident in what they believe

The England rugby side drew confidence from those around them, easy to do if some of them are well over 6’6’’ tall. But for Christians, for those who hear and believe God’s holy word, we not only have our fellow believers with us, we have God Himself who goes with us in all we do or say. Why should we be ashamed?

As we leave the church today, we take a part of God with us into the world; we have that same gift as the early disciples, a spirit of power and ‘bottle’, not a spirit of timidity and drawing back.

We are to ‘fan into a flame’ and encourage the faith within us and others, having God’s Spirit of power and confidence as we do so, speaking proudly about our belief and religion to all those around us

We don’t know what the future holds for the England rugby team (apart from a semi-final with France) and we don’t know what the future necessarily holds for us.

But we do know that whatever the future does hold for us, God goes with us through His spirit of love, power and discipline. And with that we can take on the world.