fbpx
Ordinary Time Revised Common Lectionary Year C

 

Revised Common Lectionary

Year C:
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 18, 2022

Highlighted Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

There are a lot of interesting words in this passage, including the second one. In the NIV, it says, “I urge…” In English, “urge” has some range. If I “urge you to reconsider,” we all know you’re not going to. But when my wife was pregnant with our first child and she had an “urge for double chocolate icecream…with fudge sauce!” you bet I was going to make it happen on the double! The Greek word here is much closer to “you better get it” than “I’ll warn you but I know you won’t do it.” It’s beseeching, exhorting, almost begging [OTD]. What comes next is a high importance to everyone. We should probably pay attention to this urge. “And don’t forget the fudge sauce!”

I have taken many spiritual gifts assessments, and usually prayer comes in as my second-lowest spiritual gift. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to pray. This text makes it very clear that we are all to offer “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgivings…for all people.” Not only am I required to pray in some form, but I have a much bigger checklist than I originally thought. We all do. It reminds me of what Martin Luther said: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

It seems like every commentary I read about this passage had a different take on the importance of these four kinds of prayer. Augustine even connected it back to the pattern of celebrating Communion within the church worship service [ACC]. So I would recommend spending some time in prayer on your own, asking the Holy Spirit for some insight for your particular context. There may not be one defined answer, but I’m confident that the Spirit can lift up some aspects for your life or your ministry.

The early Christian commentator Ambrosiaster summarized it this way: ““Prayers” are for those to whom power has been entrusted, that they may govern with justice and truth, so that all may prosper. “Intercessions” are for those in dire necessity, that they may find help. And “thanksgivings” refer to gratitude for God’s daily providences” [ACC].

I personally focus on the subject of our prayers. We are to pray for “all people” and “for kings and those in authority.” These petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgivings are to be offered for others, with a special emphasis on those in authority. These prayers aren’t focused on myself. I think it’s easy to pray for ourselves, but it’s less easy to pray for all people or pray for those in authority. This is especially true if our preferred political ideology is not the one in power at the moment.

One of my mentors used to joke that he took Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies very seriously. He always made sure to pray for his enemies’ destruction. Don’t worry – he was joking. This text tells us to pray for those in authority – even if you want to shout at them instead. And this text says to pray for God to guide them so that we “may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I think we can all pray for our leaders to lead in that way.

In fact, this text goes further. It says that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” The Messianic Jewish Rabbi David H. Stern wrote, “Sha’ul, who was neither passive nor selfish, did not counsel prayers for quiet and peaceful lives for ourselves, but for the deliverance (v. 4) of all human beings, including government leaders and all in positions of prominence” [JNTC].

The Reformation Study Bible also noted that this text does not say that God saves everyone, but that God has positive will toward all and wishes that all types or kinds of people would be saved. “God does not choose His elect from any single group” [RSB]. I highlight this because it is very easy for us as individuals, as a whole church, as a whole movement to assume that God is on our side and that God is against the other side. Paul challenges that line of thought in this text. Jesus came to save, including the kinds of people you high five and the kinds of people you want to shout at right now. Paul “urges” us to pray for all of them.

The last interesting part I will focus on is from verse 5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” But didn’t the curtain get torn in two when Jesus died (Mark 15:37-38)? Didn’t Jesus bridge the gap between us and God? Why do we still need a mediator? I thought we were friends now – family even!

I don’t remember the product, but I remember an advertisement from many years ago. These two guys overhear a wealthy patron in the club talking about his friend Sergio from Rio. So they jump in, pretending to know Sergio. And the wealthy patron welcomes them with open arms. They join him in the limo, on his private plane, and at parties around the world – all because they (supposedly) knew Sergio from Rio.

That’s what I picture when I hear about Jesus being our mediator. We are welcomed with open arms, but only because of Jesus. Without Sergio from Rio, those two guys wouldn’t have been on the private plane. Without Jesus, we’re not welcome in God’s presence. But because we know Jesus and because Jesus knows us, we’re welcomed with open arms. We don’t get to stand in the presence of God. We get to stand next to Jesus, who can in turn stand in the presence of God and bring us along.

That’s what a mediator does.

I have a friend who was a Major League Baseball pitcher, so I know a bit more about the business side of baseball than I otherwise would. In baseball, there’s a process for young players negotiating their contracts. If the team and the player’s agent can’t reach an agreement, they have an arbitrator decide. The arbitrator brings the two sides together and settles the dispute. Jesus is the one who brings us into the presence of God as our mediator.

The Reformation Study Bible says that Jesus is “the initiator of a new relationship of conscious peace with God, going beyond what was known under the Old Testament arrangements for dealing with the guilt of sin” [RSB].

That’s all well and good from a theological perspective, but how does this get lived out?

I had the opportunity to go to the Hawaii Leadership Practicum led by Wayne Cordeiro, and he said something that quite literally reframed many aspects of my life. We were talking about being strategic with our time. He said that anyone can do 50% of your job – answering phones, replying to emails, filling out paperwork. Maybe 40% of your job can be done by anyone who has the same training as you. But that last 10%, only you can do.

At this point, I was thinking that he was going to talk to us about our unique spiritual gifts or the abilities that set us apart as leaders. But he zigged when I expected him to zag. He said, “No one else can follow Jesus for you. No one else can be husband to your wife, or father to your children. Those things, you have to do.”

If Jesus is our mediator, then no one eles can get to know Jesus for us. Following Jesus, getting to know Jesus, letting Jesus lead and shape our lives – that’s our job. That can’t be outsourced. That can’t be overlooked or written off. Even (especially) when times are tough, no one else can follow Jesus for you or me.

 

Preaching Themes

  •   Prayer is the duty of all Christians, and it’s probably a bigger concept than we think
  •   Jesus wants to save all…even the people we feel like shouting at right now
  •   Regardless of what’s going on at work or in the world, no one else can follow Jesus for you

References

[OTD] Olive Tree Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary

[ACC] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

[JNTC] Jewish New Testament Commentary

[RSB] Reformation Study Bible

Cody Sandahl

Cody Sandahl has been the Pastor/Head of Staff at the First Presbyterian Church of Littleton, Colorado since 2015. Prior to that he was the Executive Pastor and Associate Pastor for Discipleship at the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is passionate about equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).

Cody came to pastoral ministry after a lifetime of programming computers and building robots, and he is the founder of the nonprofit Code4Kids. You can still find him down in his basement tinkering with computers, making things on his 3D printers, and shooting laser beams into things.

Cody is married to Becca, and they have two playful boys and one spunky dog who collaborate to ensure life is never boring.

Sermon Resources

Key Quote

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

Key Illustration

I had the opportunity to go to the Hawaii Leadership Practicum led by Wayne Cordeiro, and he said something that quite literally reframed many aspects of my life. We were talking about being strategic with our time. He said that anyone can do 50% of your job – answering phones, replying to emails, filling out paperwork. Maybe 40% of your job can be done by anyone who has the same training as you. But that last 10%, only you can do.

At this point, I was thinking that he was going to talk to us about our unique spiritual gifts or the abilities that set us apart as leaders. But he zigged when I expected him to zag. He said, “No one else can follow Jesus for you. No one else can be husband to your wife, or father to your children. Those things, you have to do.”

By Cody Sandahl

Additional Sermon Resources

Liturgical Elements

Responsive Call to Worship 

Adapted from Psalm 113:1-4, New Living Translation

Leader: Praise the Lord! Yes, give praise, O servants of the Lord.

People: Praise the name of the Lord!

Leader: Blessed be the name of the Lord now and forever.

People: Everywhere—from east to west—praise the name of the Lord.

Leader: For the Lord is high above the nations;

People: His glory is higher than the heavens.

 

Prayer of Confession  

Adapted from Psalm 79:1-9, New Living Translation

O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? Please do not hold us guilty for our sins! Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Psalm 113 says this: “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high? He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth. He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes!” So does the Lord do for us. He stoops down to look at us, exactly as we are, and chooses to lift us up in the name of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven! Amen.

Benediction

Sisters and brothers, no one can follow Jesus for you or me. That’s something we have to do for ourselves. But when we do, that’s when real life begins. So go out into the world this week, living real life with Christ. Amen.

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]