Rekindle the Flame
a sermon based on 2 Timothy 1:1-17
by Rev. Pamela Moore, edited for DPS by T. Hall
Our family enjoyed a wonderful time this
weekend. We had gathered for a family reunion. We appreciated being together, telling and
retelling family stories, cracking (and explaining) jokes. Lots of fun-thats what
family get-togethers are. All across our nation, people have done the same all summer;
theyve gathered together to celebrate-Mother and Fathers Day, the 4th, and
Labors Day I remember attending a small-town America 4th one year and seeing their
parade and celebration in the park-a scene right out of Mayberry USA. As we celebrate our
gatherings, sing our patriotic songs, parade through the streets, listen to band concerts,
and watch fireworks, we are also passing down important traditions from generation to
generation. As we hear the stories of our parents and grandparents and retell those
stories, we are passing down important traditions.
Our lesson this morning comes from 2 Timothy-a letter that the aged Paul sent to his
protégé, Timothy, a young pastor just starting out. What do we know about Timothy? Not
much; we learn in Acts that he lived in Lystra, in Asia Minor, and that he was the son of
a Greek father and Jewish mother who had become a Christian. Thats about all we know
of Timothy except that hes mentioned as being a companion to Paul in his travels and
a fellow worker. That brings us to the letter bearing the name of this little-known
pastor, Timothy. The tone is unmistakable: an older minister writes to encourage this
younger minister to "keep the faith" in the difficult times that lie ahead.
We find out from this brief letter something about Timothys family: hes a
third generation Christian: Eunice, his mother and before her, Lois, have also lived their
Christian life. Like relay runners, theyve passed on from one generation to the next
the baton of faith. Now the baton is passed on to Timothy, of that Paul is sure.
Whats on Pauls mind? What is uppermost in his priorities list that Timothy
can benefit from? Well, Paul reminds Timothy to rekindle the gift of God that is within
him, and that God has given him the spirit of power and love and self-discipline. In
reading the rest of the letter, it becomes clear that the leaders of some of the other
churches were losing their faith. Pauls imprisonment was causing some of them to be
ashamed, and persecutions were on the rise. It was a difficult time to be a church leader.
So Paul writes to encourage Timothy to rekindle the flame.
I was at Purdue University last week for the Quadrennial Assembly of the International
Christian Womens Fellowship. I was a "sent one" to represent our
congregation at this spiritual and educational event. The theme was "Rekindle the
Flame." Our opening preacher, Cynthia Hale, spoke to us about the gift of Gods
spirit and the power that God gives to individuals and churches. It was a fine sermon, but
one thing in particular stands out for me. Looking out over the 3500 women gathered in the
music hall of Purdue University, Rev. Hale talked about why we all had come together: to
celebrate, to be revitalized, re-energized-to rekindle the flame. Then she said something
that stuck with me the entire time: What you seek is already within you. Those words
stayed with me throughout my stay in Purdue because they rang true. Gods spirit is
already within us. The Spirit does not leave. There may be times when It burns brighter
than at others, but the embers are always there waiting for us to rekindle them.
I did experience a revitalization at Purdue, as I had hoped. There is something
powerful about gathering with that many women to learn and to worship that is almost
impossible to describe. One of our leaders was a liturgical dancer who taught us ways to
move our bodies in worship which is a little different than what we are used to doing
here. She also had us breathe in together and let out our breath with a sigh. Imagine 3500
women breathing in and sighing out together. Would you try it with me?
In Roman mythology there is a figure named Janus. The name of the month January comes
from this character who represents beginnings. Janus is portrayed as having two faces,
looking opposite directions so that he can see everything that is coming and going. This
image has stuck with me as Ive thought about some of what we experienced at
Quadrennial. First of all there was so much going on that having two faces would have
really helped me take it all in. But more importantly, it became an image of looking
forward and backward in time. You see, one of the these songs that has haunted me (and my
family) is a chant that goes "From generation to generation, rekindle the flame,
rekindle the flame." Like Timothy, we are to both receive and pass on the traditions
of our faith.
One morning at Quadrennial, three family groups came on stage to reflect upon how much
the world is changing and how much the daughters had learned from their mothers. First,
there was one mother with two young adult daughters. Then Susan Gonzales-Dewey from the
Ventura church spoke with her 11 year old daughter Leah. And then a daughter, mother, and
grandmother shared their dreams fore their own futures, the daughter looking forward,
while the mother and grandmother looked back, remembering their own dreams.
It became very clear to me that in passing faith on from generation to generation,
there is movement in both directions. Often parents teach their children about God.
Sometimes it is a child who shares her faith with a parent or grandparent. But it
isnt just that one person gives and another receives. We learn from each other. As
we pass our traditions on into a changing world, we have much to learn from those we
teach. We are like Janus, looking back into the past to the faith we have received, and
forward into the future to the new ways it will be understood.
As Paul wrote to Timothy, the spirit that is within us is not a spirit of timidity or
fearfulness or cowardice. I like reading a variety of translations, by the way, because of
the rich variety of language that we find there. The spirit that is within us is not a
spirit of timidity or fearfulness or cowardice. Those things, when they are present, are a
part of our human nature, but God has given us a spirit that can overcome our fear.
Timothy had every reason to be afraid to continue sharing his faith, but Paul says,
"Rekindle it." Let it burn brighter and stronger, because God gives you a spirit
of Power and Love and Self-discipline. We talk a lot around here about Gods Love and
how we are given the ability to love others because of Gods gift of Love. But this
flame within us is also a gift of Power and self-discipline, which is also translated
self-control or sound mind. This means that God gives us the power to keep going through
the hardest of times making changes within our lives and sharing our experiences of faith
with others. This God-given power is already with us-we just need to rekindle it.
Another of our preachers at Quadrennial spoke about her mothers cooking fire.
They lived in a rural area without electricity or modern appliances, where one of the
responsibilities of women was to keep the cooking fire burning. She described the mornings
of her childhood, watching her mother at the fire. Each morning a pile of gray ashes could
be seen where the fire had burned the day before. But the ashes werent as cold as
they looked. She watched her mother stir them and blow on them until a few glowing embers
could be seen. Then, little by little, her mother added kindling and small sticks until
the flame burned bright enough add the wood needed for the days cooking. Those gray
ashes were brought back to life by her mother each day of her childhood.
This is what Paul reminds us of today. Gods spirit is alive within us. If we feel
that it has gone cold, we need to begin to rekindle it. Stir it up, blow on it, add new
bits of wood until it blazes brightly within us. God has given each one of us the gift of
the spirit. We cannot let it die. It will not die. It is always there within us. What we
need, each one of us, is to Rekindle the Flame-from generation to generation. Amen.