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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-that’s what family get-togethers are. All across our nation, people have done the same all summer; they’ve gathered together to celebrate-Mother and Father’s Day, the 4th, and Labor’s 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. That’s about all we know of Timothy except that he’s 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 Timothy’s family: he’s a third generation Christian: Eunice, his mother and before her, Lois, have also lived their Christian life. Like relay runners, they’ve 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.

What’s on Paul’s 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. Paul’s 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 Women’s 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 God’s 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. God’s 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 I’ve 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 isn’t 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 God’s Love and how we are given the ability to love others because of God’s 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 mother’s 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 weren’t 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 day’s 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. God’s 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.