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Sermon Series: Living into the Call of our Baptism
“The Good Confession”
1 Timothy 6:10-16
“Our Sense of Duty”
“The Easy Thing from the Lord”
2 Kings 5:1-15b
“Struggling with God”
The Good Confession
1 Timothy 6:10-16
There are rich and varied traditions associated with baptism. For some, young children are brought forward. For others, those who are old enough to choose Jesus and profess their faith come forward. In either case, vows and promises are made at the sacramental waters. It may be the individual getting baptized who makes the vows (if s/he is old enough), it may be the parents making the vows (in which case the child eventually takes the vows upon her-/himself at Confirmation), but there is always some kind of allegiance expressed to Jesus and a commitment to walk in newness of life.
This precedent goes back to the New Testament, and is most clearly represented by Paul the apostle writing to his younger colleague, Timothy, instructing him to “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12). This “good confession” was apparently his baptismal vows, which called him to “eternal life.” This “good confession” also was apparently connected to what Jesus did in the presence of Pontius Pilate (6:13). When we look back at the Gospels to find the testimony Jesus gave before the Roman governor, we see he spoke about a “kingdom from another place” (Jn 18:36) and about testifying “to the truth” (18:37). In other words, Jesus lived the reality of his Father’s coming kingdom, even amidst the other kingdoms of the day, and was willing to die for the truth that one day God’s kingdom would be the only reality. Thus, as with Timothy, all who desire to follow Jesus must make the same “good confession” in the presence of many witnesses.
It is one thing to confess this reality on the day of your baptism (or to “own it” on the day of your Confirmation), but something entirely different to live it in your day to day life. The vows we took, however long ago that may have been, are just as valid today as the day we made them. So let us strive to live into the call of our baptism, to turn from sin and the influence of the evil one, and to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. “Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time” (1 Tim 6:14-15). Amen.
A Sense of Duty
If our baptismal call begins with the “good confession” (1 Tim 6:12-13), it seems from there to include a sense of personal responsibility. We get a glimpse of this from a unique Gospel story about Jesus.
When Jesus was speaking to his disciples (and, by association, all who would thereafter follow him), he brought up the topic of sin. Sin, unfortunately, is “bound to come” in this fallen world, but Jesus stressed it was important that it not come through his followers (Lk 17:1). If any were to lead “little ones” (often a term of endearment for disciples) astray, their fate would be bleak (17:2). Jesus ended this point with the warning to “watch yourselves” (17:3). In other words, even disciples can be the source of sin, so each of us needs to take responsibility for our actions.
Jesus followed this topic with God’s secret weapon to break the power of sin in this world: correction and forgiveness. God corrects us when we sin, and if we are faithful to confess and repent to him, he forgives us. We also are expected to forgive the repentant in our own lives. So, if one of Christ’s followers is guilty of sin, as was warned against in the original topic, other followers are to confront him or her, and, if that person repents, we are to forgive (17:3). Even several times a day (17:4)!
When the disciples heard this they were astounded, but instead of taking responsibility for their actions they begged Jesus to increase their faith (17:5). But Jesus assured them, even if they had the smallest faith, faith the size of an insignificant mustard seed, they could totally change the landscape of their daily lives (17:6). To illustrate, he told them a parable about a servant and his relationship with his master (17:7-10). Servants do not question their roles, they do not shirk their responsibilities. Instead, even after working a whole day in his master’s field, the servant would clean himself up, prepare his master’s dinner, serve him, and only after he was finished would the servant then sit down and eat for himself. That is just what servants do, they fulfill their duties. Jesus wants us to see ourselves as servants and to take responsibility for our sins, for our willingness to correct others, and for our commitment to forgiveness.
Whatever it is that God is calling you to through your baptism—whether personally, relationally, vocationally, or otherwise—after you have done everything the Lord has told you to do, may you be willing to say, “I am just an unworthy servant; I have only done my duty” (17:10).
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