Monday, September 20, 2010

Sermon - 1 Timothy 2:1-15 - Pentecost 17

1 Timothy 2:1-15
September 19th, 2010

Law and Gospel. The Sacraments. A Christ-centered approach to Scripture. Lutheran theology brings us many important and unique understandings, often missed by other Christians. One of those will be helpful for us today is the doctrine of Vocation. Your vocation, or your calling, is any role or station or office into which you have been called and in which you rightfully serve. Your vocation isn't simply your job – butcher, baker, candlestick maker. It's much more. What roles do you fill? Father, mother, husband, wife, child, student, employer, employee, citizen, office holder, pastor, parishioner, or even the calling of every Christian.

The fact is, God calls us to various places and stations in life, roles and tasks, relationships and offices. And we all have multiple vocations. And in each of those callings, God sets forth certain parameters and guidelines. Who do you answer to? Who do you serve, and how? What are your responsibilities? What are you NOT called to do? You might look at the “Table of Duties” in our catechism – it's on page 328 of they hymnal – for a brief reminder of some of these.

Understanding vocation is helpful especially when we come to a passage like 1 Timothy 2. A difficult passage for some, perhaps, in a cultural setting which has other ideas.

But God is a God of order. Just look how he created the world. First he formed the sky, the sea, the land. Then he filled the sky, the sea, the land. He created man in his own image. He created woman from the man. He set them in a garden and gave them a vocation – to tend to it and work in it. But even then, he had different roles in mind for husband and wife – even before the fall.

The husband was created first – and was the head of the wife. God still preserves this order today. Ephesians 5 tells us the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. That doesn't mean he bosses her around, but that he does what Christ does for the church – he dies for her. His servant leadership puts her first. Still, he takes the initiative and holds the responsibility of headship.

Woman, created from the man, is called in Scripture the “helper”. She is called to submit to her husband as Christ submits to the church. While our culture bristles at even the word “submit”, a godly woman rejoices in her calling and honors the husband's God-given headship. This is how God created us to be – though we so often, male and female, fall short.

Eve transgressed and was deceived first – she took the leadership place she wasn't called to take. Adam shirked his role and followed his wife into sin. They both failed in their callings – failed God and each other.

And in a similar way, as we read here, 1 Timothy tells us that according to God's order, women are called to some things and not to others. They are called to dress modestly, and be self-controlled. Women are not called to be pastors – to hold the authoritative public office in the church. This is not a matter of power and honor, but simply what callings are given to whom.

Not even all men are called to preach. Certainly not all are called to apostleship, as Paul was appointed. But God gives such an order for our good. And he gives us all honorable callings, though they are different.

Paul goes on to quickly remind us that women are given the calling of motherhood. And it is an honorable calling as well, for it was through the birth of a child that all people are saved. But we'll get there in a minute.

Now, teachings like this might offend some of you. And if so, you need to repent. God's word is holy and it stands as our judge – we are not the judge of it. We may not like what he has to say and how he orders our lives, but that doesn't change what it is – the authoritative truth which teaches us all.

Likewise, you might agree with me that yes, this is God's word, but you might just be a little embarrassed about it. This too shows a need for repentance. If you're ashamed in the least to follow these clear instructions of God, will you be ashamed of his other hard teachings? Will you confess him or deny him before men?

Or perhaps you don't know exactly what to think about tough teachings like this. Maybe it just doesn't matter to you. Then you too have some repenting to do, for every word of God is not only useful for teaching and reproof, but when we ignore or neglect the teaching of his word, we despise him who speaks it. If you don't know what Scripture teaches, what God says, then you need to study harder and listen closer.

We all stand convicted. For we all struggle to hear and understand and live out the teachings of God – especially the tough ones. We all struggle to navigate the waters of a world that just doesn't get it – doesn't have ears to hear. A world which wants us to come along with them, and forsake the narrow path. And we all fall at times – perhaps much of the time.

We are called to pray and we fail. We are called to love our neighbor and we fail. We are called to not quarrel or be angry and we fail. We are called to work and serve and be humble and modest and decent and moral and we fail, fail, fail.

And so, we are all called to repent. We are all called to confess our sins. And we are all called to receive the forgiveness that comes to us in Jesus Christ.

Now here is one who knew his calling. He, the one true mediator between God and man. He, the one who was called to be born of a woman – so that all who are born in sin could be saved. He the one who was called to live and fulfill the law, so that all lawbreakers could be pardoned. He, the one who was called to die a sinners death so that sin and death would die forever, and sinners like you and me will live. Jesus Christ – called, anointed as our savior. He knew his calling, and he humbly submitted to it all, even death on a cross, scorning its shame, for you and me.

He was also called to life again – raised by the power of the Father. Called to take back his throne in majesty. And one day he will return to call forth the dead from their graves, and to call all his people to himself, and to an eternal rest prepared for them – for us.

He gives you your callings. And he knows your weakness and struggle. He is the ransom to free you, the captive, from your sin. Your first and highest calling as a Christian is to simply receive such a gift, believe it, trusting the giver to deliver on his promises.

Such a faith empowers you in your many callings to begin anew each day, doing what is given to you – living out your callings, for the one who has called us is faithful. And by his Spirit he will continue to enlighten you, sanctify you, until he finally calls you home in Christ.

We all have our callings, and they are from God. Let us listen not to our own voices, or those around us, but always only to him, who calls us also to repentance an faith in Christ. Amen.

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