OK, before we get started, I want to give you a little heads up. We will be participating in some congregational participating in the sermon today. I know that might make some of you uncomfortable, so that is why I want to give you a heads up. Of course, you don’t have to, but it would be awesome if you considered participating. So let’s get started, shall we?
Find someone close to you that is not related to you to share in conversation. This may mean that you will have to get up and move around. Here’s the question I want you to discuss: “who in your life was a faith former?” What I mean by that is who is the person responsible in your life for helping to form your faith? Maybe it was someone who brought you to church. Maybe it was a pastor. Maybe it was a grandparent who make sure you got to Sunday school every week. So find someone close to you that is not related to discuss who that person in your life was and maybe who that person in your life is today.
OK, now that we’ve shared that question, Let’s move on. Here’s the next question I want you to discuss with one another. “Who do you hope to pass your faith onto?” Maybe it is your children, grandchildren, friends, or just other church members. Who would you love to have say in 20 or 30 or even 50 years from now that you were that person for them.
Y’all may return to your seats now. So I want to hear from you as much or as little as you would like to share. Who in your life helped to form your faith? Anyone like to share? And who do you want to pass your faith on to?
I want to introduce you to five of my faith formers. As most of you know I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. But, I did not have a great relationship with my spirituality or, I thought, with God growing up. But here are some people who are important to me in my faith life.
This is a picture of me and my Nannie. As you can see, she was ill in this picture. But, I treasure it anyway. My Nannie was a woman of great faith. She was often found praying the rosary. One of my favorite memories will be bringing her communion when she was in the hospital. She knew that even though I was not a priest, she wanted it anyway. She survived the death of my grandfather, which left her to raise six children on her own.
This is a picture of me at my ordination. The woman on the end is Althea Milton. Althea is what we would call a church pillar. She is still a very active member of my home congregation of Faith in Wichita Falls. Although she is aging, her faith has not wavered. When I told her that I was going to seminary she practically jumped up and down. She supported us in many ways throughout our seminary journey. I recently found out that she just bought a new Christ candle for our home church. She wanted to make sure the light of Christ continues to shine long after she is gone.
This picture is two more of my faith formers. This is Sandy and Stephanie. They have been married for well, forever. And they have been very supportive of our journey as well. They prayed for us, supported us, and showed me what it means to be church outside the four walls of the church.
This last picture, of course you recognize this guy. This is my Christopher. Most of you know him I am assuming. It is Chris’s fault that I started going to a Lutheran Church. Going to church was a very important part of his family’s life. It still is. Chris introduced me to the church, and help me fall in love all over again. He probably doesn’t know that he is one of my faith formers, but he is.
Why is any of this discussion important? Because in Paul’s letter to Timothy, he references Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice. Paul points to the faith that those ladies had as an example for Timothy. And I’m wondering if we’ve lost a little bit of that. We are, after all, a church within the EVANGELICAL Lutheran Church in America. And that “E” word can scare us a little bit. I had a seminary professor joke that Lutherans would say “Pastor, around here we don’t praise the Lord until page 47.” But we all had or have those people in our lives that taught us about faith. People will not learn about faith from just picking up the Bible, or just coming to church, or (heaven forbid) just watching television. People learn about faith by observing others around them and learning from them.
We’re a little scared to be evangelical. We can be a little timid to step out and say “why don’t you come to church with me?” Or “have you prayed about this?” Maybe something even as daring as “have you been baptized? Would you like to be?” I think we have this misconception that being evangelical is just all about raising our hands, singing praise songs, and praying “Father, we just….” over and over. When really, the Greek root of the word “evangelist” means a good message, or good news. And really, is there anyone in this world who couldn’t do with a little good news now and then?
But we let our fear get in the way. The lure and intoxication of status, reputation, and maybe even self preservation often gets in our way of being evangelists. We don’t want people to think the wrong thing of us. We can become a little too like Peter in the courtyard as he prepares to deny Jesus three times before the cock crows. But someone, somewhere, at some time risked a lot to talk to you about faith. Someone, somewhere, at some time put everything that was important to them on the line and said “hey, I want you to know more about Jesus.” And if they didn’t say it, they showed it through their actions. This faith is passed on from generation to generation. 2 Timothy tells us that Jesus has “join[ed] with [us] in [our] suffering, saved us, called us” and this calling is a holy calling.
And how in the world can we do this? Where does the strength to do this come from? Again, scripture says “not…our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.” God gives us what we need when we need it to do what we need to do. The consequences are high, brothers and sisters. Think about the people in your life that have no faith, no belief, no knowledge even of God. What in the world does the afterlife hold for them? So, be brave. Be daring. Be bold. “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” Amen