A Sermon on 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
This weekend, I’m driving 290 miles to go to the Annual Roast Beef Dinner at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Foxholm, North Dakota. I’m willing to bet that most of you have never heard of Foxholm or St. Mary’s or their Annual Roast Beef Dinner, but in my mind, it’s world-famous.
I’ve gone to St. Mary’s Annual Roast Beef Dinner pretty much every chance I’ve had in my thirty-eight years of life, and I’ll keep going as long as I’m able. It’s not because the food is spectacular – although it is. It’s really the whole experience. When you get there, you’re given a ticket with a number, and then you sit and wait in the little sanctuary upstairs. You can start to smell the aroma of the roast beef mingled with the scent of dusty hymnals and candle wax. You invariably run into people you know. After about a half-hour or so, your number is called, and you get to go down to the jam-packed fellowship hall and squeeze in at one of the long tables. The meal has been the same for as long as I’ve been going—roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, stuffing, and for dessert you can choose between apple or pumpkin pie. It’s so simple, but it’s just so perfect.
After you eat, you leave through the back door of the fellowship hall, go up a narrow flight of stairs, and at the top of the stairs, there will be a table where several ladies are sitting, selling pies and raffle tickets.
Until she passed a few years ago, you could count on one of those ladies at the table being Lois Rademacher.
Lois Rademacher is the woman I think of when I hear our reading this week from Second Timothy, where Paul the Apostle describes the faith that was passed down to his beloved friend and student Timothy from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
Lois Rademacher was like a lot of women you will meet in the Christian church, probably like a lot of women in this room. She was not famous. She was not wealthy or glamorous. She lived most of her life in a tucked-away corner of the world where not many people ever go, and she spent much of that life quietly caring for her children and grandchildren, passing along the faith that lived in her to those children as they were born, grew up, and had children of their own… and worshiping and serving at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was where I usually saw her.
There are a few women in the Bible with dramatic, exciting stories – Queen Esther, saving all of Israel from genocide through her beauty and cleverness. Ruth and Naomi, thrust into poverty and then raised out through the kindness of Boaz. Or even the Virgin Mary, an ordinary girl called to an extraordinary purpose, giving life to the very son of God.
But I feel a special fondness for Lois and Eunice, two ordinary women, Timothy’s grandmother and mother. This passage is the only time they are mentioned in the Bible, and yet we know of the lasting impact they had on Timothy and on the Apostle Paul, two early teachers in the church who helped to spread the gospel across the known world in the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I can’t help but suspect that in Rome, in Corinth, in Thessalonica and Colossae and Ephesus and all over—each of these early Christian communities had their own Eunices and Loises.
Long after Paul or Timothy proclaimed the gospel and moved onto the next city, it was the Loises and Eunices who told their children and their grandchildren about Jesus. It was the Loises and Eunices who cared for the sick and the poor, who visited the widows and the older people who could no longer come to church gatherings. It was the Loises and Eunices who lived quiet lives of faith and shared the gospel not by shouting it from the rooftops, but over coffee and a slice of pie, over the quilting table, over a roast beef dinner in the fellowship hall.
And it is still the Loises and Eunices who do much of the quiet, faithful work of evangelism. They are the ones who tell young children about Jesus and teach them to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” They are the ones who show up after the birth or the funeral with a casserole. They are the ones who hold those children in prayer when they sometimes fall away from the faith.
There have always been a lot more Loises and Eunices than Timothys and Pauls. There are a lot more Loises and Eunices than Billy Grahams or Jimmy Swaggarts. And Loises and Eunices are the ones who live the day-in-day-out life of faith in all the quiet tucked-away corners of the world, and who truly, through the work of the Holy Spirit, turn mustard-seed faith into a beautiful and blossoming thing everywhere.
Let us pray…
God, we thank you for the Loises and Eunices who passed along the faith to us. Help us to tell the good news and to follow Jesus in our lives each day. Amen.