19th Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 22)
(Year C - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Thursday, October 4, and Sunday, October 7, 2007
Guard the good deposit. That’s what Paul says to Timothy in the New Testament reading we have today. Guard the good deposit. If you’ll take a look at that passage from the 2nd letter to Timothy, you can see what the good deposit is.
I didn’t give you the whole chart I made figuring this out—although if you’d like a copy, I’d be happy to get you one—but anyway, if you look at this passage starting in verse 8, you can see what Paul means by the “good deposit.”
Verse 8, Paul says, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” The testimony, witness, words about our Lord—that’s the good deposit. Moving on in verse 8, he says, “But share in suffering for the gospel.” The Gospel is the good deposit. Verse 12, “But I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed.” Paul’s not ashamed because He knows He believes in Christ—who is the Gospel, the testimony, the Word, the good deposit. Again, in verse 12, “I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” The good deposit has been entrusted to Paul, to Timothy, to us; the good deposit has been given to us, placed in our care, guard the good deposit which is the testimony, witness, word of Christ, the Gospel.
And then in verse 13, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me.” Paul’s not talking about his own words, as if his own knowledge is the sound, trustworthy words. No, he’s talking about the good deposit, the Gospel, the Word of Christ. Follow this pattern, speak these words, share this Gospel, spread the Word of God, guard the good deposit.
Guard the good deposit.
And that’s when I almost get stumped. I mean, looking at these verses, it’s clear that the good deposit is the Gospel, the Good News of salvation. But back in verse 8 when Paul calls it the “testimony about our Lord,” well, testimony or witness, that’s a word about sharing, speaking, defending, spreading the word about Jesus. That seems pretty different than “guard the good deposit.” Guard makes it sound like we’re supposed to lock it up in a big vault, hide the key, memorize the combination and eat the paper it was written on, and use every means possible to keep the deposit sealed up.
That can’t be what Paul means, because he doesn’t even do that in these verses. Just before he says, “Guard the good deposit,” he brings out the deposit, the Gospel, shows it around. Look at verses 9 and 10, he’s not keeping the deposit in a big vault; he’s sharing and proclaiming and shouting and rejoicing in the good deposit.
Verse 9, “God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Here Paul can’t contain his joy and excitement about how God has saved us from death, forgiven us through Christ, done this incredible thing. Apparently, guarding the good deposit does not mean locking it up in a big vault; apparently guarding the good deposit really must mean something about sharing the Good News with others.
When I was younger, I used to collect bottle caps. Bottle caps of all kinds, but the goal was to keep getting different bottle caps. At one point, I think I had something like 500 different bottle caps. There might have been a bunch from Coca-Cola, but they were all different designs. It was a great collection, but pretty much the only thing to do with the collection was to collect, sort, catalog, and put them in their storage cases. I guarded those bottle caps; they were an important collection; but I mainly just put them in a box and left them there.
That’s one kind of guarding.
The other kind of guarding is the kind of guarding I do now with my collection of music CDs, compact discs. I have more CDs than I want to admit, but I fool myself into thinking that my CD collection is a lot different than my bottle cap collection. My CD collection is a living collection. I use my CDs. I don’t just put them in the closet and forget about them; I listen to them and enjoy them. (Of course, I can’t possibly listen to all of my CDs very often, but this is what I tell myself. My bottle caps just sat on a shelf, but my CDs sit on my shelf always ready to be played and bring music to my life).
No matter how I might be fooling myself into thinking my CD collection is somehow different, it still is a different kind of guarding. I keep my CDs safe but not hidden. I store my CDs but only until I need to use them. I take care of my CDs, but they’re all unwrapped, open, sometimes a little scratched, used. My CDs are scattered on my desk in my office, laying on the front seat of my car, in stacks at home, and somewhat disorganized. It’s not a collection that’s sealed up, locked up, stored in a case, never to be handled. It’s a living collection that I’m using all of the time.
That’s the kind of guarding Paul is talking about in our Scripture reading today. Guard the good deposit. He’s not telling us to treat the Gospel like my bottle cap collection. The Gospel isn’t something to be collected, sorted, cataloged, and placed into a storage case. Paul is telling us to guard the good deposit like I guard my CDs. The Gospel is to be unwrapped, opened, used, scattered, and laying in every corner of your life. The Gospel is a living collection that Paul is telling us to use—with care—all of the time.
Hold up an unwrapped CD.
If I never open this CD, it remains protected, free from scratches, the booklet won’t get bent up or torn, and the CD won’t get lost. But how good does it sound? Hold CD to the microphone.
But now if I open this CD and put it in the stereo (Unwrap CD, put boom box on pulpit next to microphone, play CD), now we get the music. I have to keep the CD safe, so it doesn’t get scratched or broken, but I can still put it in the stereo and play it. That’s what a CD is for. It’s meant to be played and listened to. I’m guarding this CD so I don’t lose it, but I still will use it.
That’s the kind of guarding Paul is talking about with the Gospel. He’s not saying keep it wrapped up and on a shelf. He’s saying keep it safe but unwrap it, put it in the stereo, play that music, play that Gospel, let the Good News of Jesus Christ go out into all of the world.
Paul is calling on Timothy and all of us to guard the good deposit, to take care to learn and know and study and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how He came and saved us by His death and resurrection. But even while you’re taking care of the Gospel, you’re out there sharing it with the world. Unwrap the Gospel, play the Gospel, blast the stereo, tell the whole world that Jesus Christ saves us.
That’s exactly the mission of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, which we celebrate today. There’s a blue bookmark in your bulletins today which I encourage you to take home as a reminder. The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, the LWML, was formed 65 years ago to guard the good deposit. They didn’t pack up a bunch of Bibles and hide them in an underground vault never to be touched again.
No, the mission of the LWML is “to assist each woman of LCMS in affirming her relationship with the Triune God so that she is enabled to use her gifts in ministry to the people of the world.” The LWML encourages women to take the good deposit that is in them by the Spirit, to take that faith in Christ and share it with the world. Guard the good deposit through making sure the world hears the Word of God.
As I hope you noticed, we’re also focusing on Lutheran Bible Translators today with the display in the lobby area. One of the mission projects of the LWML nationwide is to raise $60,000 by 2009 for Lutheran Bible Translators to help with transportation costs of sending translators around the world to help people start having the Scriptures in their own languages. Lutheran Bible Translators guards the good deposit, because they go out trying to unwrap the Gospel into other languages. They’re helping people all around the world discover the truth about Jesus Christ.
The display, if you haven’t already gone through, has you pick up a key tag. On that key tag, you’ll find the name of a country and a language that is one of the 4,486 languages that doesn’t have any Scripture. Then you try to find that language on the poster scrolls. It’s not easy. The alphabetical list is mixed up somewhat. Once you find the language listed on your key tag, you cross it out and put your initials next to it. Then keep the key tag and pray for that country and language group.
The whole experience tries to help us to see the enormous task of translating the Bible so that all people can hear it. The poster scrolls came from Lutheran Bible Translators and were already used by another congregation which crossed off over 700 languages. But there’s still more, plenty more.
Supporting Lutheran Bible Translators and Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is a way to guard the good deposit, because they are caring for the Word of God by making sure that message goes out into all the world. They’re unwrapping the CD and letting the music play. They’re not keeping the Word in a vault; they’re trying to get it out to as many people as possible.
You see, we have the Word. (Hold up my tattered Bible)
This is my Bible which Susan gave me 12 years ago. It’s very beat up, the covers coming off, while it has a leather cover, pieces of it have just flaked off of the binding. I carry this around with me all around the place. If you’ve ever seen me with it in class, you know that I’m not always the most careful with it. I drop it, I toss it onto the table, I bend it, tap it. In other words, if you look at my Bible, it doesn’t look like I am guarding the good deposit.
But if this Bible was still in the box it came in, if I kept this Bible locked up or in a trophy case or on one of those book stand displays, would that be guarding the good deposit? If I never looked inside this Bible, if I never used it, listened to, cracked the binding, unwrapped the Word of God, would that be guarding it? Or would that just be a waste?
Paul calls on us to stop wasting the Word that we have. Instead, guard that good deposit by sharing it with the world. Crack open your Bibles, find out what it says, carry it with you, take the risk that you might tear the pages as you read it, because then you’re treasuring the Word of God, then you’re learning, then you’re ready to share it with the people around you.
And when you use your good deposit, when you realize just what an incredible message we have, the message of salvation, then you realize you want to share that good deposit with other people. Just like the LWML and Lutheran Bible Translators working around the world, you can share the good deposit in your neighborhood, your family, your work, your school.
Guarding the good deposit means finding a friend who doesn’t have a Bible, doesn’t have the good deposit, and give them the Word of Life. Take the treasure you have, and give that treasure to someone else. Invite your friend to come unwrap God’s Word with you at worship or Bible study. Invite your friend to ask questions about this treasure we have. And most of all, invite them to see that Paul’s words of Gospel apply to them as well, those words from verses 9 and 10 applied to your friend:
“God saved you, my friend, and called you to a holy calling, not because of your works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave you in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”