Sunday, September 26, 2010

1 Timothy 3:1-7 - "Check Engine Light"

18th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, September 26, 2010

I didn't finish writing out the manuscript for this sermon, so what I present below is the outline plus a rough draft.

I. Check Engine Light
• Check Engine Light
• Tempted to ignore the Check Engine Light of 1 Timothy

• Why do you think I was tempted to skip this text?

II. Image: Car Into the Shop
• Check Engine Light
• Diagnosis
• Repair

• God’s Word lights up the warning
• God’s Word gives the spiritual diagnosis
• God’s Word repairs the soul

III. Check Engine Light is On Today
• God’s Word lights up the warning

IV. Pull into the Garage - Diagnosis
• Important at this stage, just six weeks into being here, important for you to know that you can check me on these things

• God’s Word gives the spiritual diagnosis

V. Repair with Gospel
• Of course, come to me gently, come with Gospel

• God’s Word repairs the soul

VI. Image: Car Into the Shop
• Check Engine Light
• Diagnosis
• Repair

• God’s Word lights up the warning
• God’s Word gives the spiritual diagnosis
• God’s Word repairs the soul

VII. Check Engine Light on for Congregation
• So many of these things listed in 1 Timothy reflect what kind of congregations we want to have:

• So it’s a “Check Engine Light” for all of us, to check how we as a congregation are representing Christ

• God’s Word lights up the warning

VIII. Pull Into the Garage – Diagnosis
• Check Engine Light

IX. Congregational Repair with the Gospel
• And when we don’t represent Christ well, there’s forgiveness, hope, repair

• My role: bring you God’s Word—
God’s Word sounds the warning
God’s Word gives the spiritual diagnosis
God’s Word repairs the soul

X. Specific Diagnosis: Reputation with Outsiders
• Check me on these things

• Especially check me on whether I have a good reputation with outsiders

• We’ll talk more about this next week as we start Consecrated Stewards and talk about what it means to be salt in the world

• Why is it so important for pastors to have a good reputation in the community—whether with Christians or non-Christians?

XI. Repair with the Gospel
• God’s Word repairs the soul

• Pray for me as I go out

• Forgive me when I don’t represent the congregation well,
forgive me for not always representing Christ well

XII. Specific Diagnosis for Congregation: Reputation with Outsiders

• If the list in 1 Timothy in some way reflects what kind of reputation we want our congregations to have, then why is it important that our congregation have a good reputation with outsiders?

• What ways are we failing at that?

XIII. Repair with the Gospel
• God’s Word repairs the soul

• Pray as we go out

• Forgive us, Lord, when we don’t always represent you well

XIV. Image: Car Into the Shop

Rough Draft
How many of you go to the auto mechanic as soon as the “Check Engine Light” comes on in the car? How many of you ignore the “Check Engine Light”—at least until the car makes some funny sounds? How many of you aren’t sure what a “Check Engine Light” is?

Well, I was tempted to ignore a “Check Engine Light” this week—the kind that’s in today’s reading from 1 Timothy. It’s kind of like a pastoral “Check Engine Light.” In the passage we heard today Paul explains to Timothy and us the qualifications for someone to be a pastor.

The pastor “must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect….He must not be a recent convert….He must also have a good reputation with outsiders.”

That’s quite a list, and it’s definitely a “Check Engine Light” for a pastor, a wake up call, an alarm sounding that says, “Check your life, check who you are, check what you’re doing if you’re going to be a pastor.” It’s a reminder that I need to check to make sure these things are present in my life, a reminder to check the oil, check the tire pressure, test the brakes, and fill the tank with gas. It’s a reminder to live my life in a way that honors God, a life that honors my family, that honors the people around me.

Which is why I almost ignored this “Check Engine Light,” almost ignored this text, because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to find out the answer, I wasn’t sure I wanted to think out loud with you about whether there’s a problem in my life, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted the sermon to be about the need for me to have all of these qualifications.

But at the very least, I realized that it’s important for you to know these qualifications, to know what to expect in me as your pastor, and to know that if something from this list is missing then you are my “Check Engine Light,” you are the ones that can call me on my actions, you are the ones that can hold me accountable.

If I am ever rude to you, you don’t have to accept that. You can tell me—gently—that I’m not being respectable like 1 Timothy calls me to be. If I am ever not teaching God’s Word in a way that helps you, you don’t have to just be quiet about that. You can tell me that I need to change my way of teaching.

So as much as this text from 1 Timothy is a “Check Engine Light” for me as a pastor, you also have a role to play. You are armed with this text so that you can hold your pastor accountable to these words. I need you to play that role. As much as I am here as your pastor to hold you accountable to the faith, to hold you to the faith as you go out and live your life, as much as I am here to call you to follow Jesus, you as the congregation are here to hold me accountable. I can’t just do whatever I want. And I can’t just do whatever you want. We’re held to the Scriptures, held to God’s way of doing things, held to God’s mission for His people—which is telling everyone that they can have salvation in Jesus as a gift because of God’s love.

So you’re welcome to check me on these things, to check to make sure that I’m using my time wisely for pastoral acts, to make sure that I’m acting in a way that reflects Christ in all that I do.

You’re welcome to check me on these things, but when you find me in error, find me not reflecting Christ, please come to me with Gospel, come to me with words of forgiveness and hope and healing in Jesus Christ.

I mean, that’s the key anytime that any of us see the “Check Engine Light” go on, anytime that we need a spiritual check-up, may that check up come not just with the news of what we’ve done wrong, how we’ve sinned, but may it also come with Good News, the news that we can be forgiven and healed and saved from our failures.

When you think about it, every week when we worship we’re seeing that “Check Engine Light,” seeing God’s Word and seeing our sin, every week we confess our sins, but that “Check Engine Light” doesn’t stop there, doesn’t just tell us where we’ve gone off track, it comes with this great hope that we can be forgiven for our sins. It’s Confession and Absolution, it’s admitting our sins and being forgiven, both things happen in this worship, both things happen in this spiritual tune-up garage. Spiritually we are diagnosed and repaired. We get the diagnosis of our sin, and we get repaired—forgiven, renewed, and sent back out on God’s road.

So you’re welcome to check me on any of these things in this list of qualifications of a pastor, you can check me on any of them, but if you’re going to come and tell me that the “Check Engine Light” is on, if you’re going to tell me to pull into the service bay and put the car up on the lift, if you’re going to diagnose some sin in my life, all I ask is that you bring the Good News to the repair station, bring the news of forgiveness and healing, bring the hope in Jesus Christ.

I ask that of you, because that’s what I’m asking of myself. I don’t want to just bring you here to tell you that you’re broke down. I also want to tell you how God repairs you, how He saves you, how He gives you salvation from your sins.

So you can check me on any of those things listed in 1 Timothy. In fact, I’m asking you to keep me accountable, keep me in line, but one that is especially dear to my heart is towards the end of the list when Paul says that a pastor “must also have a good reputation with outsiders.”

This doesn’t mean that a pastor needs to be the popular, cool pastor in town; it’s not that kind of reputation.

What it means is that the community-at-large, whether Christians or non-Christians, must see those Christ-like qualities reflected in the pastor. As a representative of the congregation, as a leader of the congregation, the pastor must reflect the heart of the congregation—to be like Christ.

Now if that’s not a tall order, a very bright, insistent “Check Engine Light,” I don’t know what is.

But that’s especially on my heart. How can I represent Bethel Lutheran Church in the community, represent the congregation well? How can I help the community to see that Bethel Lutheran is a caring, Christian community that is concerned about their spiritual lives? How do I lead this congregation into the community to tell others about the Gospel that we know and love and trust?

Since I’ve gotten to Bethel in August, I’ve been very intentional in trying to meet community leaders like the Mayor of Gurnee, our County Board District representative, business leaders through the Chamber, and I’m looking for other ways to meet people in the community. As I go to each of these meetings, I’m very conscious that I’m representing not just myself, not just Bethel Lutheran, but also Christ. I go as a witness, an ambassador, a representative of Christ. And I need that “Check Engine Light” to go on to take me back to God’s Word, to take me back to check to make sure I’m reflecting Christ in the things I say and do.

And if I ever don’t represent Christ well, and I’m sure I don’t always do it very well at all, then I need His forgiveness, I need His love and mercy to wash over me. And I need your forgiveness. When I don’t represent Bethel Lutheran very well, I need your forgiveness and mercy in Christ.

Of course, maybe saying all of that is a “Check Engine Light” for you, for this congregation. Are you concerned about how the community sees us? Are you concerned about having a good reputation with outsiders? Are you eager for the community to see us reflecting Christ, coming to know His Gospel through us?

Perhaps you know it matters, but you just want to make sure that I’m here to care for the congregation, too. And of course, I am. I am your pastor. I am here to care for you spiritually, to lead you into lives of discipleship, to urge you forward as followers of Jesus. In fact, this week I started the process of visiting every household in the congregation. It’ll take me awhile, it’ll take time, but it’s valuable. I look forward to getting to know all of you through my visits. We’re sending out invitation letters in small batches, so please be patient with me as I work my way through the membership list. But I see visiting the congregation as a crucial step in being your pastor….