Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter - Rogate - 1 Timothy 2:1-6


                                                                                    Easter 6

                                                                                    1 Timothy 2:1-6



            A mediator is a person who works to bring two different people or groups together where there is a disagreement or a dispute.  Now for a mediator to be able to work, both sides have to be willing to talk and listen to each other.  Where there is sharp disagreement, the mediator is trying to work out some kind of compromise that both sides can accept. The mediator is trying to bring the two sides together.  If the willingness to talk and compromise is not present, a mediator will not be able to do anything.

            Recently, I have seen first hand what this looks like.  As many of you know, the accusation has been made that the Marion girls’ track coach made a racial remark against two black athletes. Spread and stirred up on social media, it has resulted in a bomb threat to Marion High School, and a series of protests.  The single unalterable demand of the protestors is that this teacher must be fired.

            Now these have not been large gatherings.  According to reports, the first protest had around thirty people.  The ones I have seen since then amount to maybe a dozen people.  But the common feature that unites them has been the intense anger and the singularity of purpose. They are not there to discuss the issue in any way.  They are there to get the teacher fired.

            And so sadly, there is no openness to any kind of mediator or mediation.  There certainly are things that need to be discussed.  As the school board president has reported, the version of the teacher’s comment being spread on social media does not match other accounts of what was said.  He has said the accusation that the coach kicked the student off the track team is not true.  And the track coach in question has had great relationships with black athletes and has been very supportive of them. 

            Perhaps a comment was made that had no racial intent whatsoever, but was later understood in a completely different way than it was intended.  Perhaps the teacher needs to apologize and explain this fact, or has already done so.  Perhaps the teacher has learned that in our current social climate, sadly, extreme care must be exercised in what is said. Perhaps the positive witness of black athletes about the teacher’s character should be taken into account.  Perhaps social media is not the way to address an issue like this. Perhaps anger clouds judgment.  Perhaps instead there is the need to admit where misunderstanding has occurred, to forgive and move on rather than holding on to anger which damages individuals and communities. Yet if one is unwilling to discuss these things a mediator can do nothing and there can be no mediation.

            In the epistle lesson this morning, the apostle Paul speaks about how Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man.  We learn that God has acted in Christ to bring us to himself.  He has done this in spite of the fact that as sinners we were the ones who did not want a mediator. We were the ones who didn’t want to listen.

            Paul begins our text by saying, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Notice how Paul begins by telling Timothy that Christians are to pray on behalf of all people.  This is not prayer that is limited to Christians and the Church.  He goes on to add government leaders, but his instruction is not limited to them.  Instead, Christian prayer is to be spoken on behalf of everyone. Remember, Jesus said that we are even to pray for those who persecute us.

            This is something that we do every Sunday in the Prayer of the Church. It is something that we do in an even more extensive way each Wednesday at Learn by Heart as we use the Litany prayer form that includes prayers for our nation, cities and communities; for those who labor in difficult and dangerous jobs; for those who travel; for the hungry and homeless; for the widowed and orphaned; for those in prison; and for the sick and dying. This is something that we are to do in our own individual prayer life, for this prayer is part of our ministry as the priesthood of the baptized.

            Paul then explains why our prayer is to be made on behalf of all people. It is because God himself cares about all people.  In fact, he wants all people to be saved.  The apostle says, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

            Now there are many things that we would like to see happen, but there is nothing we can do to help bring it about.  Contrary to popular opinion, wearing your special shirt, or sitting in your special place to watch a game does not actually help your team to win. But this is where God is different.  He can do something about this, and the Gospel tells us that he has.

            Paul writes, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”  The apostle begins by saying that there is one God.  This is a foundational truth of the Scriptures. There is only one true God.

            Then Paul adds a second statement: that there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He says that Jesus Christ is the mediator.  This immediately raises the issue of why a mediator is needed. You don’t need a mediator when everything is just fine.  You need a mediator when there is a problem – when there is conflict.

            The problem, of course, is not God. God is the Creator who has given us the gift of life.  He is righteous, holy, just and fair.  But that is also where the problem is to be found. Because while God is that way, and he created us in his image to be that way, since the Fall of Adam we are not.  Instead, we are sinners.  Paul told the Romans, “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

            Sin evokes the wrath of the holy God.  It brings God’s wrath and judgment against those who sin. That is certainly not the way our world wants to talk about God, as it seeks to create a god in its own image.  But God’s Word is absolutely clear about this.  Paul also told the Romans about how God deals with sin when he wrote, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works.”

            Left to ourselves, we would get what we deserve.  And that would be very, very, bad … forever.  But God is also gracious, merciful, and loving.  In fact it is a repeating refrain in the Old Testament – a kind of “creedal statement” – that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Because he is, Paul tells of that God did something incredible.  He sent his Son to be the mediator between God and man.

            In our text, the apostle says that the man, Christ Jesus, is the mediator.  But Paul is very clear in this letter that Jesus is not just a man.  In chapter three he writes, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh….”  The One who was manifested in the flesh is the Son of God.  Paul told the Galatians: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

            Jesus Christ came to be the mediator between God and man, because he is true God and true man at the same time.  Paul says in the first chapter of this letter, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.”  In our text we learn how he did this. He did this as he “gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”  The incarnate Son of God gave himself up to the suffering and death of the cross in order to free us from sin. He received God’s judgment in death that our sin deserved.

            God did this for us in spite of the fact that as sinners we wanted nothing to do with him.  We wanted to be our own god. We had no desire for a mediator.  We did not want to be reconciled. Paul says of himself in chapter one, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” This doesn’t just describe Paul in his earlier life as a persecutor of the Church.  It describes every fallen person, who is conceived and born spiritually, blind, dead, and an enemy of God.

            Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and man, gave himself as the ransom for our sins.  But then on Easter, God raised Jesus from the dead.  He vindicated Jesus as the One who has reconciled us to God on the cross. And through Jesus’ resurrection God defeated the wages of sin.  He defeated death.

            This is the victory that Christ the mediator has won.  But it is not the end of what God the Father has done.  Thursday this week, we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord.  God exalted Christ when he ascended into heaven.  Paul says in this letter, “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

            It is as the ascended and exalted Lord that Jesus Christ has poured forth the Holy Spirit.  Now, through the work of the Spirit, Christ has called us to faith.  We were people who didn’t want a mediator.  We didn’t want to listen to God. 

            So God spoke the Gospel to us.  In the verse just after our text Paul says, “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”  Through his Word, Christ’s Spirit has called us to faith. He has given us rebirth in Holy Baptism.  Paul told Titus, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

            Christ’s Spirit has given us new birth, so that now in we believe and trust in Jesus Christ our mediator.  We know God as our Father and that Jesus has reconciled us to him.  We recognize our sin and confess it. We find the assurance of our forgiveness in Christ through faith and baptism.

            And because we have been forgiven in Christ, we now share this forgiveness with others.  The Holy Spirit who created faith in Christ – who gave us new birth – leads and enables us to forgive others and to seek peace. As Paul told the Ephesians, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”


















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