Summary: The Lord went to a lot of effort to write us a love letter. We call it the Bible. We would be amiss not to read it.
Letters are interesting and amazing things. They have been the main form of communication between two people or groups of people who are some distance apart, longer than any other form of communication.
With the invention of the telephone, there was some threat that written correspondence may pass by the wayside. But it didn’t.
Ironically, with the invention of the computer - which has made it possible to do away with so many other outdated things - letter writing has returned - in a new way and with its own language and format - in the form of email.
Letters have a great deal of power. Sometimes, we are unaware of the power they have. The power within them is controlled only by the depth of their content, and the courage of the writer to record his or her true thoughts and feelings.
And often, letters are a channel for expression of a person’s true nature that cannot be shared or expressed in any other way or to the same extent.
Perhaps sometime in your past, you have heard someone say, or heard it suggested, “I had to write down what I wanted to say. It helped me to organize my thoughts.”
Letters are great storytellers, or great catalysts for stories. I seem to recall a movie theme created around a bag of letters that became lost for fifty years. When found and finally delivered, not ONLY was the effect of the absence of the letter noted, but the effect of the letter delivered fifty years later was also life altering.
The book and movie “The Bridges of Madison County” has rather questionable content. Nevertheless, there was great power in the letters the female main character wrote and left for her children. Based on a true story, following her death, her son and daughter discovered their mother had had an affair when they were in their teens. The story contained in those letters she wrote was so powerful, the book was written about the events, and the movie was made.
And in the movie, “The Postman,” letters bring a broken and crippled nation back together. The postman, the bringer of the letters, the messenger, is heralded and revered as his presence signifies togetherness in the midst of isolation and loneliness.
Paul, one of the great apostles of Jesus, wrote letters. He wrote the one from which we have read tonight, to his young friend and protege, Timothy. The content of these letters is to teach Timothy and other church leaders and pastors how to be faithful disciples and to lead others to faithful discipleship.
Paul writes this letter to Timothy, to make sure Timothy and the Christians under his care and supervision pursue a spiritual journey, seeking a closer relationship with God.
Paul includes direction as to how people should live out their lives and conduct themselves as faithful followers of God. There is instruction provided in habits of Christian households and how people should behave.
This letter that Paul writes talks about family. It talks about home life and what life within the Christian family home should be like. And then it projects those family images on to the church. Paul talks about Christians as being the “family of God.”
You see, in Hebrew culture, which was very much a part of the life of those early Christians, the home is where the faith began. Everything related to home life had a ritualistic, liturgical, worshipful experience about it. They literally lived out the relationship to God in mundane daily activities. And then, they took that experience with them when they went to worship at the temple.
This is exactly opposite of how we go about worshipping today. We tend to cram all of our worship experience into the single hour we gather here together each week, and we are even guilty at times of leaving it here when we leave this place at the end of the hour. Sometimes we forget to live out our Christian faith the rest of the week. It is very difficult for our faith to permeate every aspect of our lives, as the Jews and early Christians lived.
But that early Christianity was a home religion, a home based faith. Paul writes to Timothy, to tell him that the people Timothy serves should come together as a larger family - as brothers and sisters in Christ - in the same way they should be conducting themselves in their smaller family units.
Now, the reason Paul wrote this letter, is because it was intended as a substitute for Paul’s physical presence. He hoped to make it to see Timothy soon. But if Paul is delayed for some reason, then Timothy has instruction, advice, and guidance from a faithful and trusted Christian leader, Paul.
It just so happens, because Paul’s letters have been saved generation after generation, others also have the benefit of Paul’s advice and guidance. We too, receive instruction, in the absence of the apostle.