Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"Hold Fast the Anchor"

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Psalm 119: 97-104

      As we read from Paul’s second letter to his friend and younger colleague in ministry by the name

of Timothy, let’s be reminded of Paul’s circumstances.  Many scholars hold that Paul was imprisoned

in Rome at the time this letter was written.  The charge against him:  refusing the demands of the

Roman authorities that he cease and desist from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Paul was

languishing in a dark, dank jail cell, the fledgling church outside found itself under rising persecution. 

Instead of grand cathedrals which send their towers skyward in Rome today, in Paul’s and Timothy’s

time, Christians’ places of worship were the homes of its members, where they usually met with the

shades drawn.

      As the last days of Paul’s life are ebbing away, he writes from his prison cell to Timothy, giving

him some final instructions, and encouraging him in the difficult and often discouraging task of

preaching the word of God in an unreceptive and hostile environment.  Please turn with me now to

the 2nd letter of Timothy, beginning at the 14th verse of the 3rd chapter.

          (Read 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5)

      When I think back to my childhood, as far as I can remember, I was in Sunday School and church

every week.  I can recall learning all those great old Bible stories:  Moses in the bulrushes; Delilah

chopping off Sampson’s hair; David taking Goliath out with a slingshot; Jesus healing a blind man

with the funny name Bartimaeus. 

      I can even recollect the names and see in my mind’s eye the faces of Mrs. Barber, Mrs. Isenberg,

and Mr. Wirth who taught us those stories.  It seemed that throughout my early formative years,

church was just a natural thing.  It was like an anchor of sorts in my young life – the Bible unquestioned

as God’s word; the teachers, people I inherently trusted to tell me the truth; the minister, somebody I looked up to;

and not just because he stood at that big desk which seemed to rise fifty feet in the air. 

     I suppose it was around 7th or 8th grade, after I had gone through the grueling process of confirmation class,

that something changed.  Sunday School and church began to lose its appeal.  It

became increasingly difficult for my parents to drag me out of bed on Sunday mornings until eventually, they gave up. 

Sound familiar to anyone? Although many of my school mates were church-goers, or at least had some association with church,

I began to feel embarrassed talking about Sunday School and church because others of the kids might call me square.

      At about this same time I was tuning church out, I began tuning some new things in:  the music of

Gracie Slick and Jefferson Airplane; the Grateful Dead with Jerry Garcia; Mick Jagger and the Rolling

Stones; The Doors featuring Jim Morrison.  The messages they preached in their songs seemed more

with it than those musty hymns we sang in church.  And to make this new stuff more appealing, all

the other kids were listening to and talking about the Airplane; the Dead; the Stones, and the Doors.

For a thirteen or fourteen year-old, this just seemed the way to go.

      For the most part, I put down my Bible and picked up Mad Magazine because it was cool to read

Mad, and it was the reading of choice among the junior high boys.  The girls were reading Tiger

Beat.  Instead of youth group, it became a more appealing proposition to go to the dances at the

YMCA.  There, I could listen to the slow dance tunes of Smoky Robinson and the Miracles and The

Delfonics; wishing I had the nerve to ask Debbie Hughes [who was half a foot taller than me] to

dance.  I could hang out with the 9th graders who smoked Lucky Strikes and did other seemingly cool

stuff.

 

      I had entered a new era in my young life.  To parents, it’s called “adolescent rebellion.”  To me, it

was merely coming of age.  I was tired of that same old teaching I’d been subjected to for years at

Mt. Calvary Church.  I was itching to set sail; to move on to the new; the call of the wild; the novel;

the untried and unexplored.  The Amish have named this exploration “rumspringa,” when early

adolescents choose either baptism, or to cut loose from the church.  Most Amish youth remain.  I

wish I could say that for Christian youth.  My rumspringa was a search for that which could satisfy

my adolescent yearnings.  Driving me most was that I wanted to be seen as popular and hip.

      This flight of fancy continued through my high school and most of my college years; until, after

almost getting myself kicked out of Geneva College, I realized I had cut loose from the most important anchor in my life.

  A longing recollection of all that teaching about right and wrong at my grandmother’s knee, and all those Sunday School

lessons I heard from Mrs. Barber, Mrs. Isenberg and Mr. Wirth seemed to magnify the emptiness and disorientation I was feeling.

  I found myself spiritually lost, and yearning to be found again.  Being cool was not so cool anymore, especially

as I observed my friends -- two of whom had been expelled; one who got his girlfriend pregnant, and a few others who

were usually too drunk or high to know what was going on.  They were as lost as I was.

      Paul wrote to the young Timothy:  “For the time is coming when people will not put up with

sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will  accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their

own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”  As I’ve

studied this passage, I’ve come to see that there are two levels of meaning expressed here. Primarily

Paul is warning Timothy -- whose job it was to proclaim the gospel -- that he would be delivering his

message to a culture which would not be very welcoming or receptive.  Even those who had

professed themselves to be followers of Jesus might loose themselves from anchor, and be washed

away by more attractive propositions; by philosophies and worldviews which would clash with the

essence of the gospel truth.  They would itch for some new truth; some fresh revelation; something

which would be more in step with the times; more in line with the popular and political climate. 

They would seek out for themselves those teachers, those voices, those forces in society which

would scratch their itch in a manner of speaking.

      Doesn’t this sound eerily contemporary?  In this day and age, everyone is itching for the novel;

the unexplored; some new truth which might be better than the truth which has always been held….

well…sacred.  Tradition and convention have become offensive and obscene for many in our culture.

Bedrock institutions, like the mainline church for example, are now perceived as outdated and irrelevant. 

The cry for decades has been, “We need to cut loose and move on.”  But who knows

where to?  We feel this need to cut loose from those anchors which we believe have held us back

from setting sail into some brave new day.  We are pressured to turn our rudders toward the culturally popular

and the politically-expedient.  It’s almost like a massive societal rumspringa.

      Judging from the present condition of the church, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Christians

have defected, or are just on the edge; succumbing to this pressure, this temptation, to cut loose

from the anchor of Christian faith in order to set sail into a sea where everyone else’s vessel is perceived to be. 

The sound teaching of the Christian tradition for some has become musty and stale.

So we seek out teachers, ideologies, cultural and political voices which declare what society will

assent to; which preach a gospel which is less concerned with truth, and more concerned with being

user-friendly, whether true or false. 

 

      Paul goes on to say to Timothy:  “As for you, always be sober.” The Greek word here for “sober”

is nhjw [nepho], better translated “to be free from intoxicating influences.”  The RSV translates the

word “steady.”  In effect, Paul is saying “Timothy, stand firm in what you have learned and believed

from the days of your childhood. Don’t be carried away by that which beckons and allures, like an

intoxicating brew.  Don’t cut loose your anchor.”  Paul goes on:  “endure suffering.” Stand firm in

the face of mockery and derision for holding your beliefs.  Instead, “do the work of an evangelist.” 

Zealously proclaim the gospel and its truth.  “Carry out your ministry fully.”  Paul says on one level,

and not just to ordained ministers, but to all of us who are ministers of Christ through our words,

deeds and example, always be nepho; steadyDon’t cut loose the anchor; that which you have

believed, even from the days of your youth.  Be prepared to proclaim the truth in every season. 

“Convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience….” 

      On another level, Paul’s words speak to the seasons of our personal lives when we become those

people who are tempted to no longer endure sound teaching.  Like the rebellious adolescent, we all

get itching ears.  We desire to tune into new things which are more in step.  We may find ourselves

quick to cut away from that which has always been truth, and to accumulate for ourselves teachers

to suit our own likings.  When we are so tempted, we must remind ourselves of that anchor; for

many of us, grounded in our childhood; for others of us, grounded in later understanding and

acceptance of Jesus Christ; an anchor from which we may cut loose in a season of discontent.  And

we all have them.  Thankfully, it is an anchor which always remains firm for reattachment when we

find we’ve become lost, bobbing in a sea of confusion and spiritual discontent.

      I’d like to wrap this message with the words which opened our lesson this morning.  These words

are not just to Timothy, or to us ordained clergy, but to each and every one of us who are Christian

disciples:  “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from

whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able

to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  In summary, hold fast the anchor.

Amen.

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102