“If We Are Faithless, He is Faithful”
Pentecost 21 (Proper 23), October 13, 2013
If We Are Faithless, He Is Faithful
Text: 2 Timothy 2:1–13
Today the key word from the text is being faithful—faithfulness. That is a good thing, but sometimes it is hard to do. I was asked by my eye doctor to be faithful in putting the drops in my eyes following my surgery. I have. Not too hard. When we get married, we promise to be faithful to our spouse. Lots of people have problems with that one, based on what we are seeing out there these days. The degree of difficulty in being faithful can be based on the time commitment involved, yes?
I read a story this week about Rudy and Arlene. A year after they were married, their baby was born. They called her Caroline. Caroline was a beautiful baby, but she was also a baby with spina bifida. The hospital staff placed her in an oxygen tent. The oxygen was turned on . . . too high. By the time the error was discovered, Caroline was blind, deaf, and profoundly challenged.
The doctors said, “Since statistics dictate Caroline will die before the age of six, it would be far better to put her into a state shelter.” Rudy and Arlene decided on a different path. They didn’t think they could take the child God had given them and turn her over to someone else. They thought if Caroline really was going to die before the age of six, they would take care of her, love her, and tell her about Jesus.
Let me tell you a little about what that decision meant. Caroline was never able to feed herself or control many of her bodily functions. She always ate baby food and needed to be fed and burped every four hours. Rudy and Arlene settled into a daily routine. As they could not leave Caroline alone for any length of time, one went to early church, and the other went to late. When other children came into their marriage, the experts once again told the couple to get rid of Caroline because the attention she demanded would hurt the other kids. For a second time the couple ignored the experts. These parents kept up the feedings and the diaper changings.
Eventually, the couple found out Caroline wasn’t deaf. Yes, she could hear, and as the years passed, they discovered she could speak. Her vocabulary was confined to three words: Daaaah, that was Daddy. Maaaaah was Caroline’s second word. Since Mom was usually around, there was really no need for her to use that word very often. And the third word Caroline could say? That word was “Jeeesis.” “Jeeesis” was always said with a smile. That’s because during those feedings, both Rudy and Arlene sang to Caroline about Jesus and his love . . . always about his love.
Caroline’s six-year life span went by quickly. She lived to celebrate that birthday, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth. Nine years of early morning feedings and burpings and diaper changes. During those years, the couple took care of their girl. If they grew discouraged at her lack of progress or tired from their unceasing work, they never said or showed it. They just did what needed doing.
How about you? What would you have done? Would you have watched over her all those years? How long would you commit? For twenty-seven years, Maaaah and Daaaah did just that. They took care of Caroline until “Jeeesis” took her home.
In His taking her home after all those years, after she had been confessing the faith in the simplest possible terms, we see that Jesus Is (and Only Jesus Is) Full-time Faithful.
You know, when I was preparing this sermon, I thought about you. I’m sure most of us would have worked tirelessly if we had a child like this. But we also know how hard it would be and how we could have thoughts, even if they are not expressed out loud, of asking someone else to look after him or her. Think about Rudy and Arlene. They sort of had a baby on their hands for twenty-seven years. We may be faithful, but most are not that faithful. We may be committed, but most are not that committed. We may be stubborn, but who among us is that stubborn?
You see, the point of telling this story isn’t to say, “Be faithful like Rudy and Arlene; if you have a child like Caroline, do like they did.” No. The point is that none of us is perfectly faithful. Even Rudy and Arlene weren’t perfect. We might care for a child as lovingly—maybe even for twenty-seven years—but we’ll be selfish, self-serving, faithless some other way. Sure, we might even be pretty good people, and as pretty good people, we might try to do the right thing. We try, but we don’t always succeed. That’s because we are limited to being pretty good people, not totally good people. And a person who isn’t totally good is a person who is a sinner. Truth be told, none of us sinners is as caring, concerned, considerate, compassionate, or as faithful as we would like to think we are. And that statement about sinners is true for everybody.
Wait. That’s not quite right. History has seen a single, special, solitary exception to that rule. That exception is Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the world’s Savior. This is good news for you. Our text for today reads, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (v 13a). Read through Scripture, and you’ll see just how faithful God is. When His people refused to enter the land He’d promised, God remained faithful and waited for the Holy Spirit to raise up a generation who would obey. When His people preferred to follow other gods, He faithfully brought them back. When they forgot the promise they’d been given, God remained faithful and sent prophets to remind them of their uniqueness. No matter what His people did, God stayed faithful and committed to sending the Savior, who would bring forgiveness, and save them and us.
Then, God faithfully kept His promise to send His Son, our Savior. Instead of a royal welcome, the night Jesus left heaven and came to us, his first bed was an animal’s feeding trough, and the greeting committee was composed of a few shepherds who had been recruited from the fields outside of town. That night was a foreshadowing of what was to come. At the beginning of today’s message, I spoke of a faithful couple who spent twenty-seven years working with their daughter. Theirs was a tough task, but it pales to what Jesus endured as He, for thirty-three years, faithfully did everything necessary to save us. He was full-time faithful.
Have you ever thought, I mean really thought, about what it means to be full-time faithful? If not, let’s take a quick look at the Gospels. Jesus grew up in Nazareth. There He had made friends, had neighbors, knew familiar faces. Yet when He returned and said He was living His life to win their forgiveness, they tried to do Him in.
What did it cost for Jesus to be full-time faithful and save you? Do you have a home? A home is important to some people. Jesus gave up that dream. Do you have a family who loves you? Jesus was taken for “out of his mind” by his own mother and brothers. How about a bank account? Do you have a little nest egg? During his temptations, Jesus was offered the riches of the world. He turned them down and lived in poverty so you might be spiritually rich. Do you have friends? Most of us know someone who’s worthy of the title. Jesus’ friends were different. Let’s see, there was a tax collector of questionable honesty, a Samaritan woman of questionable morality, and a host of the sick, the grieving, the friendless, the lost, and the leprous. Jesus listened to them all, gave Himself to them all—often, as our Gospel shows, without thanks.
Do you have a church? Jesus’ church plotted His murder. His government knew he was innocent yet declared Him guilty. In spite of all this, Jesus remained faithful in doing all that was needed to forgive your sins and save your soul. When He was nailed to a cross, He forgave those who had put Him there. Look in the Gospels. Page after page, chapter after chapter, verse after verse shows us that Jesus remained faithful. No matter what others did, Jesus was always full-time faithful in fulfilling His Father’s promise to save sinners. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (v 13).III.
It is a faithfulness that continues today. Today, having fulfilled the Law, having resisted all temptations and defeated death itself, the living Lord is still fully committed to calling and keeping His people in the faith. He is there in the adoption service we call Baptism; He is present to bless the vows of bride and groom; He sits beside every family that mourns and provides faith as we hear His Word and receive His body and blood. He is here, even now, for you. Faithfully, He hears your prayers, understands the concerns of your heart, and wishes to calm your fears. He is here even now, even as He will be here tomorrow and the next day and the next. He will be here loving you, forgiving you, and saving you.
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel. . . . The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (vv 8, 11–13) Full-time faithful—that’s what our Savior is, and for that He deserves the ongoing thanks and continuing praise from all of His not-as-good-as-they-should-be, but totally saved, people.