October 7, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“A large house contains not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some indeed are for honorable use, but others are for common use. So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2.20,21)
Maybe some of you had the same image cross your mind as I did when I read the passage above: the last knight speaking to Indiana Jones “You have chosen wisely.” In the search for “The Holy Grail,” what are we looking for? The message was clear that the act of humility should be evident in our choices for living as followers of Christ, believers in God and members of one body of faith in Jesus with Him as the head of that body. In the midst of all the things Paul urged Timothy to consider (avoid quarreling, handle the word of truth accurately, avoid irreverent chatter, turn away from iniquity, flee from youthful passions and reject foolish and ignorant speculation), presenting one’s self cleansed of what is unfit stands out as the focal point. Paul frames it with a household inventory of vessels ranging from gold to wood. He accepts that some are intended for honorable use and others for common use. We have such “vessels” in our own home from fine crystal to refillable plastic cups from our favorite fast food establishment. On some shelves, the variety of cups begins to show the singular importance of their purpose: to be filled up with something to drink down. In the words of Jesus, “We are poured out,” meaning “an anointing.” Regardless of the type of vessel, the purpose is essentially the same. The contents may differ and that, for the sake of the believer, is what becomes the essential understanding.
What kind of glass do you think of yourself being? Are you a champagne glass, a brandy snifter, a coffee cup, a water glass, a non-spillable tippy cup, a McDonald’s Happy Meal cup with a lid and a straw? We may laugh at our own inventory but the truth remains the same- “are we presenting our lives by the vessel or by the content?” When Paul speaks of “fit and unfit” there is an accepted understanding of addressing one’s “spiritual life.” Do we see the content of our lives changing from venue to venue and from person to person? Is the matter of time, manner and place critical in choosing which vessel is best to present what is of greatest value? Do we think it truly matters what type of glass or cup we are to God or is it something else which makes the difference? Of course, I cannot press an illustration too far. The examples of the world are far from perfect to capture the truth which is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true Word of God. But, the call to investigate one’s attitude toward how we may best, and in some cases “only,” present the gospel to the world is critical.
Paul reminds Timothy that what is important is ensuring that whatever vessel we might be, it must be cleansed of what is unfit. It could be a golden and bejeweled goblet or chalice that is fit for using to share “a taste of new wine.” It might be a wooden one as Indiana Jones chose from all those in the room guarded by the Knight of the Holy Grail. It may be that jelly jar passed down through several generations of our family or picked up from someone’s garage sale with which we serve others something to drink. But, the danger would be limiting the ability of the “glass” to hold something of great value. Even that is contextual, right? To a person who is parched as if they had spent days in the desert, a jelly jar filled with cool water is better than gold and honey from a honeycomb. You have to hear this in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well as Jesus declares, “If you knew who was offering you this water, you would ask Him for it and He would give you living water.” (John 4.10) I have to think that the better interpretation of those words from Jesus might be “You would ask Him for water that springs up to eternal life and gives you the power to truly be alive.” At that, the woman was standing by a well with buckets and flasks of others for whom she worked to be filled with water. By the side of the well would have been a bucket to be lowered in it with a ladle one could use to dip out a little for themselves to drink. Someone might put their hand into the drawn out bucket and sate their thirst. Yet, I would imagine that if their hand was dirty, they might wash it first with that same water. What is the purpose of the water then? Isn’t the purpose of the water to cleanse, to be taken in to relieve one of the thought of dying from thirst, to fill one up to overflowing, to be restored to a sense of being found and not hopelessly lost? Now it matters less what the vessel is and more of the content.
So, perhaps, Timothy had become dried out in his ministry to others who seemed to come parched and thirsting for more and more than he was able to give. He was a well that could run dry, too? Had he lost sight of the truth that what he was offering to others was living water drawn from a fountain that could never run dry? Oh, yes, remember there in that cave filled with chalices of all shapes, sizes, forms and materials there was only one fount. The representative of the Enemy took a bejeweled chalice of great price and dipped it into the fount of water. He drank fully from the cup but drank death and damnation to himself. Indy took the common and smallish wooden chalice. He drank from the same fount and found what he was truly looking for- healing for his wounded and near death dad. Same water, different result. Different chalices, different results. Was it the chalice itself that made the difference or the intent of the content? Remember the urging of Paul to Timothy to “fan the flames“? He had the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God already because Paul had laid hands on him and conferred on him the truth of Jesus the Christ. But, Timothy may have started to compartmentalize the presence, the purpose and the work of the Holy Spirit in him and thus through him. Maybe he started to believe that this “iiving fire water” was only for a certain time and a specific place. It may fall into that similar category used by the Church theologically between the consubstantiation and transubstantiation of the elements by which believers used and offered holy communion. Does the blessing of these elements actually turn bread into the flesh of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ? Does such a blessing invoke the presence of the Spirit to join with the believer as they remember and partake of the bread and wine representative of Christ’ body and blood? Does it truly matter if it is soda from a dixie cup with a saltine cracker or sacramental wine from a consecrated chalice in which an unleavened wafer is dipped? The caveats may be many in this regard. But, what of the intent of the content by which this mystic, sweet communion is shared? Isn’t it really about the purpose of celebrating communion? Are we doing it in the right spirit and for the right reason? Or are we going through the motions and demonstrating more “show” than “go”?
With that question in mind, I would reflect upon another illustration Jesus used to speak about our response to the opportunity to share in the “word of God.” In Matthew 22, Jesus speaks of a king who was holding a celebration party for his son and new daughter-in-law. It was a wedding feast. Invitations were sent out to a great number of people who held important places within the community and in the eyes of the king. Some accepted and some had “better things to do.” But, the arrangements had already been made, so the king remained committed to having a large party for the wedding celebration. He then invited others to the party from all walks of life. The room began to fill up and the party was truly alive with celebration and gratitude. However, one person showed up just as they were- dirty, smelly, unkempt. We would think that it wouldn’t matter to the king at this point. If we thought that, we would have been wrong. It mattered a great deal. This wasn’t a charity handout, food pantry distribution point. This wasn’t just some party to crash and use for one’s own satisfaction. This was a wedding party for the prince and his bride. As such, one should make every effort to be “presentable.” They should not act as if being “unfit” was good enough to honor the king and his family in such an honorable event, time and place. Their presence had the impact of reducing the special into commonplace. The invitation was not seen as honorable nor worthy of being honored. The invitation was seen as merely an opportunity to satisfy one’s own needs and to change the “rules of engagement” to suit their own purpose as if they were “the king.” Some changes were expected and required. It wasn’t about putting on “airs.” It was about being taken up by the “air” of what was right, good and true. It was about making one’s self fit for the service attended and the service intended.
The same must be said and considered about our own confession of faith and our profession of being followers of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only Son who is King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. When we walk in His presence and when we walk as His presence and when we walk in the presence of others regardless of who they are, we dare not forget who we are because of our declaration of faith that Jesus is the Christ, our personal Lord and Savior. We have been made worthy regardless of the exterior of our lives- the clothes we wear, the position we hold, the food we eat, the neighborhood we live in, the school we attended, etc. We are made worthy as consecrated vessels in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells. We have been fitted not simply for living in this world. We have been fitted to bear witness to the love and saving grace of God. That is, mighty ones of God, the true taste of new wine poured into the vessels of our lives fit for a king and evidence of “choosing wisely.”
Father God, you have made us worthy through Jesus the Christ with the anointing of His blood for our salvation and of His Spirit for our sanctification. We commit to You our pledge and our lives to live worthy of the calling by which we are now called. We stand before You and the world as vessels of the way, the truth and the life by which all people may come into Your presence with thanksgiving, honor and praise in Jesus’ name. AMEN.