2 Timothy 1:1-14
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1:3 I am grateful to God--whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did--when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.
1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
1:6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
1:8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,
1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher,
1:12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
1:13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1:14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
17:6 The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?
17:8 Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?
17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?
17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Today is a grand day! It is Sunday and another opportunity to gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I don’t know about you, but I truly enjoy worship! There is an energy to the church—a buzz, a joy, a hope that swirls in the air. It makes me want to get up in the morning and to join with brothers and sisters in celebrating Jesus!
But, today, I’ve noticed that there is even more excitement in the air than usual, for today we are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Pastor John Kroschel’s ordination at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. (Thanks for keeping the secret!)
It is always grand to celebrate such occasions because it is an opportunity to exalt God for the wonderful work and plan that he has for each of our lives!
In today’s first reading, the Apostle Paul writes to his beloved spiritual son, Timothy saying, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands…”
Twenty-years ago in August, Pastor John took his ordination vows. On that day he promised to:
- assume the office of pastor believing it was God’s call on his life
- to preach and teach the gospel, creeds, and Lutheran confessions
- to be diligent in the study of the Holy Scriptures and faithful in the use of the means of grace
- to pray for God’s people and nourish them by the word and sacraments
- to lead by his own example in faithful service and holy living
- and to give faithful witness to the world that God’s love may be known!
WOW! Those are some serious promises!
And yet here we are today, celebrating Jesus and honoring Pastor John because for the last twenty years, these vows have been faithfully kept to the best of a human being’s ability—with the help of God.
We all know that for this to have been possible, Pastor John had to be holding fast to the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus, as he relied on the power of God from call to call.
I love the simple prayer recorded in Luke Chapter 17 where the apostles ask Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith! This prayer is especially meaningful on this day as we share Pastor John’s testimony regarding the many ways in which God has increased his faith during his pastoral ministry.
When I was a child, I was taught in my home church that it is important to share our good news stories with others, so that they will be blessed and so that their faith will be increased! On this day, as we share Pastor John’s story of faith in Jesus, I know that our faith will be increased as well.
Therefore, every time I say, LORD, you say, "Increase our faith!"
Pastor John began his pastoral work as an intern at Bethany Lutheran Church right by Augsburg College. It was in this inner city mission that he worked with the poor, seniors, and even a burgeoning Ethiopian community. His friend Shawn recalls the day of John’s ordination by saying, “The service was meaningful but what sticks out in my mind is our time sitting on the front steps of Bethany after the service was over. We had shared eight-years of education at Gustavus and Luther together and you were preparing to leave for New York. Although there was this big day unfolding, you seemed content to sit and chat. That is so typical of you…”
After that chat, Pastor John moved to East Aurora, New York where he served a two point parish.
I have heard it said that the staff in the Bishop’s office in New York had a bet regarding how long Pastor John would stay in this location. The longest guess was three years; Pastor John actually served thirteen years in his first call! This is highly unusual and basically ensured that no one won the bet!
One of his parishioners, Rev. Jack T. Printzenhoff, wrote of these years, “The liturgies he selected for us were varied and lively, yet fundamentally Lutheran. His sermons were spiritual, insightful, grace-filled and yet called us to accountability to God’s Word…Pastor John had a tender way of reaching out to people and touching them with God’s love and assurance making them feel safe and secure.”LORD, "Increase our faith!"
One of the interns that served in East Aurora with Pastor John named Amy Walter-Peterson, wrote, “I quickly grew to respect John's practical approach to theology and his desire to articulate faith in words and actions that mean something in everyday life…”
When Pastor John left East Aurora, he headed to the Bishop’s office where he served as assistant to the Bishop in Upstate New York Synod and where he was responsible for stewardship, candidacy, and 54 different congregations!LORD, "Increase our faith!"
During this time he earned his Doctorate at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, a highly multi-ethnic university where he became even more committed to social justice ministry. How could he not? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who was also an alumnus of this illustrious place once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”
After about five years of working as Assistant to the Bishop Pastor John and his family took a leap of faith down a flight of stairs, when they packed up their things and went on a little trip (OK, it wasn’t so little since they moved to Egypt). It was here that Pastor John taught English and preaching to students at Leo’s Seminary.LORD, "Increase our faith!"
I once read that there are some very important lessons to be learned when living abroad such as gaining greater perspective on your life, learning what is truly important to you, helping to refocus your life on what truly matters, and helping you to achieve your life’s goals!
I believe that these lessons were learned by Pastor John in Egypt, which is what ultimately allowed him to return to the United States with his family where he accepted a call to a wonderful church and church family in St. Cloud, called Atonement.
LORD, you say, "Increase our faith!"
I know that you share my joy in watching Pastor John’s ministry here amongst us!
- Whether he is packing meals for Kids Against Hunger
- Baptizing babies
- Hanging out with kids at the M & M Fair
- traveling with youth to New Orleans where apparently the food is a little hotter than he is accustomed...
- Pastor John brings joy, laugher, and fun to all that he does!
LORD, "Increase our faith!"
I am convinced that Pastor John has a sincere love for God, and faith in Jesus Christ that is alive inside of him because he realizes what a treasure the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly is!LORD, "Increase our faith!"
It is this sincere faith that causes him to put God first in his life. It is this sincere faith that causes him to love and prioritize his beloved wife and children above all earthly things.LORD, "Increase our faith!"
It is this sincere faith that compels him to proclaim the good news here at Atonement as he preaches, teaches, plans worship, visits the sick, and helps to administer the needs of our parish with the help of program staff and the good people here at Atonement Church.LORD, "Increase our faith!"
It is this sincere faith that caused him to accept the first African American pastor in our synod’s history as his partner in crime (I meant ministry…). LOL!LORD, "Increase our faith!"
And it is this sincere faith that compels Pastor John to be the most grace-filled individual that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting…LORD, "Increase our faith!"
Shawn Mai says of Pastor John, “There is an integrity to John. He is the same today as the day I met him almost 30 years ago at Gustavus. I mean this in the best sense; he is grounded…When John took me on a tour through his house in St. Cloud recently, we walked into an upstairs bedroom that he had been working on for several months. He was patiently and steadily engaged in fine craftsmanship to create a solid and long lasting product. His life in the Gospel is the same way…A lot of love, patience, and loyalty, go into whatever he decides to invest in…
These words ring true on this day. And I am so glad that Pastor John has chosen to invest his life in proclaiming, “Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ shall come again!”
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.