“Times of Tumult”
2 Timothy 3:14-15, 4:1-5 (4:2-3) – October 16, 2022
Have you turned on the television or the radio lately? Even looking at social media, political advertisements seem to be everywhere. Are you familiar with anyone who wants to only be with people who tell them exactly what they want to hear? Campaign rhetoric is constantly beating on our ears, and will be until the election in just a little over three weeks from now. And for some people, their itching ears lead them to hang out with cookie-cutter people who agree with them and their viewpoints one hundred percent.
The Apostle Paul knew a good deal about people with itching ears, who only wanted to hear cookie-cutter opinions from cookie-cutter people who agree with them, one hundred percent of the time. I am afraid life does not work that way, and neither does the Word of God.
This whole service today lifts up the Word of God. The books of the Bible – both Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament – are so meaningful to Christianity. Especially Protestant Christianity, which we will continue to celebrate in a wonderful way in just two weeks, with the marking of Reformation Day on October 31st.
Let us listen again to the words of Paul from 2 Timothy 4:3-4. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Isn’t this very similar to what I have just said about turning aside to gather cookie-cutter people around them with cookie-cutter opinions? Saying what their itching ears want to hear?
On a pastors’ message board which I look at from time to time, Pastor Sybil from Kansas posted recently, referring to this very Scripture reading. “My dogs frequently scratch their ears, and our vet recently told us that ear infections can be common in dogs, especially if they swim in ponds (like ours do). One sign of the infection is constant itching. Our ears have been assaulted for months by campaign rhetoric (in the USA), and we have trouble discerning what is truth in what we hear.” 
We not only need to watch what we hear and what we listen to. But because Paul raises up the Bible as such a wonderful resource for us, we need to be careful of what we read, too! These verses from 2 Timothy as well as our verses from the great Psalm 119 give us a lot of insight into God’s Word and how much good it can do for us. God’s Word can aid us to grow in Godly wisdom and understanding, too.
Timothy was trained in understanding the Scriptures from a very early age, from his mother and grandmother’s careful teaching. So, Timothy had great training in and respect for the Word of God. Yet, Paul directs Timothy to continue to study the Scriptures, which make us wise for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, this does not only go for pastors and ministers. Yes, it’s true that pastors have a special responsibility to care for their churches, their flocks. But Paul’s words go much further than that. When you and I read the Bible, we all have the responsibility for passing on the truths we absorb. We all need to share the wisdom and experience we receive from Scripture. We can continue to learn ourselves, to better understand the teachings, doctrines and texts of our faith.
I suspect we all remember receiving letters. Maybe not much anymore, but I have several handwritten letters I received many years ago from two older friends. I still keep them, and take them out and read them from time to time. Both older friends have died, and I can’t just lift the phone and call them to continue the friendship. And, we did not agree all the time. We were not cookie-cutter friends, agreeing one hundred percent of the time. But, I still have those several letters. I can still read them and reminisce about the things we said and did together.
Isn’t the Word of God so similar to those letters of mine? We can pull out our Bible and read those letters to friends from the New Testament where there were disagreements, or the other parts of the Gospels or Hebrew Scriptures. Paul tells us to “embrace the totality of the scriptures, even the parts you wrestle with, the parts that confuse you. Don’t just hold on to that which agrees with your current preference and inclination. Keep reading, be challenged, be stretched, be troubled by this word. And keep asking this question: how does this text help me know Jesus better? How is the Word made flesh revealed in this written word?” 
Just like my dear relationships I had with my two older friends, we can think about our relationship with our Lord Jesus. As you and I read these sections of the Bible, do the words of Scripture help me – help you – to draw closer to Jesus? Are we in a closer relationship with God because of the amount of time we spend with God?
“All of us are charged with sharing our most precious relationship [with Jesus]. All of us are called to reveal that which defines us, the one who shapes us. All of us are called to tell our story in ways that issue invitations and gather up those who have been left out. And the mentor [Paul] tells us that it isn’t always going to work. There aren’t always going to be responses that let us know we’re on the right track.” 
The more you know this Jesus, the more you can preach this gospel, the more you can tell others this good news about our BFF, our best friend forever. Jesus. Isn’t this the best news of all?