by Peter Levenstrong
“…[F]rom childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
If we have known since childhood the sacred writings that would instruct us for our salvation, then why do we keep going to church?
Why do we study scripture? Why do we pray, show up, and serve God in each other?
As I grow older, it becomes ever clearer to me that the hardest lessons to learn in life are the ones that, on their face, are the simplest. The ones that can take an entire lifetime to learn, are the ones that can be summed up in a simple sentence:
Love your Neighbor.
Love your Self.
Perhaps the clearest example of scripture that hasn’t yet sunk in fully is that of Creation, from which we know that God created us all as images of Themself. That we are all created as God’s children.
When I look out at the world, at the headlines and the discussions that are had at dinner parties, it’s clear that we haven’t fully recognized this simple truth yet. And most of us are quite worried about it.
“But as for you,” Paul writes to Timothy, “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.”
Do not let yourselves be dragged down by what is happening in the world. Do not let yourself get dragged down by what is happening to you. Paul reminds Timothy, in today’s reading from 2 Timothy 3:10-15, “Now you have observed… my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured!”
Paul suffered great things, and yet he continued in the way of love. And he’s asking Timothy to do the same; asking us to do the same. We know the truth to what he’s saying, but when things get hard, how will we respond?
The simplest truths are the hardest lessons to learn. And they’re so hard, they take lifelong practice. Going to church, praying, serving, showing up where we’re called to be, these are all ways of practicing that truth that we’ve known since childhood. These are all ways of strengthening those reflexes, to respond with love to the situations that God puts before us.
Let us remind ourselves once again of these simple truths, and allow them to sink ever deeper into our being.
Peter Levenstrong is Associate Rector at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Having grown up non-religious, he enjoys bringing “a fresh pair of eyes” to explore the Christian tradition, and is particularly interested in the intersection of faith and justice. You can find more of his sermons at https://peterlevenstrong.wordpress.com/