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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

1 Timothy 1:12-17
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church<>
September 12, 2004


More than anything else, Rally Day represents a fresh start for our church. In a lot of ways, Rally Day is like springtime in the church. Doesn’t that sound odd. It’s football time in Tennessee, fall colors are coming around, the days are getting shorter. The air, the smell of crackling leaves is the very opposite of springtime. But then, the church is supposed to be a little out of step with the rest of the world, isn’t it. Springtime shows us that the lifeless cold of winter won’t last forever. Springtime shows us that the world can begin again, as surely as the flowers bloom, as surely as the birds return to their nests. Rally Day is like springtime because it shows us that we can start over, too. It shows us that Cheryl can yet again recruit – beg – bribe – a swarm of Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders. Not that she has to beg too hard, or bribe with much more than ice cream. (“Look, Marble Slab.”) Rally Day shows us that Scott & Carla can come up with yet another year’s worth of ways for our choirs to sound even better than the year before. Sunday School classes get learning again. Committee members get committed again. (Wait, that didn’t sound right.) The kids “graduate” and advance to the next level. The Youth Groups are trying to size each other up and see who got cuter over the summer. Rally Day reminds us that we can get back in the groove without falling into a rut. We can start over. We can begin again. We can spring back to life, even in the fall of the year.

<>Which sounds so much like what the Apostle is saying in the letter of First Timothy. You can start over. You can begin again, he says. I have. Through the faith and love that are Christ Jesus, I began again. I did – the worst, most sinful, most blasphemous, most violent person. I began again and through Christ Jesus, you can too. You can begin again. You can start over. You can have springtime in the fall. You can rally when the world is retreating. You can feel young even though you’re old, strong even though you’re weak. You can feel mercy, even though you’ve been merciless, faith even though you’ve been faithless. That IS good news, and it bears repeating. That IS good news and it sounds good every time we hear it. We’re a little different every time we hear it. We’re a little different from year to year – a little better in some ways, a little worse in others. We’re not the same people we were on Rally Day 2003. Things change. We need to hear the good news that doesn’t change. We need to rally our church AND rally ourselves around the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross that shows us that new life and new beginnings are real. Even if we’ve had bad times, sinful times.


Bad times, sinful times, and sinfully bad times. This weekend, the calendar reminds us of the worst times. Three years ago, most of us went to sleep on September 10, 2001 not even considering whether the world would be drastically different by the same time the next night. Three years ago, we went to sleep on September 11 – if we went to sleep that night – wondering what September 12 would bring. “How will the world be different when we wake up, tomorrow?” we wondered in so many words. This September 12 is a continuing Day After. And more than ever before, we’re aware that whoever we are, wherever we are, the world will be different when we wake up tomorrow. Will the world be a better place? Will it be a safer place? Will we see news footage of worse terror? The whole world has become like Florida – knowing that another hurricane is going to strike, and just waiting for the when.

The world needs the words of First Timothy. The world needs to believe that the words of this scripture aren’t exaggerations. Here is a person who has experienced the worst of humanity. Here is a person who has engaged in the worst of human behavior. Here is a person who has been down the dark tunnel with no light at the end. First Timothy is a written by a September 12th kind of person. First Timothy is written by someone who woke up the day after and wondered, “What in the world can go wrong next? What in the world has become of me? What in the world have I done?”

It takes a September 12th person to stop fighting against the mercy of Jesus Christ. It takes a September 12th person to stop taking for granted the overflowing grace and faith and love that are Christ Jesus. Because on your life’s September 10th, you don’t know you need the chance to start over. But on the day after, you do. Instead of hiding from the cross, you start to rally round it. Because you begin to see that there’s a living alternative to being a crucifixion person; you can be a resurrection person. You can live as if there’s no tomorrow – not because you have no hope, but because today is enough. Today is enough, today is long enough, today is good enough – to see that you’re here not because you’re smart enough or lucky enough to avoid the world’s problems, but you’re here because Christ Jesus is merciful. Christ Jesus is merciful enough to bring a spirit of resurrection – so that even the bad times, the sinful times, the sinfully bad times aren’t enough to extinguish hope. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can start again tomorrow; you can start again today. By the hope and faith of Christ Jesus, the world can climb out of that dark rut – and so can you.


<>I would hope that on Rally Day -- September 12, 2004 – our minds and hearts and bodies would rally. I would hope that on Rally Day we all commit ourselves to climbing out of whatever rut saps the spirit out of us. I would hope that the spirit of Rally Day would shine out into the world as one small example of how God’s kingdom is supposed to look. But more than anything else, I would hope that we would see that, yes, we can all start over in the grace and faith and love that are Christ Jesus.

So before you take a bite of barbeque, ask God to forgive the parts of you that need forgiveness. If there’s someone here in this church you’ve hurt, or you’ve got a grudge against, before you leave the table, go to them, and ask their forgiveness. Grab onto this chance to start fresh. Don’t wait until next year. Rally your spirit to promote the goodness of Christ so that we all can live as resurrection people today.

Whatever personal falls you’ve taken, it can be springtime. Again. And yes, that may sound odd in the autumn of the year. But when will there ever be a better time? When will there ever be a better time to feel the mercy and to show the love of Christ Jesus our Lord?

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church – Rally! Rally and celebrate! Rejoice, because you know that this day is brought to you by God. This day is brought to you by God so that you can start over, rejoicing in His goodness, and celebrating his mercy.

And to the King of the Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.