“Fanning the Flame of Hope”

Cathy Harris – Plainfield Friends Meeting – March 22, 2020 – 2 Timothy 1:1-7



Hello Friends!  I’d like to welcome you to Plainfield Friends Meeting and our online worship service for Sunday, March 22.  Although we are unable to worship together in person, we can still gather together to pray, read scripture, and worship God in new and fresh ways.

I moved into my first apartment when I was about 22 years old. 

I remember how excited I was as I began gathering furniture to get ready for the big move.

Some furniture was given to me as “hand-me-downs” from family – a kitchen table and chairs and a coffee table and end tables.  I bought a couch and chair for my living room, and I bought a bedroom suit from my Grandma Sims – an antique double bed and dresser with a mirror that had been in her side of the family for over 100 years at that time – stuff that was built to last back then. 

But there was something else I wanted – something I wanted almost as much as any other piece of furniture – and that was a piano.

As most of you know, I really enjoy playing the piano, and I told my Mother that I would like to have a piano and that I was beginning to look for one. 

My grandmother knew I was moving into an apartment and offered to give me her piano. 

I’m not sure if she and Mom conspired about this or not, but I was thrilled.  Grandma told me she didn’t play the piano much anymore and would pass it down to me.  She not only wanted me to have a piano – she wanted me to have HER piano and wanted to pass it down to keep it in the family.

As both of my grandmothers were getting older, they both wanted to pass down things to me and their other grandchildren.  Unbeknownst to each other, they each started crocheting afghans for me and for each of my cousins. 

Grandma Wilson told me to go ahead and use the afghan she made me, but Grandma Sims told me NOT to use the afghan she made, but to put it up and save it.  Both of them wanted me to have something that I could pass down to my own children.

There are a lot of things in life that we pass down to our families – some things are passed down intentionally … some things are passed down unintentionally without planning it or thinking much about it.  Other things are passed down through genetics – like the color of your hair or your eyes – things you can do nothing about.  Some things that are passed down are good … some are not – such as when grudges or hatred are passed down.

We pass down things such as special pieces of furniture, family heirlooms, and photographs.

We teach our children about values and love and our faith – we hand those down to them in hopes that they will succeed – succeed, not in the sense that they will never fail, but in the sense that they will have the tools and skills – the ability to cope – as they face life’s joys, disappointments, and challenges.

I’ve always liked this passage of scripture – where Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to continue his faith in Jesus – the faith that had been passed down from his mother and grandmother – and for me, it is a sweet reminder of how my own mother has played an important role in my faith in God — but what really struck me this week as I read this – was how Paul encouraged Timothy to not be gripped by fear, but to use the gifts God had given to him – to fan them into a flame.

I think Paul was reminding Timothy who he was in Christ – that God had not given Timothy a spirit of fear – God had given him the gifts of power, love, and self-discipline (other translations say “sound mind”). 

Those gifts were deep within Timothy, and Paul was reminding his young friend to put them to use.  God would work in Timothy, through Timothy – to go into the world around him to represent God.    

I’m not sure what all was happening in Timothy’s world at the time – if he was wavering in his faith or facing a particular challenge or difficulty in his life – or – perhaps Paul simply wanted to pass along these words of encouragement to Timothy before he died. 

Paul said: Timothy, God has not given you a spirit of fear – God has given you gifts – gifts of power and love and a sound mind – and God will work in you and through you – fan into flame these gifts that God has given you.

Tom and I bought a wood stove insert several years ago for the farm house. We really enjoyed that on cold winter evenings.  We would get some kindling and get a little fire started, and then blow on it – trying to fan it into a larger flame so we could stoke the fire and put some larger pieces of wood on it to get it really going.  In the morning when we woke up, it looked like the fire had gone completely out, but as we stirred the ashes, we could see the embers – still hot – still alive – and we would add fresh wood, and blow on those embers – fanning them into a flame. 

And just like stoking the embers in a wood stove, God calls us to use our gifts to fan the flames of hope. 

So much has happened the past couple of weeks with the Coronavirus pandemic emerging around us – we are inundated with news updates, we’ve seen people hoarding toilet paper and food – and things around us are in chaos. 

It is scary.  And yet, Paul says that God did not give us a spirit of fear – he has given us gifts of power, love, and a sound mind.  And to fan those gifts into a flame.

So, I’ve been sitting with the question the past couple of days – what am I fanning into a flame?  Am I fanning fear into a flame?  Or am I fanning faith – the gifts God has given me – into a flame?  Panic or careful planning?  Fanning the flames of hope?  What are you fanning into a flame?

With everything that is going on around us, we are confronted with our fear of the unknown – unknowns on many levels.  Fear can wreak havoc in our lives – affecting us physically, spiritually and emotionally – or – fear can serve as a catalyst for God to lead us into some new ways of living and serving God.

Our fear reminds us that we are not in control, but we do serve the God who is in control.

We serve the same God we did last week.  God is with us wherever we are and God is with us – even if things seem chaotic and uncertain.  Another Friends pastor told his congregation this week that – “We don’t know what will happen tomorrow – but if you stop and think about it – we never did!”

Where are you turning and who are you looking to? 


Psalm 121:1-4

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

Our fears are – naturally – going to be drawn to the next article about the Coronavirus – or to the store that does or does not have toilet paper. And while we do need and want to be informed, we don’t want all of our attention to be focused on our fears or for fear to wreak havoc in our lives. 

Where are you looking to in these uncertain times?  The Psalmist encourages us to lift up our eyes to the mountains – to lift our eyes and look to God – who will provide us with help and hope. 

I know it can be discouraging to not be able to get out and to gather together face-to-face for worship on Sunday mornings – for me, that time together is very special – to worship God and to fellowship together and encourage one another. 

But I also know in my heart that our church is more than our Sunday morning worship service – that we are the church – and that our ministries – individually and as a faith community – continue – with Family Promise, with helping the school, continuing to deliver food to the food pantry. 

God has given us – power through his Holy Spirit, God has given us love, and God has given us a sound mind – to not only take care of ourselves and our families – God is working in and through us – you and me – to love those around us – to not simply attend church – but to “BE” the church. 

The world needs to see God’s love in action – maybe especially right now.

Yes – continue to practice “social distancing” to take care of yourselves and your loved ones – but even though we must keep physical distance right now, our hearts are as one and as close as ever.  We have to be physically separated, but that doesn’t keep us from being spiritually connected. 

But when anxiety and fear emerge – what are you fanning into a flame – fear or love?  And – Where are you looking?

The Psalmist says to turn our eyes toward the mountains – to lift our eyes toward God, and to focus on him. 

Paul told Timothy that the Holy Spirit would see him through – that the Holy Spirit would give him the strength he needed – and not only strength he needed, but God’s love.

God is working in you and through you, and when our eyes get focused on the chaos around us, we are reminded to lift our eyes to God, who does not sleep and watches our coming and going.

Let’s fan the flames of hope and love through the power of the Holy Spirit.


Scripture Readings:


NIV – 2 Timothy 1:1-7

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid [a spirit of fear], but gives us power, love and self-discipline [sound mind].


(NIV) – Psalm 121:1-4

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.


New International Version (NIV) – Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®



“Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me” – A prayer by Howard Thurman (Quaker)*

Open unto me – light for my darkness.

Open unto me – courage for my fear.

Open unto me – hope for my despair.

Open unto me – peace for my turmoil.

Open unto me – joy for my sorrow.

Open unto me – strength for my weakness.

Open unto me – wisdom for my confusion.

Open unto me – forgiveness for my sins.

Open unto me – tenderness for my toughness.

Open unto me – love for my hates.

Open unto me – Thy Self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me!



*Used with permission from Friends United Press, Richmond, IN.

Please join me in singing the hymn:  “God Will Take Care of You”


  1. Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
    God will take care of you;
    Beneath His wings of love abide,
    God will take care of you.


God will take care of you,
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.


  1. Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
    God will take care of you;
    When dangers fierce your path assail,
    God will take care of you.


  1. All you may need He will provide,
    God will take care of you;
    Nothing you ask will be denied,
    God will take care of you.


  1. No matter what may be the test,
    God will take care of you;
    Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
    God will take care of you.