Archive for category Stewardship
When Dreams Become Nightmares
(from Enough: Stewardship, Adam Hamilton)
Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10b NIV)
The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
“For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:26)
The American Dream
What characterizes the greatest hopes, desires, and dreams of most Americans?
For most people, the American dream has to do with the desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to pursue more than what we have, to gain more than what we have, and to meet success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we possess.
The pursuit of immediate material pleasure
The love of money and the things money can buy is s primary or secondary motive behind most of what we American’s do. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness – and we want it now.
The American Nightmare
The American Dream has become an American Nightmare owing to two distinct yet related “illnesses” that affect us both socially and spiritually.
“Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff – as well as the effect that this ‘need’ has on us. It is the desire to acquire, and most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree.
- The average American home went from 1,660 sq ft in 1973 to 2,700 in 2016.
- Today there are estimated to be 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in America.
“Credititis” is an illness that is brought on by the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification. Our economy today is built on the concept of credit-itis. Unfortunately, it has exploited out lack of self= discipline and has allowed us to feed our affluenza, wreaking havoc with our personal and national finances.
- Average credit card debt in American in 1990 was around $3000. Today its nearly $17,000.
- The average sale is around 125 percent higher if we use a credit care than if we pay cash because it doesn’t feel real when we use plastic instead of cash.
Credit-itis is not limited to purchases made with credit cards; it extends to car loans, mortgages, and other loans. The life of the average car loan and home mortgage continues to increase while the average American’ savings rate continues to decline.
The Deeper Problem Within
There is a spiritual issue behind both affluenza and credit-itis.
Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted. We were meant to desire God, but have turned that desire toward possessions. We were meant to find out security in God, but find it in amassing wealth. We were meant to love people, but instead, we compete with them. We were meant to enjoy the simple pleasure of life, but we busy ourselves still pursuing money and things. We were meant to be generous and to share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves. All of us have an inclination toward this sin.
The devil plays upon this inclination toward sin
Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In order to destroy us, the devil doesn’t need to tempt us to do drugs or to steal or to have an extramarital affair. All he needs to do is convince us to keep pursuing the American Dream – to keep up with the Jones’s, borrow against our futures, enjoy more than we can afford, and indulge ourselves. By doing that, the devil will rob us of joy, makes us slaves, and keep us from doing God’s will.
- MT 4:8-10
- LK 8:14
- MK 8:36
- 1Tm 6:10
The Bible’s Solution
We need a heart change.
Although we received a changed heart when we accept Christ, in a sense we need a heart change every morning Each morning we should get down on our knees and say, “ Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me to be single-minded in my focus and pursuit of you.” As we say this prayer and act on it, God comes and cleanses us from the inside out, purifying and changing our hearts.
We must all Christ to work in us.
Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling – a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising r4estraint. With the help of God, we can:
simplify our lives and silence the voice constantly telling us we need more.
- Live counterculture-ly, by living below, not above, our means
- build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
- Build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.
Activity: Place your hands in your lap, extend palms upright. Pray quietly with me: Change my heart, O God. Clean me out inside. Make me new. Heal my desires. Help me hold my possessions loosely. Help me to love you. Teach me simplicity, Teach me generosity. Give me joy. I offer my life in Jesus. A
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. 7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. [NRSV]
I do not remember being excused from taking final exams in my schooling career. Some of the final days of each term were easier than others. There is something fundamentally missing if we exclude the final exams.
I realize it has become the incentive to study and work hard all along and if you do so throughout the term, the final would be a redundant pressure, and yet, real life is filled with final exams that we ‘wish’ we could skip, but we are not given the pass.
Do you remember any particular finals?
I remember feeling overloaded with information that I questioned its importance on the remainder of my life.
I remember wondering in some classes, would I have an “A” and others would I have a “D” and be grateful.
My studiousness improved the longer I went to school. Kindergarten to the senior class, two years at Oxford, two years at Emory, three years at Candler, five years at Gammon at the ITC. 25 of my 53 years have been spent in school. 53 of my 53 have been filled with tests and exams that question, measure, and challenge my faith.
If I gave myself a grade on my spiritual maturity I would prefer to be compared and measured with the hitters in baseball. Where a good season might be in the .300-.400s. comparing that is still failing compared to the A,B, C etc scale.
What I can say, is that my needs improvement is improving, the more exams I prepare for, face, endure, and reflect upon in my life.
For our Students and for us all
Real life/Faith is not excused from exams, tests, & trials.
Verse 7 begins with a call for the end of all things as the context in which we live.
Live as if the final exam is tomorrow.
- Be Serious: Be responsible for your own actions
- Don’t sign up for the blame your neighbor course
- Don’t be uninformed or excuse yourself from
- learning and
- Discipline Yourself
- No one else can have faith for you
- The prayers of others are not enough
- Take the mindfulness of #1 and apply it with accountability
- Maintain Constant Love for one another
- The extra credit is to matriculate in practicing love for each other
- The place to get on track, when we fall off the wagon, is to love
- and keeping practicing love,
- even if you don’t feel it,
- love will come to life.
- Hospitable without Complaining
- Hospitality: Doing what it takes to connect, welcome, share, interact, with others
- Even when we have reason to complain, do not let that stop us from showing hospitality
- Even when we disagree with one another, err on the side of hospitality, (not just a southern thing.)
- Be responsible with God’s grace as a good steward
- We thrive on Grace but know that with freedom that Grace afford
- Arrogance, Apathy, Anger, Selfishness, Coveting, Untruthfulness, and the like cloud and distance us from living in Grace.
- If the teacher allows you to rework your paper if you received a failing grade, don’t wait to fail in the future. God see us as we are.
- Use the gifts you have been given
- Don’t wait to get started for the new equipment
- Don’t hesitate to procrastinate
- See that God gives each of us, what we need to begin in faith.
- If you talk, speak God’s word
- Not everyone’s gift is speaking, but if you do, make clear that your message is true in reflecting God’s Word and not our twist on God’s word.
- If you serve, rely on God’s strength alone
- Not everyone is good at responding and acting when it comes to sharing your faith, but know that God does not take a summer break from expecting us to trust God’s strength and not rely on ours alone.
- The Goal: All this, so that God get’s the glory in all things through Jesus Christ
The Catch/Hook: Final exam is the same as daily exams.
- Do you wait and study only when you must?
- Do you procrastinate?
- Do you get lost in the getting prepared to learn and lead and are so organized but never find God’s strength or grace?
- Do you give us when it get’s difficult?
- Do you find yourself distracted?
- 1 Peter is a prayerful call to action and accountability
- The Teacher has left the room but will show up at any moment, what type of student will you and I become?
Hear the Good News!
Jesus is our strength and teacher
Jesus is our grace and hope
God’s Holy Spirit is our guide and power
If Christ’s return is today, tomorrow or 10,000 years from now, the final exam is in progress.
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [NRSV]
I recall visiting sanctuaries through out Europe, some hundreds of years and wonder on one hand did Jesus imagine the ornate gilded cathedrals would become witnesses of his body and presence in the world. On the other hand, having walk through those ornate and gilded cathedrals and having join in the presence of worship that was older than my prayers and praises the allow us to experience the glories of a presence that is beyond our imagination and beyond our wealth and beyond our interpretation.
Somewhere in the combination of faithful stewardship and extravagant generosity we find the sincerity and and passion of worship.
There are times for simple and there are time for excess
The Garden of Eden reflects a sips relationship, one love and one rule, one trust and the consequences one transgression/choice.
Think of worship in the home of Mary and Martha. Recall Martha is the practical, hard working, thrifty with time and extravagant with comfort and dependable order. Mary is willing to throw caution aside! She is willing to leaving the house messy for a time, eat brunch for dinner, and invite too many guests to the party.
Mary take an extraordinary gift worth a years wage and gives the entire jar to cover Jesus. One pure of nard retailed for $700. Not a dab with the lid behind the ear r on ones wrist. She covers Jesus’s feet. Nard is viscous, acidic and concentrated scent similar to gardenia. It would have filled the house
Today we come to a historical day in the life of the church that is a mar rage of extravagant generosity AND a practical challenge. The big news is about t be revealed and it is a unique and exciting opportunity that draws on both our Mary and Martha sides.
The waste is not in using our gifts, the waste would be not to give.
Life in the Joy of Chrost with us.
As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” [NRSV]
Everyone who came to the temple for worship, put something in the offering.
Maybe someone does want to talk about Money at church because we have question or misinformation about “Offering” is in our practice of worship and faith. What is the offering about?
- What the Offering is NOT:
- It is not about FAIRNESS
- It is not admission for the SHOW
- It is not about TAXATION
- It is not EARNING salvation or favor
- Offering IS about
- a THANK YOU note
- a Sign of TRUST of God,
- How we GIVE it.
- How we USE it.
- a RESPONSE to God’s loving, blessing, saving and claiming us in GRACE
- an ACT of CONFESSION or retribution – Zacheaus, the wee little man, made a big act of restoration.
- an Investment in the work of God’s business, kingdom, witness
- a PRACTICE of loving. [The widow is operating on love in her giving], the greatest is love.
- Offering was being watched, monitored, studies by Jesus and the Disciples
- It is important to learn about giving patterns and styles
- Strings or No Strings
- In times of plenty and times of lean
- Faith in Maturity not Quantity.
- The witness of the POOR widow. (A widow living on the generosity of temple)
- Poverty is closer to us every day. (If we set aside politics and look at the reality of what actually IS currently)
- Gross National Product($18.1T) Fascination Debt Clock and other fiscal measurements
- National Debt is increasing 4154,583 per minute. ($18.6T is meaningless)
- Our Product to Debt ratio is $1.03. That means if we spent everything we made we would be three cents short paying everything we owe.
- the BEGGING QUESTION: How much in debt do you have to be to be poor?
- Rather than figure how what the fair level of poverty. Poverty is not having a certain level of possessions, credit or money.
- Rather than find a fair level of persons to blame or label as the rich or the poor. Jesus’s FOCUS is on the GIFT.
- The GIFT THAT IS GREATEST is the one who was able to give the LOVE
- If you only have two half-pennies and you give them to God: What statement are you making?
- God has more to give than I have to give, I will give all I have.
- If you and I give out of our abundance, extra, or wealth: But not out of love, What statement are we making?
- God demands, we must obey
- God is jealous and bad stuff will happen if we don’t
- God will bless me if I give
- God will make me rich if I give it all to him.
- The women who gives to two coins does not
- does not become the most wealthy members
- does not stop living at the poverty level
- does not become the high priestess or head scribe or rabbi
- does not get rich off of God’s investment plan.
- The woman gives as an loving act of TRUST that God will provide what she needs.
- What does my offering say to me and what does it say to God.
- Does my gift say: I trust you? I love you? I need you most of all? I can’t make it with out you?
- Does my gift say: I have this to spare? I can get by with this? After I manage all the choices of wealth or poverty, then I will trust, give, love.
Homework: Last week we talked about Jesus answer to the greatest commandment, the FIRST is to Love God and Love your neighbor,
We show this love in how we give to God. This what the offering is about.
Teach a child about why you give. Your child/grand-child or a friends, or even a stranger. : Explain to a child (3-63)
- I give because I love God.
- I give because God knows what I need.
- I give because I am faithful will all that I have.
- I give because I trust God with my life AND livelihood AND future..
For those who like math?
Do I spend more resource of time/money/energy on God than being a team fan?
Pull out the check book, (exclude housing, utilities, food, car, insurance) How much do I spend in the other categories compared to God?
For those who don’t like homework. (Give because you know its good in your heart and watch for the Kingdom of God to show up where you give)
For those who are legalistic, “Give until it changes your heart.” – Rich Young Ruler.
Posted by myoikos in Boldness, Christian LIving, Disicpleship, Extravagant Generosity, Generosity, Intentional Spiritual Growth, Leadership, Passionate Worship, Radical Hospitality, Relationship, Risk Taking Mission and Service, Sacrifice, Service, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Trust, Witness on January 24, 2015
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [NRSV]
Licensed to Catch
To be authorized to fish on state waters and waters that lead to state waters you must have a license to fish. It is a piece of paper with slopping dot matrix ink that is barely legible that cost just a few dollars for a whole year of fun and recreation, but try to sneak out without one and you will wish you had the permit. That license helps keep lakes and rivers stocked, rangers on watch and some efforts to protect waters for future fishing. It seems to me that it sounds much more impressive to call one’s permit a license to fish, rather than a stocking fee or a wildlife protection fee or a ranger administrative fee. Now I complain every time they increase the rate, but its still one of the best values our state provides.
With a license to fish it sounds like your are a professional catcher of fish, a regular James Bond in the wilderness. Licensed, licensed to fish. And yet that little piece of paper is your letter of authorization to attempt to catch a fish.
Unless you use your bare hands or a catchers mitt, I suggest that the whole endeavor is misnamed. Catching fish is the rarity in my experience. Practicing is the art of hoping and trying to catch. I have cast my line MANY more times than I have ever caught a fish.
And when I have successfully retrieved a fish from his watery home, I generally use every method I have to capture the little creature. And in my experience, my catch is a small creature; one I probably should use my bare hands to ‘catch’ rather than a load of specialized gear, bait and practice.
To be successful at fishing might have nothing to do with catching anything, except a nap in the great outdoors.
To be successful at fishing might be in helping someone catch what you have little or no success achieving yourself.
To be successful at fishing I know that the cost to procure a fish is not measured by the total investment, rather in the most recent success story. (Boat, poles, line, lures, trailers, flotation devices, motors, umbrella, wetsuit, waders, various must-have pieces of tackle, just to get started.) The cost of a ‘catch’ is the most recent worm and and the gas to transport you to the best spot.
A Failure at Fishing
You might think you have failed a fishing if you came home with no fish, but learning WHY you came home empty handed might be the successful lesson.
Coming home with a boat load of fish actually means more work of cleaning and cooking your catch which might be the last thing you want to do after three hours of driving, unloading and loading a boat, working on a broken boat, waking a mile back to go to the bathroom because your little helper doesn’t want to go in the woods, enduring some mud and rain, going through the first aid kit from miscellaneous hook injuries and only finding the little ones that need to be returned to grow bigger.
Luxury of Catch and Release
It is such a mixed message to take a child fishing when it’s catch-and-release season. First all the hype about “catching” fish and bringing it home to eat for dinner is the stuff that beginning fisher-folk legends are founded. You finally catch one, beginner’s luck you find the biggest one of the whole fishing parting and you have to throw it back. I wanted to eat it and mount it for all posterity, not through it back!
But there is actually a great level of maturity, delayed-gratification, or at least perspective when you can use all at your disposal to hook and retrieve your catch and not have to keep it
- because that is not the only meal your family might have is at the end of your line.
- because you don’t need to show anyone your catch,
- because you have learned to enjoy to sport of fishing
- because you want to leave fish for those who need the meal they provide
- because you don’t want to clean them
- because you found your enjoyment in the journey rather than the trophy
“Catching” is not the high-water-point of fishing!
Sharing fishing with someone else is the joy of fishing.
- You need no license to share the story
- You need no experience, success nor failure, to share the fun
- You don’t have to know what your doing and you may be the most practiced professional
Sharing the adventure of catching is heart.
Jesus goes a long way to share an INVITATION to share the ADVENTURE of FISHING
Jesus never promised that we would catch a single person
Jesus invites us to go on an adventure bigger than what we could catch if we tried, practiced,
Jesus extends INVITATION rather than LICENSES
Jesus calls us to use the skill and talents we know and have and INVITES us to share them with the work of the Kingdom.
Jesus continues to call disciples
Look to the persons on either side:
- Remind them “You are a disciples”
- Remind them “You are a fisher, not a catcher”
- Remind them “You don’t have to know what you are doing, just follow Jesus”
- Remind them “Lead with what you know”
- Remind them of the tough part: “Sometimes following Jesus is leaving other things behind”
Jesus Calls Disciples who make new Disciples, who fish for more disciples…
The ADVENTURE is ours,
we never graduate,
we never retire,
we may have weary, uncertain times, but
there is always more fishing to be done. So keep it up
Let’s go fishing
- It’s too cold
- It’s too wet
- I don’t have a license
- I don’t know where to go
- I don’t have the right equipment
- I don’t know how
- I’m tired of fishing
- I don’t like fish
- I want someone to fish for me, I like the restaurant/grocery story method.
So why are we here as church, if we are not about the one thing Jesus asked disciples…
I’m up for the ADVENTURE!
I have a story to SHARE!
- I don’t know how to fish, but I know who does!
- I don’t have license, but I have forgiveness and love!
- I might have skills and equipment, God wants what we bring! God fulfills what we leave behind.
- I might get tired, God plans for rest.
- I might not like the people God sends me to, but I know God loves us all
- If I don’t follow, what will I miss and who will miss God….
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [NRSV]
One of the foundational keys of being United Methodist is faith in God’s Word, spoken and revealed through ordinary people. The people, lessons, foundations witness those who are willing to listen and share God’s Word.
We listen to scripture as God’s word through lenses and filters.
- Scripture is heard and experienced through the context of all those who have read, studied and listened in years past. We call this the voice of tradition or theology.
- Scripture is heard and reflected through the grey matter of reason. God has created each of us with a mind, powers of rational and logical thought. We call this voice of reason.
- Scripture is heard and conveyed through the presence of the God’s Spirit in our own spirit understanding as a spiritual being. We call this voice of experience.
The heart of Methodist living in the scriptures includes all three of these filters.
- For those who state that they read scripture literally, they are making assumptions that are based on using only a filter of tradition OR experience.
- For those who state that scripture is read only in contrast to science and mental reflection, they are only using one filter of reason.
- For those who state the interpretation is weighted by the church’s historical voice or even the church’s majority voice, they use only one filter of tradition.
- For those who state they reading as non-denominational, non-traditional, rather personally inspired alone, they ONLY draw on the voice of experience.
Each of these independent ways are good, but incomplete without all of them together. This complete view of scripture is at the heart of being Methodist. Keep this in heart, mind and spirit as we look, listen and share this mornings reading:
The message of the cross is foolish to those who:
- remember the cross only as a history lesson
- try to explain away the extreme of sacrifice or
- or are turned off by the gruesomeness of crucifixion
Remember it is through all these that the cross becomes a sign of power, love and victory.
Paul is talking to the folks at the churches in Corinth, but as part of the church now, Paul continues the power of tradition for us.
As a practical matter: Sharing our faith is something that we are called, commanded and empowered to do.
But not every attempt to do so is fruitful.
- We could talk about Jesus everywhere we go and most folks will just call us that crazy person that talks about Jesus all the time.
- We could think about Jesus and work out a great thoughts for our own understanding and no one would ever hear a thing, for all the work we have done.
- And We could wait for the moment that it felt right and connect only in an emotional way that is empty of spiritual power.
Consider doing all three, together.
For to only follow one method is foolish..
Take for example our financial stewardship and giving..
- If you talk to some people about tithing as a duty and a faithfulness of following scripture, some will listen and following the challenge.
- For others, you show them a few pictures of children that are hurting and lack and show how a few cents each day will transform their suffering.
- Some are moved by guilt, shame or fear to give because you can’t out give God.
- Still others need to see the balance sheets and of the organization, the estimates of the market place and find ways of saving through giving.
But the whole power of stewardship is some of each of these, but it is rooted in a radical and extravagant love that is willing to do whatever it takes to build a loving relationship with us.. and once we find that kind of relationship, stewardship is our automatic response and expression of love.
John Hayes, my OT professor loved his multiple choice questions. Most ever test had 100-150 multiple choice questions and all of the had a 5th choice: E) all of the above or none of the above. What if:
- Signs are important.
- debate is important
- wisdom is important
- discernment is important
- politics are important
- geography and culture differences are important
- Understanding and sharing the cross of Jesus Christ call for E) All of the above.
The Cross of Christ is God’s eternal gift.
- some folks are not ready to see its power
- some have forgotten the power it held
- some have decided it’s not theirs to carry.
Paul is saying, most simply: it is foolish to live with vanilla when Hershey’s dark chocolate fudge brownie and pistachio-mango-strawberry-swirl give you a better balance of what ice cream can be. Knowing, Living and Sharing the Christ of the Cross takes our whole life.. not just Sunday..
Homework: It sounds foolish, but eat three radically different flavors of ice cream (unless you’re diet or health are endangered, then try three different flavors of what is in your eating plan) Three scoops or three spoonfuls. Or three different fruits, two of which you don’t usually eat. As you taste three different bites ask: What if fruits only tasked like raspberries and never like water melon? What if I only at Brussels sprouts and never tried fried green tomatoes?
What if I were foolish enough to try all three? What if we are foolish enough to think there is on our time, our understanding and our perspective?
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. [NRSV]
How much can 5000 men eat, besides women and children.I’ve seen some women and children who could eat.
More like Five rolls and two tenders.
• Not fried, no tarter or seafood sauce. Grilled or salted.
• The number and menu are not the significant part of the story. It is the simplicity of the lunch that is the contrasting point.
• The feast where all were filled was neither a covered-dish nor a trip to Golden Correl. The example of extravagance of abundance is the contrast.
The Heart of the Meal
The focal point is the contrast of what appears to be what we don’t have to having more than we need when God is at the heart of our worship, meal, studies and fellowship.
The world that preaches new and more.
As we come to the table, the meal prepared by disciples and offered to us, through Christ.. points us to what is left us..
The meal does not change, the people are transformed.
Offer more of what we don’t have to God and see how much we have to share…
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! [NRSV]
There have been some strange things show up in the offering plate through the years.
The funny things is the old dentures sold at a church yard sale for $20 and became one of the annual White elephant gifts at the choir Christmas party.
The scull ring sold for $44 on eBay. The gift cards took a traveling family to lunch. The casino chips were invested back at Harra’s and returned double the investment.
The gold tooth was valued at $14. It became the core ore of a smelting for mission trip to Brazil.
Sometimes what seems like the weeds turns out to be the fruit.
But there is a more serious warning found in the simple parable.
Jesus was the author of the parable. There had been fables similes and metaphors. But Jesus use this new teaching that combines elements of other figures of speech and story telling to explain the foundations of God‘s nature, methods, purpose and reality
Today’s parable teaches about the power if the weeds
My grandfather would drop his grand kids on the edge of a forty plus acre field and expect is to pull stalks Johnson grass out from the new corn plants. To the untrained eye like mine, they looked very similar and I would pull up the corn with greater easy than the grass. So the grass would not take root again we had to carry what we pulled to the end of each row where we could show off our hard work. My best effort was about 50/50.
My cousins might have accused me of doing it on purpose as I would get to have extra time with granddaddy learning the difference having him work on my row with me. But that grass would spread and strangle the corn. It had to be removed but we would never get it all. But when the corn got taller than the grass it was too late, it would have to wait.
Not matter how careful or faithfully we live we live in a sinful broken world filled with evil and temptation of all kinds. And God allows the crisis and chaos
Not so much as our punishment. Rather as a witness of Gods patience and nature. God is willing to wait on us, while we wait on God.
Be sure that if I’m trying to loose weight I don’t need to go visit the hard working folks at Krispy Kreme. I just found one in East Ridge this week I almost made it to the parking lot but knew I didn’t beed to be that close to the confections.
I have heard it said that of the angels made food for God it would come up from that hot goodness and through that glaze fountain at Krispy Kreme
From the parable I know God is not going to stop the production at KK Dunkin and other bakeries on my account. God is more interested in my choices than the presence of evil.
That a simple one. We look at millionaire entertainers and athletes who we idolize and know more about than the neighbors who fear for jobs and dread for closures.
Just like the good seeds in the parable wish God would have all those who would bring evil I to the field stopped and they destruction removed. God doesn’t operate that way
What God promises is to stand with us in the mix. If we stand with God evil will not prevail in the end.
But what do good seeds like us do in the between time.
First we need to stand with God. Don’t give in to evil and say god is not with us. God is real and alive
Second teach and remind each other that the precise if evil is not the end of the story. Have hope and do t give in. How do I know if I have give up? When I quit asking or trying.
Finally shine like the Son. Live like we know that evil is a temporary state and not the answer goal or default.
Let the love and patience of god shine brighter then the lutes and tease of evil and God will shine through us.
Homework. Identify what are the weeds and what is the corn
Ask forgiveness for when we call evil good
Don’t call a hot one nutrition
Don’t call feeding a child to trivial
Don’t call security wealth
Don’t call opening your heart to be in Christain relationship too hard.
Don’t think god had checked out
Don’t check out just when God calls for us to stand up.
Get it? Got ears? Good. Go do it.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. [NRSV]
The Community Shared of what they had to meet the needs of who they were.
They spent time in the temple sharing in worship and witness
Sharing Leads to Growth
It has struck me in this season of preparing for our Stewardship Campaign and our church’s Charge Conference reporting that while a great deal of emphasis and assumption is placed on numbers and statistics, very little is said of the life we are challenged to live.
I would say that greatest piece that is missing from the modern church of 2013 is the storehouse of faith experienced in the generations between Wesley’s and that of the church in 1968.
At the point of our uniting as the United Methodist Church, we merged different traditions, with many similarities, yet we cashed in many of our denominational credits to increase numbers. We spent our hearts to insure our diamonds to use a playing card metaphor.
As one born in 1964 I have been witness to much not thinking that I had much responsibility along the way. I suppose it is wisdom that comes from experience, that I see more clearly now. The flavor of church known as United Methodist is missing something important from the earliest expression of church that is at our core.
We are expecting to make withdrawals from a bank of giving to which we have not not invested.
It is a great thing to check your bank balance and find it positive. Maybe you have seen interest grow, investments pay off, incomes increase and the balance has grown. For most folks to see a balance that is even and above the read line is a comfort. The reality is that many folks are living in a deficit with number of credit and denial keeping afloat hope and economy.
We know too well the news of budgets, economy, expenses and liabilities on a national level is debilitating and we detach ourselves from the news and tune out the notion that they are talking about our money because it is the government’s money.
Something our nations could also learn from the early church is the example of sharing based on a relationship with have with the community.
I have learned in these nearly 50 years that it would be great to give everyone everything they needed at the expense of those who have, but once those who have either give it all to the collective or withdraw from the community, the problem is worse than at the beginning.
The thing to learn from the church in Acts is that they community of faith shared each others lives together.
They prayed, worshipped, and shared themselves.
There is a value in being a faith community. The is a desire in the heart of God to be in fellowship with us and us with each other.
The General Church asks of us to report out Vital Statistics of worship and members and giving with an basically unspoken hope that in seeing our numbers we would be driving to increase our numbers. But they are not offering the method how and even greater they are not inspiring us to ask why.
Why comes to church? Why serve the poor? Why give to the needs of the community? Why share our faith with others? Why?
The easy, Children’s sermon answer, that is correct and direct is, Jesus told us to.
But that is not a complete answer: Why does Jesus want us to do these things?
For some will read this passage of Acts and see the early church growing and jump ahead. If we don’t share and meet needs of the poor, we won’t grow and we can manage to be the church with out them..
The chapel model of church, where things are neat, orderly, defined and sterile with no expectation of more, instead maintain. It’s not too often you hear of a church or hospital tearing down their chapel to build a bigger chapel. It would not meet the definition of chapel if it grew.
Take some time to review any story or example in scripture where people manage the situation within their own ability and resources to keep the status quo and maintain the tradition that God speaks up and says, well done good and faithful servant. You won’t find one. That is not how God works.
God speaks and things come into being. God creates and calls for multiplication. God reaches out the unlikely individuals to transform the community and nations. If we jump ahead of God, we will not find God calling for maintenance. God is all about sharing and growth.
It is helpful to step back into the Acts 2 church to focus on what is being shared. Real life is shared and read needs are placed on the table. Acceptance of people despite they needs and problems builds the community. An interested fact that is that people have problems, failures, fears and needs if they are rich or poor.
It is assumed that wealth is what are shared, but from our economic lessons, the thing that drew people to the church was the people’s needs were shared, and addressed. Real people’s lives were placed at the alter and the community shared these needs in worship and relationship with God.
That is very different from what we do on most Sundays.
For the past fifty years we have looked at numbers more closely than we have looked at the needs people have and are willing to share.
Sunday school lessons are prepared so that even a person of no faith could read them and ask a few questions and we would call it Christian Educaiton
Orders of worship of dutifully filled with liturgy and familiar songs and we hope people will connect the dots of tradition with the holes in their hearts and find Christ on their own.
Buildings are maintained, debt notes are served, and programs are funded, but are people sharing their need for Jesus Christ and the church responding with a relationship that confirms salvation, live, community and belonging in the heart of God?
What are you supporting with your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness?
I am proud of the faithfulness that my church has taking on a growing budget this year and with great generosity have met the challenge in this economy and we will continue to increase what we give and share… but there is a danger to avoid.
We are are not buying salvation. We are not paying for someone else to be the church for us. We are not hiring someone to do our service. We are not perpetrating a system that is focused on serving ourselves first.
We answer the ‘Why’ question today with our pledges saying… why do support our church?
Because Christ is found here and this is where we want to share Christ.
This is where God is bless and stretching us and we want to grow
This is where the Spirit embodies and empowers us and we want to go where the Spirit sends us.
This is why we give. because we belong, and we are connected and committed where we belong.
The TV sitcom Cheers was a community of flawed people who share ritual, sorrow, joy, celebration and everyday life, because that is where they knew and were known.
That is fertile grown that will grow disciples for the transformation of the world.