Archive for category Stewardship
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” [NRSV]
Our communities are generally more concerned about Halloween than celebrating all the Saints who have died and found the promises of eternal life and love fulfilled during this weekend of celebrations. Even fewer are trying to hold the memory of the saints in a high place of honor while addressing lessons of stewardship for the upcoming Stewardship Sunday next week. But here we are faced with the reality of context in the face of the power of the lectionary text: Zacchaeus the Wee, Little man.
As we listen carefully to this passage we can learn a good deal about Zack and ourselves. First this man was a notorious cheat and swindler of the community. His reputation and status was made through taking advantage of his position to profit from some of the poorest of neighbors. Taxes, user fees, registrations, licenses, and mandated participations in medical plans are all forms of taxes. They are always up for debate for everyone except for those who collect them and those who profit from them. Everyone else would like to avoid paying any more than they must pay. Zach not only had the unpopular task of collecting these funds, he also used the occasion to collect an acquisition fee on top of the tax has his income. He had the opportunity to define the amount of profit he would make from collecting unpopular taxes. Together this made him to be the least likely to befriend in the neighborhood.
It is no wonder that folks did not cut him any slack in finding his way to see Jesus who was visiting their town. Secondly we learn that Zach was not only not respected and excluded from popularity contests, he was none the less, curious about Jesus. This is actually a refreshing picture of those that we least favor in our communities. Even the least respected and most avoided can be curious about Jesus. And this is the chink in the armor that opens the door of grace for us all.
Zach, actually is more than curious; he takes extra steps to make a way to Jesus. He sets up the occasion to have a better perspective and even a chance meeting with Jesus. When the community of faith had given up on him, Zach remains interested enough to do some homework and recon work himself to create an opportunity to meet Jesus. If you have never taken the opportunity to participate in the Walk to Emmaus retreat ministry, you should attend. It is a concentrated effort to create opportunities for someone to meet Christ and to grow closer in her or his relationship with Christ. (Visit the Upperroom.org and check it out.) Zach has made his own little retreat in the top of a tree, hoping to gain a new perspective and understanding of Jesus.
Rather than simply being a spectator, Jesus calls Zach into a relationship of participation. Jesus does what the community has refused to do because of Zach’s behavior and destruction of the community. Jesus includes the stranger. Jesus opens the heart and home of the one who has no relationship. Jesus makes a way through honesty, confession and accountability when others are blocking access, even when it might seem justified. Jesus opens the heart.
When Zach’s heart is touched, he moves to confession and repentance. Without any prescription for restitution he begins to make things whole. Why, because when Jesus reaches out to this searching soul, Jesus is making him whole and out of wholeness responds by making things right or complete.
As a Stewardship message: it is out of wholeness that we learn to give what is holy. We might start with a Rx of 10% but finally mature to see that it might take more than a percent. It might take out whole lives.
As a Transformation message: it is the shift from Zaccheus making the plan and ruling the community, into Jesus making the plans and Jesus shaping the hearts of the WHOLE community.
As a practical message for us all: This example is not just about the rich, not about the oppressors, those to blame. It is also for the crowd that judged Zach as unreachable, unloveable, and beyond trust.. Jesus sees what is hiding in all of us and invites himself into the hearts and homes of those who are seeking.
Our task is to help each other seek Christ. In the streets or in our homes, in business or in church, back then and right now. Jesus desires to be at home with you and me. Let us go with him and all be make whole.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” NRSV
The world is often inside down.
The religious leaders were trusted teachers, role- models and respected community leaders.
The Tax collectors exploited the public; they were feared and mistrusted.
In the context of prayer and worship. The unlikely is made who. The expected is lost.
A caution to stay watchful throughout our lives.
We might know truth, good and righteousness with our head but loose the battle in real life.
In the context of giving and stewardship: don’t fool yourself give your whole true self to God’s remodeling plan. Self management is dangerous.
Confess our sins
Pray for mercy.
Go home whole not fooled.
32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. [NRSV]
Today I welcome you to the Peniel Arena..
Welcome to the Friday Night Fights
Are you ready to Rumble?
And in this corner, weighing in at 156 lbs 5’4” is the hometown favorite wrestler, let’s hear hear it for
And in the opponents corner, clearly 240 lbs 6’8”, is the mysterious masked Mar-r-r-r-r-r-val-val
This is Howard Cosell, are ring side, I’ve got to go with the home town boy, Jacob, he has just give up to his family, children, household and animals to be here tonight. God has called and God will bless him..
Bob Castas here, Howard I don’t think you’ve seen the size of his opponents tree trunk arms and his goliath size. Jacob has heart but does he have what it takes. He’s going to need all the bless God can give.
Ding, ding, ding… The wrestling begins.
When I was about 9 years old, I was touring my new school and meeting new teachers. This stock fellow asked me I liked wrestling. Having only seen the TV version of wrestling at that time, I replied, “No sir, it’s all fake and for show.” He said, “Sorry to hear that.” And he walked away.
A few minutes later we stopped by the gym to meet the PE teacher and the same stocky man was seating on the edge of his desk, with wrestling trophies and ribbons behind him. He was the PE coach and he said we’d be learning about wrestling that semester. We will see how fake it is by Christmas.” O dear.
Back to the wrestling match..
I don’t think it was common for folks to meet strangers on the road and they break into wrestling all night long. It was a strange meeting. It was an completely unexpected series of events and it lasts until the breaking of the new day.
Its like one of the dramatic scenes in a Twilight movie where the shadowing figure chases all through the night and only injures the lead character because the sun comes up.
This is some mystery about meeting and working with God. We meet God in our darkest hours. Just ask Millard Daniels or Elaine Power this week. The prayer is that wake up the next day and find God’s blessing out of the struggle.
While none of us may have wrestled with stranger in the wilderness all through the night, we have stayed up with loved ones through many nights. We have stayed awake in a mental match of math and myth over finances and economies. We have found it impossible to sleep the night though because of few words and the power they had on someone else’s heart.
The backstory to Jacob is with his brother, Esau. Esau was the oldest of the two and it was the custom for the older of the two fraternal twins to receive the father’s inheritance and Jacob and his mother trick his father who was blind into giving Jacob the blessing.
Many years pass but Jacob lives in fear of his secrets, lies and deceptions. God wants them to meet and reconcile. [the same mission we see in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus] This fear is evidence he had been wrestling a lot longer than this one night. He sends a gift to Esau to soften him up before they meet. The gift is a collection of animals, estimating to be a tenth of his wealth. Accounting for inflation and conversion we can estimate his ‘gift’ to be about $116,000.
When is the last time someone gave you that kind of gift? Not to mention having sent the rest of his family and livestock on head. Jacob is absorbed in fear, worried, anxiety and collapse. Any he has nothing but the shirt on his back.
It is in the place of vulnerability that he meets God who wrestles with him in his darkest hour.
One of the great lessons that is seldom advertised in a stewardship campaign, but in this political climate and chaos over spending and budgets and debt ceilings, when you begin to give to God in the way Jacob models, it might continue to be a wrestle and struggle, but you will surely find God’s blessing on you.
The part of the story that is hard to swallow is at day break. Jacob is just about to get the upper hand and end this wrestling match with God and he cries out… bless me!
And God reaches out and knocks his hip out of joint and the blessing of Jacob follows: that he and his brother are stored, his family is restored, he continues to covenant of Abraham and Isaac and his generations are as numerous as the grains of sand. And one other blessing
Jacob, gets a new name. He is no longer the man he was. He no longer lived for himself, he now lived by God grace for the people of God, and his name become Israel.
And in the news, every week of every year, you hear the Jacob’s new name, Israel claiming the promises of God to this very moment.
So what do get if we all donated $116,000. You get a new name? You get to name a new building? I don’t know but I would love to see what happened…
What I do know is that when we give out of fear, requirement, guilt, or shame.. we never know the joy of the gift. But in our fear, guilt, shame and duty we have the scars of our struggles with God. The different is in the gift. In the hope of healing the relationships between us and God and with each other…
God does not take away the struggle when we give, but he meets us in that struggle and will leave us reminders when we learn the lessons that God is in charge, God is with us always, and God desires to do whatever it takes to heal the relationship. Even if it leaves evidence of the struggle along the way.
1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” [NRSV]
The shrewd manager takes justice into his own hands.
It is most likely the custom that those who would lend to the poor would also be those who took advantage of the poor. Charting higher interest rates to those at greater risk.
Intuitively it is a practice that never makes sense. If lenders and retailers who extend credit want to charge those who have the least to spend the highest rate, it seems to be a set up for failure and a greater oppression than not extended credit in the first place.
In the recent years of banking giving loans to those who would not qualify and investment firms reselling debt accounts to the highest bidder, so collection agencies can profit even further from oppressing the poor. Where is the justice in this practice?
Traditionally the parable has been only about the juggling of the accounting without regard to why the bills were so high in the first place.
If you drive around a large city, you will find the the gas prices higher in the poorest communities. You will find grocery stores higher priced with lower quality good near communities where neighbors have no other transportation and only have the option to walk to the closest store. In this text the owner has charged twenty or thirty percent more than the usual rate.
So the manager is trying to show some justice in the situation, hoping that when he is laid off the poor would look kindly and graciously at them.
Think of it, if you were about to loose your job from a tyrant of an employer and you could bring some justice in the community, playing the part of Robin Hood and his merry followers. Would you want to steal from the king to win the hears of the common folk?
So much political rhetoric is preached everyday about the evil of the wealthy in our country and how they should be made to pay their share and the share of the poor. It’s just not a good system of economics.
The parable is about relationship.
The warning is to guard from making friends by buying their relationship.
As a church we want to extend radical hospitality, but we don’t want people to come because they can take advantage of our generosity.
As Christians we want people to like us but at times we are indeed sheep sent out among wolves. Choose your relationship not by what you get out, rather choose by God’s guidance.
We want our children and grandchildren to have lots of friends and be well liked at school, but not because of fashions, toys and gadgets. We want them to friends of good character.
This is the point of Jesus’ parable. Be of God character and not the world’s. Even it seems reasonable from the world’s standards, this is not our measuring stick.
Secondly the parable is about what we manage compared to what we allow God to manage in our lives.
The shrewd manager takes care of the situation himself. He has a plan to take care of himself and to put the owner in his or her place and come out smelling like a rose for caring for the poor and oppressed.
Helping the poor is great.
Seeking justice is wonderful.
Being a responsible worker and good manager are great attributes.
Look instead at the motives, agendas and flawed reasons behind our self-preservation.
God promises to provide, guide and fill our lives, asking us to receive, follow and trust God in all times.
Bottom line: Serve God and not ourselves.
12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
It is impossible to visit a community like the ones we visited this week in Tegucigalpa and not re-evaluate our understanding of poverty and wealth. Every person who comes to the end of the month and there is not enough to pay the bills and they go inside their home, turn on the television, make a few calls and eat some processed food stuffs in the microwave and think about how terrible their situation is should go vacation in Honduras.
For all those who would say, we have mission enough to do right here at home, the question to answer is who reaches out to those who have no wealthy neighbors. Who will bring peace and hope to city where corruption, violence and want rule?
The parable of Jesus found in Luke 12 draws our focus on what things are ours.
How many toys can a person own and enjoy them all?
How much stuff in our homes, cars, sheds, garages, basements, attics and storage building will bring us life, joy and happiness.
We have finally begun to go through boxes we moved into our garage over two years ago and found things while special and meaningful at one time, only took up valuable space, for two years. We made large load for the youth yard sale, a large load for the school yard sale, a large load for the timely garbage truck and still have more to sort and share.
But I drift from the point and focus of the parable just a bit.
Which is easy to do. That is, to fool ourselves into seeing what we think we need to be happy.
Norman was a young man our team met this week who enjoyed hard work with rocks with some rock music. He lived on the work site most of the week with two other workers and had fun even when he was hungry and tired.
Brian worked to transport and translate even when his heart was broken, having lost his mother, and nearly his young son to gang violence just two months ago, finds hope in caring for his son and teaching him to defend himself even as a two year old son.
What brings you joy when you don’t have anything to work on or play with? If you removed 90 percent of our things and balances of investments where would be find our happiness?
Back to the focus…
The focus gets off track when we put the investment of our heart in
What We Need
What We want
What I think
What I manage
What I planned
What I prepared
What about me?
When all along, our joy comes from asking and answering what God wants for me…
Our inheritance is what God wants to give us
And there is enough for us all.
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. [NRSV]
It is easier to blame than to take responsibility.
Just this week five faithful folks show up for a meeting that I forgot to call to tell the meeting was cancelled. Should I find someone to blame or take responsibility, especially as it was my fault?
If something goes wrong at home, in the community or in the nations. Is it easier to assume and blame the one who has been responsible in the past? Blame the weakest link in the community? Or blame the leaders? Or is it easier to do something about it.
Paul writes to a church threaten from every side:
Lacking Faith, Weary Love, Weak Holiness.
With all that was going on today, I was assured that we still needed to finish within the hour. I boasted that I might only have time for a 37-word sermon. Here they are:
Jesus is coming indeed. Take responsibility, not blame. Restore faith, increase in Love, and strengthen your faith. How to do these things? Pray night and day.
Pray intentionally, earnestly, in all things. Jesus is coming soon. Amen.
If time allows:
Our five practices that make us a fruitful congregation are busy work without prayer.
We could spend out time and energy pointing fingers, assigning blame, and drawing attention to each other’s failures and brokenness. But where would that leave us?
Communion is a table of grace that gives us a new life.
Charge Conference is a business meeting that gives us a new start.
Advent is a season that prepares us for the coming Christ who moves in with us, not to blame, but to make us whole.
Yes we are sinful, guilty, tested and weak. But in Christ, through prayer and holiness we become as strong, in faith and love.
We become able to look at weary political and economic times and know this is not the whole story.
We being a seasons that the world has taken the worship of Christ, turned in a Sacred-Santa Celebration and then told us that we can’t even name the holiday that we have let go. It is Christ that we worship, (CHRIST-mas). Don’t blame who’s fault that is, take responsibility to tell the world yourself.
We are about to start a new fiscal and political year as a church and as a nation. If there are things you don’t like or know need improvement. Don’t focus your attention on blame, who’s fault something is, take responsibility to strengthen and abound in the power of love.
We are coming to a table of grace set by Christ and faithful hands where we come to talk, listen, confess and be blessed. Don’t look at the small serving of bread and drink, look at the enormous gift of saving grace that empowers when we are willing to eat and drink with our Lord and be the living body of Christ for the world.
Yes, it’s my fault and your fault, but that get’s us no where near Christ. Come to the table.
Jesus is coming indeed. Take responsibility, not blame. Restore faith, increase in Love, and strengthen your faith. How to do these things? Pray night and day.
Pray intentionally, earnestly, in all things. Jesus is coming soon. Amen.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [NRSV]
What would it take for you to give your spouse, child, or best friend $5000?
Q!: Is it a gift or a loan?
Q2: Trust that they had a good, meaningful purpose.
If it is a loan what are the terms and time
If it is a gift what expectation, the why questions.
What would it take for you to give the church $5000?
1. The real significance questions are the evaluate what resources we have accesses to use.
2. Hear the story, dream, need or vision that we can help bring to life.
3. Do we believe the story, dream, need or vision is something we want to see live.
4. Addressing the competitive requests for our resources, present and future.
5. Our response is yes, no or maybe.
This commitment Sunday we are hoping for a yes, rather than a maybe or no.
- What will it take for us to believe the story?
- See the dream?
- Feel the need?
- And invest in the vision?
Here is the story:
- Jesus Christ reach out to us through the cross and empty tomb to make a way to connect our lives with meaning, purpose and love.
- When we join hands and heart with Christ, we become Christ’s body, present in the world, continuing the same work and witness.
- Jackson United Methodist Church is one of those present access points of connection with Jesus Christ in Jackson and around the world.
- Jackson UMC has a multi-generation reputation and witness of : (we are not new to this, but we are fragile.
- Sharing meaningful worship with great music and rich traditions and expressions of faith in our worship.
- For generations we have seen the needs of the poor in our community and around the world.
- For generations we have supported fully and faithfully our United Methodist Connection.
- For generations we have longed and hoped to raise children and grand-children and great-grands in the faith and fellowship of the church.
- For generations we have gathered in this place to pray, play and study God’s word that is will give us life, hope and love and grace.
- For generations we had men and women of faith and vision who have made contributions of the 3Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure) giving not just one or two, but all three at the same time that have prepared for the generations that followed.
Building the Nest
In God’s creation we look the birds of the field, they build a nest, not for their own benefit, but for the raising and care of the next generation. The nest of baby birds cannot do it for themselves. They must be fed, sheltered and trained by the parents and the parents before them.
What is at stake: If we are not building and fortifying the nest of faith, the next generation cannot and will not step up to the task.
What is the task:
The task is sharing with another human being the love the is experienced when you clothe a child that is cold and has no coat to wear in 30 degree weather.
The task is our calling, or spiritual vocation, the work our heart are compelled to do, when someone is hungry and we have food, we share. Food, Clothes, Medicines, and look for opportunities to work.
Our task is to build up disciples who are not CO-dependent, rather interdependent. (What is the difference? We need each other’s strengths because we each have our weaknesses, but we don’t make someone stay weak and forever only needed. It is a maturing process of become disciples.
The stewardship questions are honest not about specific numbers, the stories we ask of each other today, and every time we gather to be the church are this:
1. What is the need? Need for Hospitality, Worship, Growth, Service/Mission, Giving
2. What can God do through me? I am just one, but I am able (3Ts)
3. What can God do through us? Together, our connection is exponential
4. What does it look like if we do part, all or nothing? If we cut back who will not feed, teach, save?
Joel 2:28. I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old mean shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (NRSV)
Colossians 3:1. Therefore if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand. (CEB)
Matthew 6:33. Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (CEB)
REVIEW of our STEWARDSHIP SERMONS:
- God does not want our money. God wants our hearts. Q: Where is your heart?
- Our pledge card is a spiritual measurement tool. Q: Has Prayer Conditioned your tools?
- TODAY: What is your dream and vision of what God can do through us?
Consider now what you would like to see happen in your life in that same time. In what ways do your passions for the church align with your personal desires? Today I will share my passions for the church in this coming year.
Have you ever seen the movie The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson? Two terminally ill men develop a list of all the things they have always wanted to do. They face their task with a great sense of urgency. Today we will explore our bucket list for the church.
This week, I ask you to consider what you would most like to see happen in the church in the next year. When we deal with our own pledge cards we are making a mark toward what we would like to see happen next year.
- LESS? Would you like for us to do less next year? Fewer services? Fewer touches of those lost, hungry or hurting? Fewer studies? Fewer children at Vacation Bible School?
- SAME? Why not do exactly the same thing? Don’t expect growth, simply maintain and hold on with out intention or hope for more? God is content with holding fast our talents?
- MORE? Why not look with the dreams and vision the prophet Joel speaks? Why not look ahead to where we are going and see who has won the race we are running? Why not measure with God’s possibilities? Would we like to do more? Reach another child or youth? Clothe another coat? Reach another searching heart? Invite another person to worship or dinner?
What kinds of church do you want our congregation to be:
Turn to your neighbors and tell them ONE thing you would like for us to be next year?
Know for being First? Rich? Big? Grumbling? Complaining?
Joel offers direction for us, as we consider our vision of the church. Vision comes about as God inspires people to prophesy, dream and have visions. What has God inspired you to envision for the coming year?
Colossians instructs us to set our hearts on things above. It is very difficult to focus our attention on God when we are distracted and overwhelmed by the cultural influences in our lives, but that is the call on our lives.
Matthew’s Gospel sets our personal and community priorities. Together in community, we help one another to seek God first in all things, to strive for righteousness, or right standing, with God.
These verses give us the starting place for understanding what God has called us to do and be as a church in the coming year.
One day I would love to serve as pastor of a church that was a county seat church, that loved to work as a United Methodist Church, where they people embraced that call to make disciples for Jesus Christ, through Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Spiritual Growth, Risk Taking Mission and who had Generous people who allow their hearts to be Extravagant for God. WOW! The Bishop and DS do know how to answer my prayers!
A Pastor’s Dream Church:
I would like for us to have a 120 children participate in our VBS. I would like for us to send 60 youth in hands on mission work. I would like to increase the number of adult who share skills, talents and faith with our children. I dream of a church where member know our children need the wisdom and experience of all the adults and finding volunteers to work with children and youth never a problem.
I dream of time when the children and youth don’t have to fund raise the support for the ministries we want them to have that will shape the rest of their lives. The can fund raise through our church-wide mission. If the cost of our youth program is $15K and our children’s program is $10K we know the money will be their without question.
I would like to have fellowship, classes and studies for young adults, singles, parents, older-adults that reach EVERY member. Those who do know the support and joy of these small groups, be compelled to share this with those we are missing, (not by guilt, instead through joy)
I hope for our worship to be filled with music, voices, musicians that assure the passion of our worship is present every Sunday. I dream of a time that we don’t worry about two worship services, because we are starting our fourth worship service to reach four times as many people.
I dream of a time that we average feed 200 people on Wednesday night dinners over two dinner seatings and give more people that opportunity to provide meals and give a break to those who have served so faithfully, before we wear them out.
I hope for a time that we are know throughout our region as the church with the heart of Christ to share.
If you want to settle for what we can do to get-by with saving, I don’t think you will be happy at any church… that has kingdom first in their hearts..
Over the last few weeks we have considered what we love and value in our church, who has made a difference in our spiritual lives, and our best hopes and dreams for the next year. Next week we will each make a critical decision about how we will express and grow in our generosity.
Yes, we need our leaders to respond to this call. We need every member, friend and regular visitor to participate in this radical, passionate, intentional, risk-taking, and extravagant dreaming of our hearts.
When you receive the pledge card this week, please be in prayer and seek God’s direction for your expression of generosity toward the life and vision of God’s ministry through this church.
As we continue the journey toward extravagant generosity together we are growing in our idea and plans for living as stewards of the body of Christ.
This is an awesome work we share. Let’s start with a check-up. Find your heartbeat (demonstrate how to find your pulse). Did everyone find a pulse? Sometimes we need to use other tools and instruments help us know what’s going on the inside.
We evaluate and understand our condition based on numbers on the devices. Glucose, Creatin, Cholesterol, Pressure, rates and even weight give us signals of how to live and become more healthy.
If we checked our spiritual pulse, what would we find? How would we check our spiritual health? Studying our SETWARDSHIP we will find how the numbers point to our spiritual health.
Today we will consider how Paul begins to address the subject of spiritual health.
Biblical Text: 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
While the idea richness has many meanings, the truth is that we in the United States are materially blessed when compared with the rest of the world’s population.
In 2009, when my 401k dropped along with everyone else, we started a campaign to fund retirement fund for retired ministers in 3rd-world countries. Each retiree would have a $200/year benefit. In most of the countries they would go from scraping together coins for food to being one of the most comfortable people in town. All while I was weary about loosing thousands from my excess.
Some of our lifestyle choices might not leave much margin, but the fact is, by most standards, we are extremely well off. It often seems that the more we have, the more we worry about keeping what we have and about getting more.
This is the first thing to measure: How much time and energy do we spend managing and worrying about money?
When that is the focus of our thoughts, expressing faith in God is more of a challenge.
Paul’s remedy is to put our faith in God. He suggests that we do good things, that we should be rich in good deeds, and that we be generous and willing to share.
Here is another measure: How many good deeds have you done this week? Taylor Moncrieff, Randy and Wanda’s daughter, so one of those appears from folks who had an ill child, she took them food because she empathized if her family was in a similar situation, she would hope someone like herself would care.. This a good deed rich in spirit!
Today I ask you to share two things we love about our church? Take 2 minutes. If you see someone alone get up and move over to them. [Name a few aloud]
Second, where we see Jesus in our church. Take 2 minutes to both tell and listen to at least one other person. [Name a few aloud after]
These are the ways we do good as a church and of how very rich we are in good deeds. Our budget is about 400,000 and our debt is over 600,000 and our unbudgeted mission around 100,000 and we have at least 100,000 in repairs unbudgeted. $1.2M
To be the Body of Christ calls for using our wealth for God instead of ourselves alone. God call us to do good works for the Boyd of Christ instead of for ourselves. When we give God our gifts and do God’s good work, we are blessed and our spirit grows, matures and knows joy, peace, power and grace.
Then Paul says that there is a difference between just living in our culture and living a Christian life—what Paul calls “truly living.”
Robert Schnase, author of the daily devotional Practicing Extravagant Generosity, recalls one spring when he saw various birds preparing to build their nests. He writes,
The notion of building nests is often used as a metaphor to describe people successfully providing for their own comforts. If someone arrives at a career position of some ease and security, friends say, “You’ve built yourself quite a nest for yourself here!” . . . The word nest often connotes shelter, coziness, homelike, comfortable.
In actual fact, the nests which birds build are not for the birds who build them, but for their young, for the next generation, for the future of the species. The hours of carrying straw, sticks, and mud; the days of defensive watchfulness; and the weeks of endless feeding are all for the benefit of the new ones, the young, the future.
Now consider “nests” we build in our churches. The buildings, programs, ministries, job descriptions, and services we build—are they for our own comfort and coziness? Or are they to further the faith and provide for future generations? Does our giving serve us and our needs or serve God by serving the mission of the church to reach new people? Vibrant, fruitful congregations focus as much energy, prayer, and planning on those who are outside the congregation as they do on those who are already active in the congregation. (pp. 14–15)
There is much to love about our church, and we don’t celebrate those things enough. I invite you to join this time of celebration in the next few weeks.
One thing you can do is prayerful receive a letter from our Stewardship Campaign Chair, Keith Fortson. He will be asking you to bring a measuring device, a pledge card, identifying a measure of your prayer, your faith and the fruit of your spiritual growth.
Come next week prepared to share and to celebrate.
If you don’t receive a pledge card during this week, let us know. We do not want to leave anyone out of this opportunity to grow in spirit. Amen.