Posts Tagged Stewardship
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.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]
Jesus talks about money on several occasions:
- The lost coin,
- giving Cesar what is Cesar’s,
- highliting the gift of the widows copper coins,
- selling all your possessions of the rich young ruler,
- serving one master,
- being content with your pay,
- love of money being the root of all evil,
- turning over the exchange tables at the temple for extorting grace,
- give to the needy,
- calculating tower building before the project begins,
- hidden treasure is with selling everything, the pearl of great price.
- In fact, Jesus talks about money a great deal.
Let’s look at tithing: We have a long tradition of response-giving of 10%.
- The earliest example of giving one tenth is done by Abram (Abraham) giving 10% of the spoils of war to God and returning 90% to the loosing king. Abram says, I don’t want you to call me rich at your expense. (So much for Robert Tilton and Guuy Smiley, I mean Mr O’Steins.)
- There is also the addition of the 3-year tithe once the temple construction begins. There are tithes for the poor, the widow, the children, the travelers in need. If we want to more literal the requirement for tithing for poor, the Levites and the temple up-keep would be more like 23-25%. So where are we on our tithing now?
- Take the many ministries of the United Methodist Church: We might be most familiar with the UMCOR in funding support to people in emergency disaster crisis. We have special offerings for missionaries, students higher education, clergy education, education in Africa, world/global poverty, local poverty and housing, care for native Americans, The UMW and UMM and UMYF support mission work and mission projects, We support Decatur, Mt Top, Murphy, Harps children’s homes, retirement homes for elder care, local ministries of feeding, supporting, caring, praying and clothing.
Where does tithing start and stop? Offerings, first fruits, gifts, giving, etc?
- Q: Do we tithe for each of these? We are compelled by our hearts to directly support the feeding, clothing, comforting and supporting those in need in direct response to Jesus call to do so in scripture.
- The physical plants, storage facility, meeting space, worship space, fellowship space, education space, and administrative space for our global, nations, regional, state, district and local ministries are much less interesting, but they are necessary to facilitate all the good we do above. We heat and cool, keep dry and safe, we gather for fellowship and worship and study places around the globe and the thousands of staff people to lead, serve, guide, facilitate and support our millions of members around the world.. all doing small parts to be the body of Christ, visible, tangible and present for a hurting and searching world.
What about giving when your heart is not in it? Give to earn or give to love?
- Q: Do we tithe for each of these? We are called to be the church physical and present as witness, a lamp stand. The oil in the lamp, the one to light it, clean and maintain it, the one to maintain and facilitate the city on a hill.
- What if we turned off the air/heat? didn’t have insurance? sold our building? had no paid staff, no worship space, no instruments, what if we had no overhead, it was just up to us as a group of people… What would we do to be the body of Christ, united, present and giving witness to Christ for the transformation of the world?
- It might satisfy the passive-agressive side of our minds, for a short time, we could say, see, we don’t need all that stuff! We can save our money.
- Q: What are we sharing our money for in the first place. Feed 5000 with out a kitchen and tables and chairs and fellowship hall? We would need a miracle! What if we had the miracle and the physical plant… could we do even more.
- A: There must have been those who didn’t think building the first temple was a good idea because the had the old mobile tent that was vintage, historical and traditional… and David and Solomon go and get us in the building business??!!
Solution: Text: Spiritual Birth… it’s all just a building and material until the Spirit is alive through it.
- Jesus fed the 5000 after he prayed and spirit shows up and begins to multiply the small gifts into more.
- Jesus reminded Nick, about the time the people were wandering in the wilderness when they had no temple expenses… God told Moses to trust God heal the sick, keep the people safe from the snakes, and drawn together for God’s purpose..
- Be faithful in the physical and open the door to spiritual things.
- The Tithe is about intentional-planned giving. It’s not just a matter of the heart or attention. It is practice of the will and mind and heart, that God uses to grow us spiritually.
- If money represents my labor, work, talent, skill, time and energy and I give God a regular, deliberate amount then my relationship with God is both, a) shared and b) connected, c) committed, d) intentional, e) on a track of growth and maturity.
- If I only need God when I am interested, inspirited, entertained, or required, then I don’t have a mutual relationship. I’m only a customer/consumer. God is interested in partnership and fellowship.
- The regular, planned, intentional gift is thought out and not a dependent on me.
- The regular, planned, intentional tithe is a statement of faith, that God expects something of me, just as I expect something of God.
Make your tithe, your gift, your giving as planned, intentional priority.
- God loves us so much, on purpose, intentional, as a planned gift for our benefit.
- Who ever believes, believes in sharing life, work and love that God has show us, for ever.
- Better start now.
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?
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” [NRSV]
• Jesus dismisses the disciples before dismissing the crowd. Leaders need retreat and renewal in order to be fit for leadership.
• Just when rest is needed, the A boat battered by the waves, far from the shore, with the wind against them. Strike three.
• Stepping out of perfectly find boat, into the awesome power of storm is the antithesis of safety?? [Jumping from the frying pan into the fire.]
• Jesus invites us to Come to him, IN the midst of a terrible storm.
o Jesus is in the storm, WITH us.
o Peter walks on the water..
• We are amazed that Jesus walked on the water, but Peter did the same. Ordinary, fallible, doubting, over-thinking, over planning, over talking, over protecting Peter..
• Finds Jesus’ strength to do all things, more powerful than storms and nature, greater than the rules of science and engineering. Peter can do all things in Christ who gives him strength..
BUT, This is what gets us in to real trouble. BUT. Our buts get us into trouble.
We think that following Jesus keeps the storms away. Nope.
Those outside the church look at our lives and see we have illnesses, hardship and struggles. They ask, “Where is God” or think “God is gone or made up.”
Or our trouble is that WE think WE have conquered the waves and storms.
We step out in the waters of faith, God blesses and guides us and we look away.
There is a cinematic focal point where the camera pans from the storm and connects Jesus’ eyes with Peter’s eyes. They are connected.
But when Peter looks away, the connection is broken, the connection is lost, the power is cut off. Because it is not Peter’s power. Peter looks at the storm, at the impossible, at the fear, at anything except Jesus and down he goes into the storm.
Home Work is to get out of the boat and keep our eyes on Jesus.
It is easy to sit here in the fellowship, with great music and friends and good neighbors, but thing of storms of jobs, bills, cancers and broken hearts, fighting fears and families. Step into a storm and bring all eyes to Jesus.
Help someone see Jesus in the storm.
Break up a fight. Make a call, send an email, write a letter, start the conversation, break the silence. Be the messenger that reminds and introduces: “Jesus is here with us now.”
You may say, I don’t get mixed up in others folks troubles. Then get out and look around, live a little and see and hear our neighbors who feel that they are about to drown and we have words of power, hope and life to share.
Practice: Look in the eyes of someone this morning. Do you see Jesus or just evidence of a wrestles night lacking sleep? Tell that person,
“Keep Your eyes on Jesus and he will see you through every part of your life.”
Nothing is impossible in Christ who gives us strength.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MT:6.24 No one 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.
The 5 Core Practices of Making Disciples for the Transformation of the World
Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Spiritual Growth,
Risk-Taking mission and service, and EXTRAVAGENT GENEROSITY
Let’s start with a confession (it’s good for the soul, right?)
When we first heard that Extravagant Generosity is a core practice of The Methodist Way our thoughts are usually less than charitable. We just might be really ready to write the whole thing off. Is it an institutional gimmick to make raise more money? Plus, folks already have way too many assumptions, opinions and personal baggage when it comes to money.
• It is heart breaking to know people who will not darken the doors of the church because they think the church only wants their money.
• It turns our stomach to see how some misuse their faith to make themselves rich.
• What percent of our church time is spent on buildings, budgets and finances compared to time in ministry?
• Far too many congregations make decisions based on cash flow rather than faith and trust in God’s calling.
• Many people leave church over money issues and never come back into the fellowship.
• Individual families fight about money more often than any other issue.
That’s enough baggage for a three year world tour!
Wouldn’t it be great if we never spoke about money in Church again?
The Spirit reminds us that we would be unfaithful, and even harmful, especially given where and when we live.
Think honestly about our society: We live in an extraordinarily materialistic and consumerist society.
40% of Americans spend 110% of their annual income each year
Dave Ramsey Quote: We buy things we don’t even need with money we don’t even have to impress people we don’t even know.
We are immersed in a culture
• that feeds an appetite for more and bigger (Gluttony and Greed)
• that fosters the myth that self worth is found in having what others have (Envy)
• that furthers the lie that money and possessions equal security (Pride)
In short, rooting our life on the dreams and promises of easy money, material happiness and worth and value based in what we can grab leads to a society of communal slavery, an enslavement to several of the seven deadly sins.
This is not of God.
Jesus came that we would not be slaves to false teaching, sin, and fear.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says
No one 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.
Our culture exalts an unsustainable, suicidal system of gluttony, greed, envy, and pride. (We have seen this most clearly since 2009 since the housing and banking crash we have seen at every level of our society our short-sightedness and false trusts.) And honestly, we are only beginning to see the consequences.
So What in the World are we do HEAR when we say:
God’s practice of Extravagant Generosity is the answer.
Extravagant Generosity is a spiritual discipline
• Extravagant Generosity is not based on God’s demand for wealth, rather for as a sign of our trust in God’s work and plan.
• God doesn’t need money, instead God wants us to know that we don’t need to trust wealth more than we trust God.
• Extravagant Generosity is about our spiritual maturity that grows as we give. The more our Hearts experience giving the more God like we become.
• Extravagant Generosity is a set of spiritual disciplines given to us by God for our own good. They are classic disciplines:
For gluttony there is temperance and self control.
For greed there is charity and sacrifice.
For envy, patience and satisfaction.
For pride, humility and service.
Be Extravagant in self-control, sacrifice, patience, peace, humility and service and you will Become the Generous Person God’s desire we know.
Practicing the disciplines of Extravagant Generosity breaks the chains of our unsustainable, suicidal system.
In the weeks ahead you will receive two pledge cards. One for the operating costs of ministry for 2013 and one for the debt retirement that has made our facilities possible place to serve. In the mean time we can practice our GENEROSITY by completing the work we have begun in this year. We are significantly behind and need to finish this year in faithfulness…
Jump in and give like God gives.. and you will see God work and shine all around and through your gifts and living!