“In: What God Has Entrusted to Our Care” 03.04.2015 Sermon

Click here to view a video recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Pastor Pam offered a wonderful message last Wednesday about the movement “down” in our relationship with God. We were invited to explore how being a steward of God, a disciple of Jesus begins at creation, where God first comes down to us, how God’s love comes down to us in Jesus and how God comes down to us and claims us just as we are in the water and promises of holy baptism.

Today, we are invited to look “in” to discover all of the ways that God has entrusted his creation to our care. God has skillfully created you and blessed you abundantly. You and I are fearfully and wonderfully made! God knows you deeply and has created each individual uniquely. You and I may think that our gifts are not significant, but when they are put in the hands of God, these gifts become so much more than any one of us could ever imagine alone. And when you and I realize that all we have belongs to God and not to us, we can’t help but give it away joyfully, graciously and sacrificially because we believe that our resources are not ours to keep but are God’s to share. As we live out our life of faith, it’s no longer “How much of what is mine should I give away?”, rather it is, “How much of what is God’s should I keep for myself?”

So as followers of Jesus in 2015, who live in the middle of a culture that becomes more secular and more consumeristic every day, how might God be calling you and me to think deeply about the ways that we use the money God has given to us and the time that God blesses us with every day of our life?

When we think about caring for all that God has entrusted to our care – there are two major things that come to mind. Our time and our money. Throughout scripture, God’s people are encouraged, invited, even directed pretty intensely to think about both of these things. And specifically, to think about time and money in proportion to all that God has given them.

And I need to be honest, when Wendy and I first began to think about proportionate giving in our life in Christ, the steps that focused on time and money seemed incredibly overwhelming. That being said, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking small steps rather than giant leaps when you begin to think about giving of time and money from a perspective of proportionate giving. Let me show you what I mean.

First of all, I don’t believe that the most challenging part of God’s work through us as a congregation is money. There is more than enough money in the membership of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to accomplish all that God is calling this congregation to accomplish. Our stewardship patterns of financial giving usually don’t reflect this truth, but it is a truth that I believe deeply in none-the-less.

What I do think is an even greater challenge to God’s work through us, is our time. In today’s culture, time seems to be a much scarcer resource than our money. The most common answer to my question, “How are you?” is most often “I’m so busy.” or “I just don’t have enough time.” The scarcity of time is compounded greatly when one factors in the fact that you and I only have so much time in this world. Even for those of us who enjoy a long life, the reality is that it’s still incredibly short in comparison to the length of time within God’s unending creation.

So, on the back side of your Takeaway sheet this week are two charts that I hope will help you and I think about proportionate giving of time and money.

Stewards of MoneyOne chart is called Stewards of Money. We are using Burleigh County’s median annual household income for the dollar amount in this chart. Simply insert your own financial information to reflect exactly how this might speak to your own household. As you look at this chart, what percentage of the money that God blesses you with are you giving away in ways that show your love for God and your neighbor? If you find yourself to be giving at 1%, how might God be calling you to take a step of faith and move to 2%? And, wherever you find yourself on this chart today, how are you celebrating the ways that God is using the money entrusted to your care to love God and bless others?

Stewards of TimeThe other chart is Stewards of Time and takes a look at the proportionate use of our time based upon the 168 hours you and I are given each week. As you look at that chart, what percentage of your time are you setting aside to love God and your neighbor each week – 1%, 3%, or maybe even a full tithe of 10%? If you find yourself at 1%, how might God be calling you to take a step of faith and move to 2% of your time? And, wherever you find yourself on this chart today, how are you celebrating the ways that God is using the time entrusted to your care to love God and bless others?

God entrusts you and me with some really incredible talents and an abundance of financial resources. As we grow in relationship with God and with each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, how might the money we give through our offerings and tithes and the time that’s given through the hands and feet of more than four thousand baptized members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church be used by God to share God’s love for all of God’s children?

If we truly live out our faith together by trying to answer a question like that, Good Shepherd’s Ministry Financial Plan will always have an abundance of money available for God’s work through us. And feeling like you don’t have enough time to complete confirmation sermon notes and service projects or don’t think you have enough time to volunteer at any of the hundreds of opportunities at available in our community each week to love God and love your neighbor will no longer be stumbling blocks in how you live our your faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I have been given an awesome and wonderful calling as stewards of God, disciples of Jesus. Thanks be to God for your willingness to answer this call. And thanks be to God for God’s work through us that will continue to bless and serve others. Amen.

This sermon is the third in Good Shepherd’s six-part Lenten worship series called “Stewards of God’s Love: The Down, In, and Out of Being a Disciple of Jesus.” This series is based upon the work of the fine stewardship leaders of the ELCA. You can find the primary resource we are using by clicking here.


“A Fork and A Cross” – 03.01.2015 Sermon

Mark 8:31-38 • March 1, 2015

Click hear to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

How many of us in worship today are trying to give something up for Lent this year? Or maybe you are trying to add a new spiritual discipline to your life? Anybody. I heard someone say this week that they don’t give anything up for Lent anymore and they had a better idea for this longstanding practice. Their thought was that we should be able to decide what someone else should have to give up for Lent. We could have some sort of a secret Santa drawing in our congregation before Lent and decide for someone else what they would be giving up for Lent. I don’t know, that might be kind of fun some year.

I enjoy the wisdom of the great Yogi Berra – the hall of fame baseball player and manager, not the cartoon bear of Jellystone Park fame. Yogi once said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

We are about three months into the liturgical year of the Christian church. A year that focuses on the gospel of Mark. In case you haven’t realized by now, Mark moves quickly. And Mark 8 is a bit of a theological fork in the road. This chapter is the hinge chapter in this gospel. Not only is it the middle of the gospel in terms of verse and chapter numbers, it is also the central point theologically. In chapter eight, Jesus takes a decisive turn toward the cross. Jesus seems to know what he is doing and where he is going, or rather where he must go whether he wants to go there or not. For the disciples, this encounter with Jesus is a fork in the road. And like Yogi Berra, they simply want to take it. They want it both ways. They want to stick with Jesus and be his followers while at the same time insisting that Jesus follow them down the path that they want to take. (The above reference is inspired by the writing of Scott Hoezee in The Lenten Fork.)

As a congregation, this year in Lent we are exploring what it means to be a steward of God, a disciple of Jesus. And as we grow in our understanding of being a steward of God, a disciple of Jesus, I hope and pray that we are becoming more active in the mission that we are being called to live out each day in our life together in Christ – to go, to suffer, to die, and to be raised.

The challenge that I think we run up against, which in many ways is the same challenge that the first disciples of Jesus face directly in today’s gospel reading, is that of all the things we are called to do in our life of faith – to go, to suffer, to die, to be raised – the only thing that any of us are really interested in being part of is being raised.

Bishop N.T. Wright offers a wonderful insight on this, especially as it relates to the gospel reading before us today from Saint Mark. The Bishop writes, “Following Jesus is, more or less, Mark’s definition of what being a Christian means; and Jesus is not leading us on a pleasant afternoon hike, but on a walk into danger and risk. Or did we suppose that the kingdom of God would mean merely a few minor adjustments in our ordinary lives?” (Mark for Everyone, p. 112)
One of the shifts we are being invited into during our Wednesday worship series in Lent this year relates well to what is happening to the disciples during this exchange with Jesus. The disciples are being confronted with the reality that following Jesus is far different than they first thought it would be. It’s very similar to what we are hearing in our Lent worship series “Stewards of God’s Love: The Down, In, and Out of Being a Disciple of Jesus.” You and I, who claim to be followers of the savior Jesus in 2015, answer the question, “How much of what is mine should I give away?” in a way that looks a lot more like something of our own choosing in ways that have little to do with following Jesus.

In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses this question to the first disciples, and to you and me today, by stating, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (vs. 35) The disciples think they have this all figured out and that everything is theirs and they don’t have to give any of it away. That following Jesus is easy. But Jesus invites them into an entirely new reality and relationship with God and with each other. After all, being a steward of God, a disciple of Jesus is about realizing that everything we are, ever have been, or ever will be is God’s first. And that everything we have, or ever have had, or ever will have is God’s first.

Taking up your cross and following Jesus means that everything you and I have ever known – our relationships, our career, our health, our stuff, our money, is God’s. So…the call to take up your cross and follow quickly reframes the question of how much of what I think is mine should I give away into how much of what is God’s should I keep for myself?

There’s an old saying that – “half of our problems come from wanting our own way. The other half come from getting it!”

Let me leave you with this thought. “Let’s just admit it,” says Pastor Michael Coffey. “It’s really only the hard things in this life that end up telling us who we are, what we are made of, and what really matters. It is only the struggle we work through, successfully or not, that teach us the limits and the grandeur of being human. It is only the acceptance of suffering as a necessary part of the human condition that draws us together and unites us as one in our fragile, bodily, humble reality. It is only in confronting our death and placing our lives wholly in the fatherly arms, the motherly embrace of God, that we can finally and truly live.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as you and I continue our journey together this week to the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday, remember that when you come to a fork in the road of your life as a steward of God, a disciple of Jesus – take it. Take it and go. But don’t just take the easy road and go where you want to go. Go where Jesus wants you to go. And in doing that, live a life that even the darkness of death cannot destroy. Amen.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 868 other followers