The Stewardship Sermon
October 20, 2013 by Ken Dale
While it is most certainly true – especially in such matters as these – if all goes according to schedule this Wednesday morning I should become a grandfather. In preparation I?ve been working with Mike Stevens and Bobby Ives on a cradle we started this past summer. We?re coming down the home stretch on that too – but if it?s a race, I?d put my money on the baby.
This past Monday I handed Bob the piece of foam that will become the mattress. After making necessary adjustments on the angle – he cut it on the band saw. I was amazed and I said there?s always a sermon in the making and building this cradle has given me the great illustration that having the right tools makes all the difference.
Today is THE STEWARDSHIP SERMON. I couldn?t think of a more appropriate title than the one before you. My thought is that money is just another tool to make the life of the church possible. It?s not the only tool by any means, but it is an important tool. I read of a Colorado pastor who was once in a grocery store and encountered a woman she hadn?t seen in a long time. The woman had stopped attending church suddenly and the encounter between them was awkward for them both. The pastor never knew why the woman had stopped coming. After exchanging pleasantries the pastor said, ?We miss you. Is there anything that our church can do for you?? The woman replied, ?Yes there is. You could stop asking for money all the time.? The pastor didn?t have a quick response in the grocery store but as she thought about it during the week her response came in a sermon.
In the sermon she acknowledged that some people grow weary of being asked to give but said perhaps they would prefer the sort of church she read about where members are not asked for money. Instead they take turns doing everything in the church, including cleaning the building including after all the community groups that use it, planning and providing music that is so well coordinated with the theme of worship each Sunday, preparing the bulletin, providing a pastoral service for weddings and funerals and a pastoral presence in the community and through the local hospice and hospital, doing the preaching and teaching and visitation with new folks, the sick, the shut in, teaching and working with children and youth while fostering an ecumenical spirit in that work and working with sister churches in our own denomination, spending a year or so each on the mission field giving their time to those places where mission dollars through the outreach of the United Church of Christ help following disasters of many kinds, and sharing in the work of the Maine Conference UCC and the various organizations that are financially supported by the church like CHIP, Community Energy Fund, Ecumenical Food Pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Home Counselors, New Hope for Women, The Carpenter?s Boat Shop, because the church affirms their work as part of God?s activity in the community and world, reviewing the many applications for assistance that come to the church by those in need living locally, serving as counselors and program people at Pilgrim Lodge and in that church people dress warmly in the winter as they don?t run the furnace and are happy to bring little flashlights to evening programs as there is no electric bill?and on it goes?.obviously this has all been adapted and I need not go any further.
Personally I am awed at the life of this church and amazed at what it is and does. And yes it takes more than money – it also takes the gifts of people?s time and willingness to be active sharing the gifts of their varied abilities as we seek to maintain an incredible program of ministry and outreach and maintain an historical and beautiful building that is both well used and well-appointed with its pipe organ and stained glass – offering sacred space for many within and beyond the family of the church. Truthfully, I don?t think I need to sell this church or its ministry and mission for this The Stewardship Sermon — to be in touch with it – I think it sells itself. It?s real and obviously worth our support of time, talents, and treasures.
How do we decide what to give of those three things? I couldn?t help but put the traditional stewardship story of the widow and her two coins worth a penny in. We talked about it a bit at our clergy breakfast this past week and we used our access to resources with modern technology. I learned something new about the story. In those four verses we see three variations of ?poor.? In verse 2 we read that Jesus saw a ?poor widow? put two small copper coins in. In that verse the word used for ?poor? means ?needy.? In the next verse we hear Jesus say ?Truly I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them (the rich people putting in their gifts). The word used there means ?begger.? The need is greater than in the prior verse – the person is more dire. In the last verse Jesus continues saying, ?she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.? The word for ?poverty? used means destitute. Each time the woman is described the word used presents a more intense situation of need for her. The point being that she gave out of nothing – she gave totally and sacrificially. And it strikes me how much trust is behind her offering. Her offering is a statement of her faith in many ways.
Jesus contrasts her gift with those who give out of their abundance. How do we give? – out of abundance or out of poverty? As we think on that include time, include treasures, include the abilities and skills that we have to share. Those are all tools that make the ministry and outreach of this church possible. Is our giving a statement of our faith? Do we offer those gifts of time, talents, and treasures trusting that God is at work in and through our lives as individual persons of faith and together as a community of faith?
In that first letter to Timothy we hear ?as for you?pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness?.take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called.? And further down, regarding those who are rich, ?command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.?
Life that is really life is also prayerful life and how important are our prayers with and for one another. In our Congregational tradition we trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in our midst as we come together utilizing our time and talents to make decisions as we benefit from one another?s gifts of perspectives. So may we grow in faith and grow in our ability to accomplish things as a church – all to the glory of the God who is with us in Christ.