Sermon for November 18, 2018
Thanksgiving Sunday and Stewardship Sunday
Psalm 136:1-9; Luke 18:18-30
Sermon Title: Giving Gratefully And Generously
I like to begin my sermons by giving some context to the scripture reading. In todays Gospel lesson we are presented by a rich ruler. For the gospel writer Luke, this rich young ruler represents the wealthy and greedy of the day. Earlier in the same gospel according to Luke, Jesus has already contrasted the actions and behavior of the rulers/ those who were in charge, against what he believes the disciples should be about- which was, humility, service, love of neighbor and one another.
But what is this particular portion of Lukes gospel all about? A lot happens in this exchange between Jesus and the ruler. Eventually, we see that the ruler sounds defeated as he knows he cannot do what Jesus instructs him to do (which was to give his possessions away.) Then, Jesus seems to give him hope by saying that the ruler might think its impossible for him to do this but that nothing is impossible for God!
The main part of this scripture portion is the rich rulers erroneous belief that indeed there is something he can do to inherit eternal life- as if it is all about him and NOT Gods grace! But, of course, that concern wasnt what Jesus wanted him to focus on at all. It isnt just the future that matters, it is the here and now that maters! If it were about works (only or primarily) than the gift of Gods grace would not be necessary, or much less sufficient as the Apostle Paul calls it.
Perhaps, Jesus is calling the ruler to TRUST God with what the ruler loves the most (his wealth) and give it to God.
We all have something we love the most. It can be a person or a thing. But do we love it more than God also?
The scripture reminds us that ALL things come from God. What we return to God needs to be given in humility, in trust. Not to earn our way into heaven (because we cant anyway) but to be Christs disciples, people willing to put Him first and foremost.
As time goes on you will hear me preach, teach and talk about what it means to be disciples of Christ. Disciples of Christ know their priorities. It is to serve, to give, to love.
Our world and our nation is hurting. Our own state of California is literally and figuratively on fire. Of course, I know I am not saying anything new to you.
We cannot stand idly by as the amount of people in need keeps growing. For, disciples give courageously and compassionately, to others.
This church has been called to be a blessing to this community and to people around the world. In order to do that we must give of our money, our time and our talents.
We can not ALL give a lot of money because not all of us have a lot of money to give. However, we can be generous in our giving. Whether that is serving others through various ministries here, or pledging 10% of your salary, or both- God will use it. I can guarantee you of that.
But let us give not because we somehow think that will guarantee our way into heaven- as the rich ruler was thinking. Instead, let us give because it is Biblical to give, because God commands us to give; because it is the right THING to do, because people are hurting now more than ever, because we CAN do amazing things for this community through giving.
You can indeed pat yourselves on the back. Ive read and heard of the amazing ways you have given to other organizations, ministries, people. You have helped transform the economic reality of many a person. You have been a force of transformation, healing, hope and safe haven in this community for 128 years to be exact!. That is quite a legacy of love! But we can not just look toward the past, we must look toward the future b/c again- the world needs our hands, feet, and financial resources. Too much is at stake.
That legacy of love includes all that we do- worship, finances, how we work, learn and serve together, too. And we know that giving of our gifts- both monetary and talents is a form of worship. It is actually a form of exercising spiritualty. It is a sacrifice and it is an also an honor. If we chose not to give generously of our times, talents or treasures then not only do others miss the opportunity to be blessed but we too miss the opportunity to know the joy of giving.
I have a fun fact: did you know that the topic that Jesus spoke most about was money. Money mattered to Jesus. What people did with their wealth mattered. How people shared mattered to Jesus. How people demonstrated their love for God by sharing their resources with others, mattered to Jesus. If it mattered so much to Him then shouldnt it matter to us as his modern day disciples and followers?
We are poised in the best location of Chula Vista- right here in down town. We have an amazing staff team. We have dedicated members, lay leaders who tirelessly serve out of their dedication, love for God and for their neighbors.
So, yes, we can be grateful for ALL that God has allowed this church to do and be in this community and in the world. Thank God for that legacy. We can also be grateful for what God WILL do through us in the future to continue to be a blessing to others.
We serve a generous God. We are called to be generous as well. Let us be so.
In a moment you will have an opportunity to fill out your pledge cards. There are many ways for you to give- of your time, of your passion, your interest and yes of your money.
This Sunday I ask that we take some intentional time to be in prayer and reflection about what it is that God is calling us to this coming year. IS God asking you to give more of your money to this congregation? IS God asking you to volunteer and serve in a particular ministry? If you have already filled your card out then pray that God blesses that decision you have already made. If not, then pray that God gives you discernment and a sense of obedience to fill out the card in the way that you think God is inviting you to do so.
Im going to open up this time in prayer and then after I finish praying, Lionel will play some soft music as we fill out our cards and spend some individual time in prayer. Then a few moments later the ushers will come forward to receive your offering for today and your pledge cards.
Let us pray.