Sunday, October 17, 2010

Matthew 25:14-30 - “Entrusted”

Consecrated Stewards – Part Three
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The following is a combination of my sermon outline and some rough draft portions.

• And Jesus, “The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.”
• And when the master returned, the servants said, “Here is the money you entrusted to me.”

• Entrusted.
• The first two servants responded by trusting the master, trusting that he wanted them to use the money.
• They trusted that the money would work for them.
• They trusted themselves, trusted that they had the abilities to do something with that money.
• They trusted because the master had entrusted them, had placed his trust in them.

There’s a lot you take from a parable. When Jesus tells a story to teach, those stories are so rich that they’re able to teach a lot. So looking at today’s parable from Matthew we could go in a lot of different directions, exploring what it means that the master gives his property to his servants, what it means that the one servant is lazy and wicked, but for me as I thought about this parable and thought about Consecrated Stewards, I kept coming back to one word: entrusted.

The master entrusted his property to his servants. And when the master returns, the two servants both say, “Here is the money you entrusted to me.” Entrusted.

• For six years I went to a summer camp that entrusted the campers with equipment.
• Entrusted with the equipment
• We trusted the master—the camp director,
we trusted our guides
we trusted that they wanted us to use the equipment
• We trusted ourselves—our abilities

• YMCA Camp Menogyn – explanation of camp
• The equipment we used
• How we trusted the equipment
• Trusted the camp director—that he wanted us to use the equipment
• Trusted ourselves—our abilities
• That trust grew out of the fact that we had been entrusted with the equipment, entrusted with our mission

Entrusted. That word made me think of my experience at a canoe camp in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, near the Canadian border. For six summers I spent increasingly long periods of time at YMCA Camp Menogyn, a wilderness adventure camp. And unlike other camps where you go to the camp and stay there for the whole time, at Menogyn you’re only at camp long enough to get ready for your trip, your canoe trip which takes up the majority of the time you’re there. I went out with a group and a counselor each year, starting with a trip for four days, then the next year it was seven days on the trail, then 10 days, then 17 days. Then I got invited on two long trips—one was twenty some days on trail, and the last one was about 30 days on trail.

Which brings us to “entrusted.” You see, for all of those trips we were going out into the wilderness using the camp’s canoes, the camp’s tents, paddles, life jackets, packs, and other equipment. We were entrusted with the camp’s equipment. We were sent into the wildnerness, learning skills as we went, but the camp trusted us with their equipment. They sent us out into lakes with canoes that we might swamp and damage, we might scrap up on shores if we weren’t careful, canoes that might get bent up if we weren’t careful in the rapids. They sent us out with tents and packs that need to be cared for so they don’t get torn. The camp trusted us with their equipment, trusted us to bring back their equipment at the end of the trip, trusted us not to lose or wreck anything, trusted us so that the next group could also use that equipment.

• The story Jesus tells shows great trust
• Each talent of money was worth about 20 years work
• So the servant who got 5 talents had been given the equivalent of 100 years of wages
• Entrusted
• They trust the master
• They trust themselves, their abilities
• They trusted the master—trusted that he meant for them to use the money he gave them.
• And they trusted themselves, trusted their abilities.
• Entrusted
• It all goes back to the fact that the master entrusted them with his property

That’s what happened with my experience at camp, too. We trusted the things, trusted the equipment, trusted our lives to the canoes and packs and tents and life jackets and everything else.

We trusted our master, the camp director, the one who entrusted us with the equipment and sent us out. We trusted that the master wanted us to use the equipment, use it well, go explore, and have our adventure.

And we trusted ourselves, trusted our abilities, trusted that we could learn how to do what we needed to do, trusted that we had what it took to go on this adventure, trusted that we would be given responsibility according to our abilities.

We had been entrusted with the equipment, and we, in turn, trusted—trusted the equipment, trusted the camp director, and trusted ourselves.

• And the master, the Lord has entrusted you with His property—all of the time, talents, and treasures you have are really His
• He has entrusted you with His property, His equipment, and trusts that you will use that equipment for His mission
• So trust the master, trust what He has given you, trust in the equipment

• But it’s risky to trust. It was risky to push away from the camp dock and leave camp behind. We took risks being out on the trail without easy access to emergency help. We took risks crossing lakes during windy days and stormy days. We took risks going down rivers full of rapids and boulders and snares. We took risks trying to carry our stuff over land, down long trails. We took risks trying to make sure we ate enough but didn’t use up our food too quickly.

• We trusted our equipment to keep us safe.
• We trusted that our camp director had sent us out with a good guide.
• We trusted ourselves, that we could have the abilities to do what we needed to do. But that all involves taking a risk, taking a risk in order to move forward to go on the adventure.

• Living as consecrated stewards involves risk
• Trust in the Lord involves risk—or so it seems
• Because at some point you’re no longer in control
• That’s risky

• But remember in the parable,
the master entrusted the servants with his property,
• the master entrusted them according to their abilities
• in other words, the master knew what he was doing
• AND God knows what He’s doing when He entrusted you with His property—the things He’s given you

• Stewardship isn’t about us coming up with something to do by ourselves, something from our own resources
• Stewardship is rejoicing in what we’ve been given
• Stewardship is using what the Lord trusts us to use for Him
• 2 Corinthians: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

• Sure, it’s risky to take the money you have, and give 10% back to the Lord, it looks risky to only live on 90% of your income
• But trust that the master, the Lord knows what He’s doing
• Trust the master, He wants you to live on that money
• Trust that He has given you the money to support you and sustain you
• Trust yourselves, trust the abilities that you have been given, trust the person God has made you to be, the ways in which you can use your money wisely
• IT ALL GOES BACK TO, it all starts with the fact that the Lord has entrusted us with His property
• We’re taking a risk, a calculated risk to live on the things given to us by the Creator of the world

• Sure it’s risky to use your gifts and abilities to serve the Lord, to serve in the church, to take a leadership position, to step out of your comfort zone, to help others in the name of Christ
• Trust the master, trust that He wants you to use those gifts and abilities
• Trust yourselves, trust the person God has made you to be
• You have been entrusted with those gifts and abilities, so take the risk and go serve Him
• But there’s a great question that arises on the back of the bulletin insert today, if trust involves risk, and God is trusting us with His property, trusting us to use the things He’s giving us, then we need to ask the question, “What risk did God take to involve us in His work?”

• He’s risking everything, risking the whole plan
• Or so it seems—because He knows what He’s doing
• He’s entrusted you with the mission
• But he’s also given you everything you need to accomplish the mission—He gives you your time, treasure, and talents

• And look at the quote from Ephesians on the back of the insert, God’s taking a risk by involving us in His work, His mission, but in what way does this verse help us to see that it’s not as risky as we think, that He’s more prepared for us to serve? How does this verse give us confidence about serving God?

• So again trust the master, trust the Lord, He knows what He’s doing.
• He knows He’s got good works set up for you to do
• He know that He wants to use you
• He has entrusted you with money, gifts, abilities, and so much more, entrusted you with those things to use for His mission

• Entrusted
• It all goes back to the fact that the master, the Lord has entrusted these things to you, entrusted you with His mission
• Stewardship isn’t about us coming up with something to do by ourselves, something from our own resources
• Stewardship is rejoicing in what we’ve been given
• Stewardship is using what the Lord trusts us to use for Him
• 2 Corinthians: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

• Trust the master, trust the Lord
• Use the equipment
• Do His mission
• Praise God for what He has given us

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 - “10/10/10”

Consecrated Stewards – Part Two
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Last week I got you out of your comfort zone, talking to each other during the sermon, and it won’t be something I’m going to do every week, but at least for these weeks of Consecrated Stewards, I want you thinking and talking together. Let me start you off with something easy: What does today’s date have to do with stewardship?

Get answer that points to 10/10/10 being a reminder of 10% (tithe)

What does it mean to tithe? It goes back to the Old Testament, the giving of 10% of your income, that was what you gave to the Lord, that was what was given to the temple to support the priests and their families, to support the work of the temple.

It also implies being on a budget. I can’t give 10% back to the Lord if I’m not sure what I have. I can’t give 10% if I’m not being careful how I use what I have.

Here’s a simple picture of the Old Testament budget. If I am in the Old Testament and I have 10 sheep, how many sheep do I have to give to the Lord?

What must I learn to do with the other 9 sheep?

I must live on the wool and meat from the sheep, learn to rely on the sheep to produce more lambs for the next year. I must live on a budget. I can’t go ahead and kill the fattened sheep every time I want a party. I have to live on a budget.

But you know, when you have a budget, normally you don’t start with what you’re going to spend, you start with what you’re going to receive, your income. You can think about it as starting with your blessings, the blessings has God provided in your life. Great or small, your income is your blessing, the way God has provided for you. Before you can begin thinking about spending anything, you recognize the blessings in your budget, the blessings in your life. Your income line on a budget is about recognizing blessings.

Then, and only then, after recognizing the blessings in your life, then the next step is to give back to the Lord. The first debit line on the budget is your tithe, what you are going to give back to the Lord. Tithe means 10%, and if you don’t think that you can manage 10% yet, start with some sort of proportionate gift, some kind of percentage, a percentage that helps you decide right away how many of your sheep you’re going to give to the temple.

A percentage frees you up to give, it helps you to feel confident in what you’re giving, it helps you give from the top not the bottom, it helps you to give to God first rather than just giving whatever is leftover.

Percentage giving helps you with what Paul is talking about in the 2 Corinthians passage we have for today Paul talks says that each person “should give what he has decided in his heart to give.” That’s a deliberate kind of giving, the kind of thing that’s thought through. A budget and percentage giving help you to do that. They help you think about what you’re going to give. And deliberate giving considers first the blessings. It always goes back to the blessings that God has given you.

Paul also says that no one should give “reluctantly or under compulsion,” you shouldn’t feel like you’re being dragged kicking and screaming to give, you shouldn’t feel forced to give. Being on a budget and using percentage giving frees you up from that. If you’re confident about what you’ve decided to give, if you’ve considered what you’ve been given and now are ready to give back based on those blessings, then you won’t feel reluctant about it or feel forced. But again, it always goes back to the recognizing the blessings first. Recognizing what God’s given you so that you’re able to freely give back a portion of those gifts for the work of His kingdom.

At the end of this Consecrated Stewards process, we’re not as interested in the final number you come up with. That’ll be on the response card on October 24, but this won’t be the same as our annual time and treasures survey. This Consecrated Stewards process isn’t connected to our budget. What we’re really interested in seeing is if you have been led to give proportionately, to use a percentage to help you know what you’re giving to the Lord. The card will ask whether you’ve decided to give a tithe—10%, or if you’re giving a percentage but aren’t ready to commit to 10% yet, or perhaps you’re feeling led to give even more than 10%. So this process is about training and education, about really thinking about deciding to give to the Lord proportionately, to decide on a percentage that you’ll give to the Lord on a regular basis.

A few weeks ago our Elders decided to challenge themselves to see what percentage they’re giving to the Lord. They weren’t as concerned about the actual dollar amount as they were about finding out what percentage they were giving back to the Lord. The Elders wrote down what percentage they are giving, and the numbers were averaged. They came up with an average of 8%. We rejoiced in that at the Elders meeting while also realizing that it would be a goal to get that number closer to 10%.

But again, giving a percentage starts with recognizing God’s blessings. It starts with seeing what God has already given you. It starts with that income line, rejoicing in whatever that income is, and then giving back to God. It starts with counting sheep, praising God for what you have, and then giving back a percentage to Him—in thanksgiving. Giving is based on His blessings.

Now I’ll be completely honest that I’ve been troubled about this sermon since I first got to Bethel. I mean, it’s tough enough for a preacher to talk about money, but for the new preacher whose barely been here to talk about money to people I’m just starting to get to know, well, that’s really tough. Who put me up to this?

And it’s not like Susan and I are great at this. We struggle to stay on a budget. We try to recognize God’s blessings first, but sometimes we lose sight of the blessings. We set aside a tithe for God, but we’re still tempted to reduce that, to keep a little more to ourselves. So here it’s a struggle for me personally, and I’m supposed to preach about it?

Well, I suppose it’s like anything else. I’m not preaching about stewardship because I’m such a great example. I’m not here to be the example. We look to Christ for that.

But let me tell you about my struggle this week as I worked on this sermon, my struggle as I looked at the passage from 2 Corinthians. I read that first verse and it didn’t sit very well with me.

The first part, I got. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.” That I get. If we’re reluctant to give, reluctant to share, selfish with what we’ve been given, well, there’ll be a consequence. You won’t get much in return. God calls us to share what we’ve been given. I get that.

But the second part? That’s what where I was stuck. “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” I was stuck because it sounds like it’s all based on my generosity. That doesn’t sound right. If it’s based on our generosity, then it’s like we’re earning something from God. We give a lot so He’ll give us a lot. I don’t know, that seems wrong, that seems like the focus becomes on how good I am, how good a givers we can be. Do you hear what I’m saying? Do you see my concern?

I don’t want us to walk away from Consecrated Stewards thinking that we’re earning more from God because we’re getting so good at giving. Yes, Paul says that a cheerful giver, a generous giver will be blessed—but that’s about spiritual blessings. There’s a spiritual blessing in being generous. It doesn’t always mean that if you give $100 to church that God will make sure you get a check for $1000 in the mail. It doesn’t work that way. We’re not earning something from God; we’re not bargaining with God.

No, it can’t be that it’s based on our generosity. So what does it mean? What does it mean that “whoever sows generously will also reap generously”?

Well, I’ve already given you the clue to how understand this verse. I found a scholar who gave a better translation of the verse so that it isn’t based on our generosity, it’s not focused on what we do. The clue came in what I said about where budgets begin. What do you think our giving is based on?

See if anyone remembers that it is based on God’s blessings.

That’s right, it’s based on the God’s blessings. It starts with recognizing God’s blessings. The scholar translated the verse saying “whoever sows on the basis of blessings will also reap on the basis of blessings.” Whoever sows, shares on the basis of recognizing God’s blessings, well, that person will also reap according to God’s blessings.

So giving isn’t based on looking at ourselves, looking at how good we’re going to be, looking at how brave we are to give to God, looking at what we’re going to earn from God, looking at our actions. Giving isn’t based on our generosity.

Giving is based on God’s blessings. Giving is based on recognizing God’s blessings. Giving is based on counting the 10 sheep. Giving is based on that income line. Giving is based on seeing just how much God gives to us.

Giving is based on seeing how God gives so much to us that doesn’t even show up in our budget. God gives us the sun in the morning, the moon at night, family that supports us, friends that love us, beautiful days, communities to live in, happiness, joy, talents, abilities. God gives us so much.

This week’s challenge is called in the Post-It Note challenge. It’s described more fully on the bulletin insert, so take it with you, but essentially you become a reporter. You take your Post-It Note pad with you one day this week and start writing on each piece of paper different blessings that you recognize during the day. Specific people, things that happen, things you have, things you are able to do. Then when you return home with your pad of paper, you find a place to post all of your notes. A big mosaic on the wall displaying all of the blessings that God has given you. A visual way of seeing just how much God has done for you.

Giving starts with that Post-It Note wall. Giving starts with recognizing blessings. Giving starts with seeing just how much God has given us. We praise Him for all that He gives us—the things He gives us day by day, the salvation He gives us for eternity, the abilities He gives us and the forgiveness He gives us through the cross.

I want you turn to your neighbors again, and just briefly come up with a list of blessings you see in your life this morning. Pretend you have a Post-It Note pad. Start filling up the pad with blessings that you recognize right now.

Groups discuss. Then get some responses, right them down on a Post-It Note Pad to use during the Prayers of the Church.

Today’s Stewardship Witness comes from Roxanne who wants to share with you the blessings she’s seen in her life, the blessings she recognizes in her life, and how that’s guided her in her stewardship journey. . . .

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Matthew 5:13-16 - “Salt”

Consecrated Stewards – Part One
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Give salt to person at back of church

I have consecrated, ___________, for a special task. Consecrated means “set apart for a high service.” Consecrated is a word we’re going to use a lot in these next few weeks, and I thought it’d be good to start with consecrating someone, setting someone aside for special service, so today I consecrate _________ for this task: __________, would you please pass the salt? Get person to pass salt up to front of church

God has made us to be salt of the earth, His flavor in the world, and He has called us to pass on that salt to others. I consecrated ______ to pass the salt to others. God has consecrated you, set you aside, to pass the salt to others. You are salt, that’s what Jesus says. You have His flavor

I want you to briefly do something a little different: I want you to talk to your neighbors during the sermon, I want you to briefly discuss one of the questions on the insert, it’s near the bottom of the page, where it says: “What do you think some of the God-flavors God wants us to bring out into the world?” I want to know how you would answer that question. Have people spend a few minutes discussing. Then get feedback from a few people.

While we flavor the world with God’s reminders about how to live according to His ways, the strongest flavor ought to be forgiveness, forgiveness for all sin.

Jesus is sounding a warning, a warning to the disciples and us, warning us not to go bland, not to lose that saltiness, that flavor that comes from Him.

You can hear this warning in a different way by seeing The Message paraphrase that you have on your bulletin inserts. It’s phrased a little differently to bring out the meaning more clearly to our ears:
Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Or there’s another paraphrase I like called The Word on the Street.
You guys are the world’s natural preservatives. Like salt, you bring out the flavour. But if you bland on me, what use is that? You might as well be chucked out and go join the wasters at the landfill site.

What would it mean to lose your saltiness?

If you lose your saltiness, I think that would show up most clearly if you stopped having the flavor of forgiveness, the flavor of grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

I’m not as concerned about your losing your saltiness as I am about you keeping your saltiness to yourself.

I know you know about forgiveness, you believe in His forgiveness, you trust in His forgiveness in Jesus Christ. I think you’re salty in here, in your heart.

But I am concerned that we might keep that saltiness to ourselves, might forget to go out and share that forgiveness with others, might forget to share the message of forgiveness and salvation with others.

I want you to turn to your neighbors again and discuss another question. This one isn’t on your insert. Here’s the question: How do we end up keeping the salt to ourselves? How do we as individuals or as a congregation sometimes forget to pass the salt? Have people spend a few minutes discussing. Then get feedback from a few people.

So here’s what we’re asking God to do, here’s what we need God’s help with, we need Him to talk us faulty but salty people, take us and help us to share His Word with others, help us to pass the salt.

Here’s the vision of what we’re asking God to do:
Using a saw, cut the salt package in half.

Out of the saltshaker indeed! Get that salt out there, get that salt out into the world.

We are consecrated, all of us, not just _________, we are all consecrated, set aside to pass the salt. Our prayer is that God would take us, break us open, help us to share that salt, help us to share that Word that we’ve come to love and adore. We’re asking God to help us pass the salt.

When I’m saying that you’re consecrated, that you’re set aside to pass the salt, I’m not saying that only the most perfect people here are consecrated. We’re all consecrated. Through faith in Christ, God sets us all aside. We’re all salty with His Word, we all can be His servants. We’re all faulty but salty.

Faulty but salty. We’re faulty but it’s not about passing on your perfection. It’s about passing on what God has filled you up with. You’re just a broken package. You’re passing the salt, the flavor from God, the message of forgiveness from God

For instance, take Emma, a youth in Milwaukee. Emma is faulty but salty. Emma isn’t perfect, but listen to how God used her. God helped Emma pass the salt. Now loves the Lord and loves being a part of things at her church. When Emma moved to a different high school, she got to be friends with Chaz. Now Chaz had some experiences with the church, but recently had gotten kind of turned off by the church. So Emma invited Chaz to church. With God’s help, Emma passed the salt.

After a couple of times visiting our church, Emma and Chaz came up to me after worship and were all excited. They said, “How do we get Chaz confirmed?” It’s the kind of question that unfortunately a pastor doesn’t get to hear very often. But Emma had passed the salt. She had passed on her faith and excitement about Jesus, and now Chaz wanted that same thing.

So I began teaching Chaz and her mom, Marlene. Emma came to classes, too, to support them. And it turns out that Chaz and Marlene had never been baptized. After learning about the faith, Chaz and Marlene both wanted to be baptized and join the church. What a celebration! A celebration of God working in the lives of Chaz and Marlene. A celebration of God helping Emma to pass the salt, using Emma to bring Chaz and Marlene to Him.

That’s our prayer, that He would use all of us like He used Emma.

Or take my friend, Murry, another faulty but salty Christian. And God uses Murry to pass the salt. Murry is the bass player in a touring rock band called the Old 97s. A number of years ago I preached a sermon that talked about going to an Old 97s concert. After I forwarded the sermon to the band, Murry wrote back and told me he is a Christian. Since then we’ve talked a number of times and had some great conversations about what it means to be a Christian in a regular rock ‘n’ roll band. We’ve talked about the challenges of keeping the faith in a world and culture that doesn’t really hold the same faith. We’ve talked about how he tries to pass the salt to his friends in music, being honest about his faith, encouraging people in their faith. When other people in the music business have found out about Murry’s faith, they’ve talked to him about how to keep faithful while still being in rock ‘n’ roll. God is using Murry to pass the salt, and I praise God for that. And Murry would be the first to admit that he’s faulty but salty. But God has consecrated Murry to pass the salt, set Murry aside to pass on the faith to his friends. God can use faulty people to be His salty people in the world.

See I’m not holding up Emma and Murry as these perfect examples of the faith. I’m holding them up so that you can see how God can use faulty but salty people, so that you can see how God might be using you faulty but salty people. God doesn’t want you to pass on your perfection to people; God wants you to pass on His salt, His holiness, His forgiveness, His love. You’re just the broken package with His salt to share with the people around you.

And I want you to consider how you can pass the salt this week.

I want you to consider the challenge that’s on the back of the bulletin insert, a challenge we’ll talk about more in Bible study. It’s the 1-1-1-1 challenge. For one week pray for one person at one time for one minute.

Choose someone that you know so that you can ask God to let you be salt in their life. Choose someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus or is drifting away from Him. Choose a time when you’ll remember to take a minute to pray.

Turn to your neighbors one more time and if you feel comfortable doing so, share with them the name of the person that you’re going to be praying for this week.

And when you think of the 1-1-1-1 challenge, think of the image of the salt pouring out of the container, think of how God might be pouring you out, pouring you out as His flavor into this person’s life.

And what flavor will be the strongest in you?
Can God use faulty but salty people?
Pass the salt.