Who’s on First

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Stewardship Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on 2 Samuel 24: 18-25, Luke 10: 25-28.  Focus on who we put first in our lives.

For the next five weeks we are going to follow the story of Frank, his wife Cassie, his son Evan and Ray – Frank’s grounds keeper who some might see as an angel – a messenger from God. In this week’s film Frank and his financial planner Allan are looking over Frank’s financial goals. Frank tells Allan to double his current holdings, which reminds me of another story that Jesus told concerning a rich man who had barns already stuffed to the breaking point and after another successful harvest decides that he should tear down his current barns to build larger ones.

In that parable the rich man is called a “fool.” One of the harshest critiques offered by Jesus, because a fool was someone who had no wisdom. A fool is someone who does not understand from whom all blessings flow. A fool thinks that he is alone in this universe and that there is no deity or accountability for decisions that act out of what some call the “finish line” approach to giving.

Finish line giving always says: “I’ll give when I’ve got this or that.” Finish line giving tends to mean we end up giving nothing or something so much less than what we would even consider to be our best. Now all of us could share a time when we felt we weren’t ready to give. Maybe we felt as if we didn’t have enough money or time, or talent so we said, “Next year.” When I am freed up or am making more than I’ll give.

Now before we go any farther let’s examine something important. When you look at Frank, do you see someone with far more to give than you? Or what about Ray, who only has service to offer or Evan who gives his best, or Cassie who sees the responsibility that goes with such blessings as her family enjoys?

The truth is we all have gifts from God and the principles of living generously apply to all of us. This not a series for the wealthy. It’s a series that speaks to all of us.

When you look over your life which of these is the hardest for you to give up?

Your time, your money, your stuff or your space? We all have areas of our lives that are precious to us. For some, writing a check is impossible. For others, giving an hour a week is inconceivable. And still others cannot fathom allowing a needy family to move into their home. It’s not the same issue for everyone.

So the question becomes when it comes to giving what is your default position? Do you tend to be more like Frank or more like Re? What causes that response? These are questions we need to ask of ourselves because God already is aware and is trying to help us move beyond our fears to see that blessings are meant to be shared not hoarded.

When we look at what Luke’s story of the man who asks Jesus must do to inherit eternal life – he knows the correct answer he just can’t act on it. To love the Lord our God with everything we have means that we must also love whom God loves in real tangible ways thus the story of the Good Samaritan. So we can see it’s not for a lack of understanding that we fail to do what the Lord requires, but for a limited definition of who are neighbor is.

Our problem with giving isn’t just about money. Our problem with giving is because of a parallel belief that is stronger than our faith. Fear is the issue. Fear that God might not be good to his word when he promises us our daily bread or an abundance of life. We might give lip service to giving but for most of us the issue isn’t one of understanding it’s an issue of trust.

In effect we often act like agnostics who don’t truly believe that God will do what God says. We believe by our actions or lack thereof that we need to secure our future all by ourselves, which always leads to finish line giving. I’ll give when I’ve secured my life and the life of my family. The only problem with this is that it never results in faith or giving it results in more inaction because we are living by fear – fear that we might not have enough, which in turn becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and a vicious cycle of always needing more and never being able to secure enough therefore, the finish line never arrives and we never risk living out of our faith that tells us that God is in charge and will provide.

In our movie Evan had an airplane, Frank had watches, and Re had his service. We all have something to give: time, gifts, resources, money and the list goes on. What each one did in our film was make a choice, which reflected their true faith, what they really believed. It reflected the nature of their heart, their view of God.

So as we go through this series during our Stewardship season, I want you to look at these questions: Where is your heart today? Does your heart take joy in an opportunity to honor God through giving? Or does your heart search for reasons that you can’t. What are you willing to give to God?

Spend time this week talking to God about where you aren’t giving your first and your best. Why would we ever want to give less than our best? What is God asking you to give? Time, money, service? Are you doing the same thing that you did last year or are you growing? Are you afraid for your future or do you see God blessing your future?

These area the questions I hope we will consider as we explore what it means to live generously so others may simply live. Amen

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