Who is God Calling Me to Serve

GiveLive-Generously copy

Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on the Living Generously Stewardship Series.  Focus on how our time is as important as our money in serving God.

Last week we saw Frank’s dream where his money testified against him and today we see the fruit of that dream. We see Frank’s spiritual world beginning to open up and the awareness in Frank that to whom much is given much is expected.

But when it comes to being a giver whom Jesus admires we need only look to the poor widow who put everything she had into the Temple treasury. It’s a high and hard standard as Paul articulates: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Which means that if we are going to truly serve others, we must put aside our comfort our convenience and our own agendas and truly step into the lives of others, which is no easy thing to do. For Jesus that step down was from the throne room of heaven into our earthly dwellings – born in a barn, forced into exile, growing up without a biological father, raised by a step father and a poor young girl Mary who was probably not much older than 16 or 17 when she had Jesus.

After Frank saw his son, Evan, give his favorite toy to a boy who had none, Frank’s wealthy eyes began to open to the fact that he had not been giving his best and soon Frank’s dream would convict him to go even farther.

In this week’s film Frank tries to buy off his guilty conscience by giving money to his gardener and writing a check for a soup kitchen. But instead of picking up a pen, he’s invited to pick up a ladle. And as he comes to know the people who eat at the food kitchen, he finds that generosity requires a relationship that knows and cares and comes to love the least of these.

And like the disciples we are impressed when we see someone like Frank give but what he finds is that he is challenged to move beyond his comfort zone in a big way. When we see poverty, sickness and pain – our natural reaction is to react with a mixture of pity and a desire to separate ourselves from it as quickly as we can. Just like Frank, we would rather give and get out. We want to write a check or give of our spare change and then hurry back into our comfort zones. It’s almost as if we are afraid that poverty and illness were catching and in this tight economy it can be.

But as we have been seeing God wants our hearts, not just our money. So we see Frank’s progress to date. He’s gone from being a self-centered tight wad into a distant giver, into a reluctant servant. And what I like about this is that it models for us a way in which God’s transformative power can be seen.

I want to invite you to answer these questions this week. What’s the poorest you’ve been in your life? How did it feel in those tough times? Some of you may be going through that kind of poverty right now. Others, may have stories from their past but one thing is for sure. Poverty is tough because it forces people to have to ask for help. It’s humiliating because self-reliance is considered to be one of the highest virtues today.

But let me pop our collective bubbles on this subject. What poverty does is strip away your control. It makes you dependent. It makes you vulnerable and if your economy outlook is rosier today than it was yesterday, think on this: As you grow older and older, your body will force you into a kind of poverty where you will become dependent on others to do for you what you will not be able to do for ourselves.

Whether you are a Rockefeller or a homeless person age will eventually make you dependent on others to do for you what you can no longer do for yourself.

Another question I want you to think on today and this week. What’s the difference between telling someone what you can do to help and asking someone what you can do to help? When you tell someone what you can do to help you are establishing parameters around what you feel comfortable doing? Asking what you can do to help may lead you out of your comfort zone.

But the goal of living generously is not about our comfort, but our obedience to God, and in the process it brings comfort to others. We have to remove ourselves from the equation and become as a servant. Obedience never seeks personal comfort. It always seeks the what’s in the best interest of the neighbor.

In the today’s film Frank brings his daughter Megan to a soup kitchen. Their perspective is best summed up by what Frank calls a spoon and Rea calls a ladle. A spoon is for serving yourself. A ladle is for serving others. When we look at the story in Luke’s Gospel of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment its worth asking how many people do you think were pressing in around Jesus that day? Why was the one woman healed out of all of the people who came to Jesus that day?

Presumably many in the crowd had needs, yet the woman was healed because she reached out and touched Jesus. She was so desperate that she fought the crowds and got in as close as she could. Jesus stopped what he was doing and focused on her.

Did Jesus see the needs of the whole crowd or just one face in the crowd at a time? And the answer would have been both, but Jesus didn’t wave his hand over the crowd and cause a mass healing. He found one person and cared for her. Her story was unique – bleeding for twelve years, considered unclean by Jewish law, she probably had no husband or family since she needed to separate herself from everyone. Jesus felt compassion for her and he healed her specifically.

What this tells me is that Jesus sees every need on a personal basis. He doesn’t read a statistic like “1,000 homeless people found in Hackensack. He sees 1,000 homeless people with names, faces, pasts, dreams, and hopes. Jesus feels the hurt of 1,000 suffering people. We need to see faces and not just statistics too. We need to hear their stories instead of assuming how they got to where they are.

What this means is that we are not consumers who come to church because of what the church can give to me. We are servants who come to church to learn what God wants us to be doing with the rest of our week in terms of service to those that Jesus came to heal and make whole.

And when we understand that we are servants and not consumers we will also know from whom the power flows. It’s not our strength that sustains us, but God’s. It’s not our strength that enables us to serve. It is God’s strength and belief in us that leads up to serve.

What I want you to do this week is to pay attention to the homeless and poor as you travel around. See them as people who have the same hopes and dreams that you have but who have given up on them ever becoming realized. Then I want you to look at the opportunity we have to serve homeless families in our community from Sunday, December 14 through Sunday, December 21st through Family Promise.

Dotty sent out a Survey via email and we had 11 people respond that they could bring a meal during that time, which is a great start, but we also need 2 servants who will come and visit with the families from 6 to 9 p.m. on those dates and we need 2 servants who will spend the night from 9:00 p.m. till 6:00 a.m.

I realize that this is the week before Christmas, which makes it even more important as we seek to welcome the Christ child into our midst this Christmas. Remembering what Jesus said to us: “As you have done or not done it to the least of these you have also done it nor not unto me.” Something to think about in terms of our time and our money. Amen

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