Stewardship 2015 Sermons

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1 1 November 2015 Sermon 1 What is Stewardship? Stewardship 2015 Sermons Today is the first Sunday of our Stewardship Series here at St Faith s. It s also All Saints Day. These things I think go together wonderfully well let me tell you why. Firstly, it s All Saints Day. The day we remember all those who have gone before us, in the faith of Jesus Christ. Some of those Saints have special days of their own in the church year. But most don t. So we remember them, and give thanks for all of them, today. Today we look to the examples of those who have gone before us, we think about how they were faithful to God. And we pray that we would be faithful too. I wonder do you have a favourite Saint? Maybe someone whose story you particularly like, or someone who has a quality you particularly admire? It might be someone in history, it might be someone alive today do you have a favourite saint? I really love the stories of some of the Celtic Saints. Christians in this country from the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries AD. I love the story of St Columba who left Ireland to go the Iona in West Scotland. Columba founded a monastery on Iona, and used it as a base to bring the good news of Jesus to the Celts and the Picts. I love the story of St Aidan who founded the monastery at Lindisfarne. Aidan travelled widely around the north of England, spreading the Gospel to anyone who would listen, and taking an active interest in their lives and welfare, whether they were rich or poor. I love the story of St Cuthbert, who had a vision on the night St Aidan died, and although Cuthbert was from a noble family, because of this vision he gave

2 it all up to become a monk. Like Aidan, Cuthbert travelled widely, bringing the Gospel to the north. One of the things the strikes me about many of the Celtic saints, maybe lots of others as well, is that they often gave up their comfortable lives in order to follow Jesus. Many of them were born into royal families or wealthy homes, and yet they gave up those things. They chose the much stricter and harder path, often spending much time travelling at a time when travelling was dangerous, often denying themselves in order to be closer to God. Today, All Saints Day, we think about all the saints who have gone before us. They set us examples to follow. They spur us on to follow Jesus well. Today is also our first Sunday thinking about Stewardship. Stewardship? Let me tell you. What is Our first Bible reading today is from 1 Chronicles 29. In this reading, the people of Israel are going to build a temple for God in Jerusalem. So King David calls all the people together, and he invites them to give gifts towards the building of this temple. They gather together, and in a big ceremony, the people bring their offerings for the temple building. They give gold and silver and bronze and iron and precious stones, heaping it all up in a big pile. And King David looks at everything the people have given, and he prays a prayer that you may be familiar with: Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours. This is a prayer we often say when we bring our offerings to God here in church, at the offertory. But David looks at everything that is in front of him, at everything that the people have given, and he says this as well: But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill-offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. In other words, David looks at all the wealth that is before him, for the building of the temple, and he realises something really important he says to God do you know what God, all this is yours anyway you re the one who gave it to us in the first place. What are we? We re nothing we re just people passing through this life. Anything that we do have is from you and we simply are giving it back to you. This insight that David had that day, is at the heart of the Christian idea of Stewardship, which is what we re thinking about as a Church in these weeks. The basic idea of Stewardship is that everything we have has been given to us by God. It is not ours. It is God s. We are not owners of anything we are stewards. From a Christian point of view, you do not own your house you steward it. You do not own a car you are a steward of it. Your money is not yours to possess it is yours to steward. But stewardship is not just about money and material goods, stewardship is about everything we have - this is about our time, our gifts and skills, our very lives. Everything we have all our days on this earth is a gift from God. And with that gift comes a responsibility. God asks us to be wise and responsible, and to be good stewards of the things he has given us. And God invites us to use everything he has given us, in his service. Stewardship is about making sure we use well all that we have been given. I once had a friend who when he was 17 passed his driving test, and he was able to use his parents car as much as he liked. When we went out, he was 2

3 always really happy to drive, and he would always give people a lift home, even if it was way out of his way. And I asked him about it once why are so you generous with the use of your car, you drive far more than the rest of us, you re out far later, because you re giving everyone else a lift why do you do this? And my friend said to me: When I passed my driving test, and got this car, I said to God God, I want to use what you have given me to help others. So I will always be happy to drive, and I will give people a lift at any time, because you have given me these things. The example of my friend is a really simple example of stewardship, and it s stuck with me throughout my adult life. Everything we have is from God, and is to be used in his service, and to help other people. Our Gospel reading reminds us of this, of the command of Jesus to use what we have to help and encourage others: I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. This is good stewardship of our time, skills and resources. This is the kind of thing Jesus calls us to be doing. As you arrived this morning, you will hopefully each have received a Stewardship booklet. The booklet gives information about what Christian Stewardship is, and the kind of things we want to be doing as a Church, to fulfil our vision. Please do take it and read it. And don t just read it and put it down, but think about what it says. Today as we celebrate All Saints Day, as we think about all those who have gone before us, they set us as example of what it means to follow Jesus. The Saints remind us what good Stewardship looks like. Everything we have our time, our gifts and skills, our financial resources - are from God, and to be used in his service. May we increasingly use all the things we have been given - for him. Amen November 2015 Sermon 2 Generosity Today is the second sermon in our series on Stewardship. Two weeks ago we looked at what Stewardship is. Two weeks ago, we explored how everything we have has been given to us by God. It is not ours. It is God s. We are not owners of anything we are stewards. Stewardship is about making sure we use well all that God has given us our time, our talents, our money. This morning, I wanted to talk about generosity. And how the best thing we can do with all that we have been given, with our money, our time, and our talents, is to be generous with it. The best thing we can do is to be generous to others, because God has been generous to us. But I can t tell you to be generous. I can t command you to be generous. Generosity comes from the heart. It s an attitude, it s a way of living. So instead I offer you some stories of generosity to maybe inspire you, to touch our hearts, that we may become more and more God s generous people. Some stories Today, at the local convenience store where I work an elderly man with a guide dog came in, went to the aisle with the greetings cards, picked up a 3

4 card, held it up extremely close to his face, and struggled to read it. Just as I was about to walk over to help him, a big truck driver asked him if he needed assistance reading, and then proceeded to read him almost every single greeting card out loud until the elderly man smiled and said, That s perfect! My wife will love that one! Today, I watched a teenage boy help an elderly woman with a cane onto the bus I was riding. He was so careful with her, assisting her every step of the way. The woman had the biggest smile on her face. They both sat directly across from me, and just as I was about to compliment her for having a wonderful grandson, the boy looked at her and said, My name is Chris. What s your name? Today, in a little African village where I volunteer as a nurse, I passed out food to hungry children. And since I knew her only food for the day was the slice of wheat bread I had just given her, I did not let her see me cry when she tore the slice in two and gave the bigger half to her little brother. Today, when I was walking to dinner outside in the cold with my elderly mum, she started walking slower and slower and digging through her bag. I often get impatient with my mum. But when I finally had enough and was about to say something, she pulled out a 10 note and told me to give it to the homeless man sitting on the pavement. Today, one of my ex-students from nearly a decade ago, who claims that I was his favourite teacher and his inspiration, sent me $1000 to help pay my mortgage payment this month after he found out from a mutual acquaintance that the school board had laid me off, and that I was struggling to find work. Today, I was serving a lady and her blind daughter. I didn t really pay too much attention to the blind girl s condition. I simply chatted with her, took her order, and served her like I would anyone else. I really didn t think anything of it. But when I went to collect their final bill, the lady had left me a 400% tip and wrote on the receipt, Thank you for treating my daughter with respect and making her laugh. You made my day. Today, almost 5 years after I stopped volunteering at the suicide prevention hotline, the manager gave me a call. She said this afternoon they received a 25,000 anonymous donation to help fund the support line. Along with the donation, they received an that read, Thank you Claire. You saved my life. Apparently, I m the only Claire who ever volunteered there. Today, I stopped on the side of the road to help an elderly man who was struggling with changing a flat tire. It turns out he was the firefighter who pulled my mom and me out of our burning house when I was a kid. Even though I hadn t seen him in 30 years, it only took me a few seconds to recognize him. We chatted about it for a while, and then as soon we had changed the tire on his car, we looked at each other, eye to eye and said, Thank you. Today, my mom is donating the kidney that my dad desperately needs in order to live. They have been divorced for 16 years. Pause Stories of generosity, one person to another. Stories of hope. As Christians we are called to be generous people. In our Gospel reading, Jesus says that God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. In other words, God is generous to everyone. He gives good things to us all. As Christians, we are meant to share those things around. We may not be able to make a difference to everyone, but we can make a difference to someone, with our time, our talents and our money. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim s progress, said: You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. Our reading from Deuteronomy says: Give liberally and ungrudging. Open your hand to the poor and needy. Be generous. As Christians, as we think about our Stewardship of all that God has given us, let s be known as generous people. 4

5 I wonder who can you be generous to, today? Who can you show God s generosity? How can you use your time, your talents, and your money, to be generous to others? November 2015 Sermon 3 Money and giving Imagine with me if you will. You are Greek, and you live nearly 2000 years ago in Greece in the city of Corinth. You have recently become a Christian; you have left the Greek gods behind, and are now following Jesus. There s not many Christians in Corinth, 50 people or so, and you meet each week in a church member s house to learn, worship and pray. Your church was started by a man called Paul, a Jewish fellow who came to Corinth a few of years ago to tell the people of the city about Jesus. Paul has recently been away, but now he has come back, and he s got something he wants to talk about. The Christians in Jerusalem, who Paul says are your brothers and sisters in the faith, are in need. The Christians in Jerusalem are desperately poor, and they re really struggling. Paul wants you to help them. He s asking all his churches in Greece to give money. Paul has told you: on the first day of the week, each of you is to put aside whatever extra you earn, for this collection. And when he comes, he ll take what s been given to Jerusalem, to help the Christians there. Now imagine with me: how do you feel about that? You ve never even been to Jerusalem. You ve never even left Greece. You don t know the people in Jerusalem. You ll probably never meet them. And yet Paul is asking you to give your money, to help them. Paul sends your church a letter. In it, he spends a lot of time talking about the collection for the church in Jerusalem, encouraging you to give. Paul writes: The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. It s clear from his letter that Paul really wants you to give! He thinks it s part of this new faith that you have. But this is new to you never before have you been asked to give money for people 1000s of miles away, who you don t even know. Do you do it? Why? Now come back to the present day. If we had more time, I d ask you for your response to that question. Putting yourself in their shoes, in the shoes of the Christians in Corinth, would you give, as Paul asks in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, and why? Today is the third sermon in our series on Stewardship, and today we re thinking about money. In the first sermon, we looked at the whole idea of Stewardship: that everything we have has been given to us by God. Stewardship is about making sure we use everything we have been given wisely and well. Stewardship is about taking our time, our talents and our money, and using them all to serve God. In the second sermon we thought about generosity, and how God calls as Christians to be generous with what we have. Today we re thinking specially about money, and our use of it. The Bible has a lot to say about money and giving far more than we could possibly cover in one sermon. 5

6 In the OT, the people of Israel tithed their income to God. They gave 10% of their produce, their income, to the priests in the temple, and to the poor people in their communities. It was a command of God in the law to do this. In the OT, giving 10% of your income away was the expected pattern. In the New Testament, Jesus talks more about money than most other things. Jesus assumes that giving our money will be part of what we do as Christians. And as we ve just seen, St Paul also expected the people in his churches to give. But nowhere in the New Testament does anyone say you must give 10%, you must tithe. There is no law for giving in the New Testament. There s no law, because we re called to be generous! And giving is a matter for our hearts as well as our minds. When Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give, he wrote this: Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. As Christians, when we give, we hopefully give after prayer and serious thought. We give because God has been generous to us. And we might end up giving far more than 10%, we might end up giving less. What matters is that we have prayed about it, and come to a decision before God. So as we think about our Stewardship of our money, it s worth asking the question: have you looked at your finances recently, and prayed about what you give? And it s worth asking how you and I compare with the Church of England s suggestion of giving 5% of our income to the church, and 5% to other charities? That s a good thing to aim for, as a start Earlier we thought about the Christians in Corinth, and the collection that St Paul was taking for the Christians in Jerusalem. I asked if you would have given money Well the Corinthians did, and Paul and his friends took the money to Jerusalem, to help the people there. St Paul s collection sets a pattern for us, of giving to the church, and giving to the poor and needy. Giving our money is part of our stewardship as Christians. So I encourage you to reflect on your own giving, and your own attitudes to money. And to pray, and to offer God your money, as well as your time and your talents, and to ask God to help you (and all of us) to be good stewards of our money. Amen. The Church of England does give us some guidance on how much we might give. General Synod, the Governing body of the Church of England, has said that giving 10% of our income away is a good amount to aim for as a start 5% to the church, and 5% to other charities that we want to support. Some people on limited incomes and for other reasons won t be able to give 10%. Other people will want to give far more. 6

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