“Bringing In a New Thing”
Pentecost 21A, Proper 26 (All Saints Day) – November 2, 2014
Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12.
Today, we have a few different priorities woven together in this service. First, it is All Saints Sunday, The Sunday we remember those who have already joined Jesus in Heaven.
We Witnessed Two People Receive New Life Through the Sacrament of Baptism.
It is a sacrament that reminds us that we die in Christ to this world so that we live a new life eternally with God. And, all of us renewed our own Baptismal Covenant to remind us of the new thing God is doing in and through, and with us.
Today Is The First Sunday Of Our Stewardship Campaign As We Prepare for the New Church Year.
I want to share some of my testimony regarding tithing. Tithing is the faithful giving of 10% of our income to God. It has been a source of blessing in my life; but it was also one of the hardest challenges I faced as a new Christian. I had already proved to God – on paper, in black and white – that I could not afford to tithe. There simply was not enough money left after expenses to increase the amount I was already giving. But God was not impressed with my math. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me that tithing is not about money. It is about spiritual growth and obedience to God. It is about learning to be a “joyful giver”, and it is learning that God has an eternal law called “sowing and reaping”.
In Genesis 8:22, God said: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Seedtime and Harvest is a natural law of the earth, but it is also reflective of a spiritual principal. Many of Jesus’ parables were about sowing and reaping and the lesson for us that we reap what we sow.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Paul says: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each should give what has been decided in his/her heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Most of you either personally know, or know about, my son Stephen and daughter-in-law Michelle and their adopted son Sam who was born in Haiti. What you may not know is the decision they made during the early days of the adoption process. When the reality hit home that it would cost between $25 & $30,000 to adopt Sam they were tested in their faith and in their commitment to continue tithing. Michelle said to Stephen, “Do you want to stop tithing and put that money toward the adoption?” It was a legitimate question. They didn’t have $30,000 and didn’t know how they would be able to save or raise that amount within two years, so Michelle had the courage to ask the question that had to be asked, “Do we take matters into our own hands – like Abraham and Sarah did in order to acquire their son – or do we trust God completely to provide the money needed to complete this adoption?” To my delight Stephen replied, “There is no way we stop tithing. If we do then we can’t continue to trust God to be in charge of this adoption.” So, they continued to tithe their income to God through their church, and God gave them the ideas and the support needed to raise all the additional $27,000 needed to adopt Sam.
A generation earlier I learned that if I wanted to continue to grow in my relationship with God tithing was the next step in deepening my own spiritual walk. So, very reluctantly and fearfully, I wrote my first tithe check. That was more than 40 years ago, and I’ve never been tempted to look back.
The human way to look at tithing is to say, “Look at how much I’m giving up by spending this extra money at church.” The spiritual reality – what anyone who has been blessed by tithing will bear witness to – is, “Look at how much I’ve gained by trusting God.” I’ve gained the confidence to say this to you this morning, and Stephen and Michelle gained a son.
Therefore, I would never want any of you to begin tithing because of fear, or guilt, or trying to impress someone else with how righteous you are, or thinking you are buying-off God. But, I do believe that everyone who is serious about your spiritual walk will eventually have God challenge you to begin tithing – it will be a ‘next step’ in faithful discipleship. I’m sharing this to prepare you so when that season comes you can trust God to work out the math in your life. Tithing will not diminish your resources; it will enhance them and bless your life. God will take the monetary seed you invest in the field of God’s Kingdom and magnify it back to you in a special harvest.
That is why I make a money-back guarantee to anyone who steps out in faith and begins tithing. If at any time during the first 90 days after you begin tithing you come to me and say, “I thought God was calling me to tithing but it must not have been because I can’t pay all my bills”; I will have your tithe money refunded – no questions asked, no embarrassment. You were trying to do the right thing, but it wasn’t your season – God wasn’t in it. I don’t want your money and the church doesn’t need it under those circumstances. Tithing is a spiritual discipline and blessing. I want you to be blessed by God and grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, not be in debt to the church.
Tithing is one area of our life that God actually invites us to test His faithfulness. In Malachi 3:10, God says this about tithing: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
Stewardship is about offering God our Time, our Treasure, and also
Offering God Our Talent.
Being open to receive God’s direction regarding what you should be doing with your life is every bit as important as spending money wisely. God designed you to do certain things; to have certain impacts on other people’s lives, and to labor in the Lord’s field in certain ways.
I can’t predict where God will lead you to serve, but if it is left to me I will probably mess it up. For example, I never, ever – never – would have gone to Richard Roberts and asked him to be in charge of our Flower Ministry. I mean, why would a soft-ware engineering, motor cycle riding, guitar playing man want to make sure there are beautiful flowers on the altar as many Sundays as possible? But, God laid it on Richard’s heart and he has done a great job. That’s why we ask you to pray and let us know where you think God is leading you to offer your time and talent, and treasure.
Next Sunday you will receive a stewardship packet with information in it and two forms for you to complete and return. Please be in prayer about your responses and step out in faith, and Just Do It!
It is all about faith, and trusting God enough to step out on faith. We offer our resources – time, talent, and treasure – to God for His Ministry of Reconciliation in and through us to others. It is not complicated. It is sometimes a little scary, and it is often inconvenient because it gets in the way of how the world wants you to live your life. That’s why Jesus said we have to pick up our cross every day if we are follow Him. The Fourth theme today is All Saints Day. Our Scripture lessons and Collect are those for All Saints Day.
All Saints Day is About Remembering Those Who Have Already Run The Race and Finished The Course and That We Are Still In Communion With Them.
They have already given their time, talent and treasure to resource God’s ministry on Earth. They are now part of the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before [God’s] throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). They are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us, prays for us, cheers us on as we run our race through this life (Hebrews 12:1& 2}. Verse three says: 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We remember those who have gone before us in order to gain a larger world-view and the courage to endure life’s hardships. Take a moment to think, as you sit here right now, knowing what you know about life, about God, and about the Christian faith – if you boil it all down to the very essence – what are the very most important one, two, or three things you would share with someone who was looking for meaning in life, who was trying to prepare for eternity?
A lot of guys say: “The one who dies with the most toys wins?” Would your advice be, “acquire all the wealth you can, nothing else matters?” Or, would it be about living a life of love? Loving God, loving others as Christ loves you, and loving yourself are the ways Jesus described it.
Walking in ”The Way of The Cross” is our way of serving others in Jesus’ name. It is helping those who are poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of God. It is comforting those who mourn. It is encouraging the meek because they are like Jesus and will inherit the earth. It is providing a place and a ministry for filling those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is modeling the benefits of receiving mercy and being merciful to others. It is raising our children to continue to be pure in heart so they will always see God. It is understanding the ministry of the peacemakers because they are deserving of being called God’s children. It is praying for, and standing in solidarity with, those who are persecuted because of their Jesus–given righteousness, for they are already seeing into the throne room of Almighty God. It is having the integrity to teach that the world is antagonistic to real Christianity, and spirit-filled Christians will be insulted, and persecuted, and suffer evil slander.
These things we do, not for earthly reward, but for the joy of hearing our Heavenly Father say to us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your eternal reward.” Through us God is Bringing In a New Thing; through our Time, our Talent, and our Treasure. The lie is that we think we own our time, our talent, and our treasure, when the reality is it is all on loan from God. What God calls us to do, God also provides the resources needed to accomplish His will. So, when we make our faith pledges we are simply returning to God what God has already given to us.
Therefore, I’m challenging you to step out in faith and give back of the Time, the Talent, and the Treasure that God has invested in you for the work of the church in the ministry of Jesus Christ who is seeking to reconcile the world back to his Heavenly Father.
May God meet all your need according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Amen and Amen!