Series: Creating a Culture of Generosity
2. Caring for What Is God’s
Pray: Bless our time with you this morning, that we may hear your word and be inspired, filled with your Holy Spirit in blessed and challenging ways. Amen.
During this season of Lent as we reflect on our faith journey, both our individual journeys and our journey as a congregation, I am preaching a series on stewardship. That’s right, six sermons about stewardship. Who’s feeling nervous? Well, first of all, don’t worry. When have you known me to be a preacher who preached at you? This is not an opportunity to wag my finger at you. Stewardship is an issue we struggle with and in fact many churches are struggling with, and we need some help remembering where the emphasis needs to be. People become uncomfortable when the word stewardship comes up because it has become so associated with the annual pledge drive that people assume stewardship is all about money. Well, stewardship is about money, but it is not all about money. When discussing the beginning of the Center for Faith and Giving, our general minister and president Rev. Sharon Watkins said, “the only thing people are more afraid to talk about in our churches than evangelism is stewardship.” Who agrees? I do. Money, religion, throw in politics and you’ve got the trifecta of things people really don’t want to talk about.
The thing is, the more we avoid talking about stewardship, the more we misunderstand what it is. The more we pretend the elephant is not in the room, the bigger the mess becomes. We are not meeting our expenses, and that’s a huge problem. So how do we change it?
Let’s start by openly and honestly talking about stewardship. Last week, we talked about the importance of keeping Sabbath. What would change if we actually practiced being faithful to God by believing God will bless us with enough if we take one full day of rest? God finished God’s work of creation in six days and on the seventh day rested. What if instead of trying to fit eight days of work into seven days of the week, we trusted God to bless us with enough to work six days and have what we need for the seventh day of rest? How many things would have to shift in our living to live Sabbath into our practice? Two words I hope you are challenged by, trust and enough. Do we truly trust that God will take care of us? And do we depend on God’s abundance to give us enough, or do we believe there is never enough?
This week we are looking at self-care as stewardship. Don’t raise your hands, but whose guilty of neglecting your own care? We don’t eat right, we over schedule ourselves, we push through the pain hoping it will go away, we avoid or put off seeing the doctor, we don’t exercise, we put ourselves in intensely stressful situations, sometimes intentionally to see if we can get better results. It’s funny to me, in a culture where we tend to be so self-centric; we are not very good at taking care of ourselves. We seem to be so busy we tend to zoom in on the quick fix, and the instant gratification in order to keep moving and get back to what makes us happy, I mean busy, I mean completely stressed out. And then we wonder why we walk around feeling empty, tired, overwhelmed all the time. Let me give you a clue, it’s not because church isn’t fulfilling your spiritual needs, it’s because you are not taking care of yourself.
I like to call it the airplane syndrome. When you get on an airplane they explain to you that in case of a drop in pressure oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. While the crew instructs the passengers about how to put on their masks, they explain, put on your mask first, and then help others. The point being, you can’t help anyone else with their mask, if you are not breathing yourself. So give yourself the time to put on your mask, the seconds you take will save your life and your loved ones. If we would practice this, maybe we wouldn’t feel so in need of those forms of instant gratification to get us through.
In our scripture today the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome and he talks to them about the importance of treating our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. Other scholars translate the word spiritual as reasonable. How many of us think of our bodies as a gift from God? And how many of us treat our bodies that way? Even those of you who are fit, do you spend time stressing over things you cannot control? Do you give yourself over to what the world teaches, that there is never enough, so I better soak up all I can now, cause I can’t take it with me, and anything I can save will take care of me later?
Here are some of the problems with that kind of living. 1. Where is the trust in God to provide for us? Yes we have brains, and yes we must be prepared to ration out resources over time to plan for the bigger picture of ministry, but do we not believe that God is the provider of all good things? Do we believe that God has promised to take care of us and of our needs? Do we believe God has called us to fruitful ministry? Have we forgotten that God also equips the saints to fulfill the ministry to which they are called? No, we can’t wait for God to magically fill the offering plate, but where is our faith in God? 2. The scarcity model that says there is never enough so we better save for a rainy day, and avoid spending at all costs, denies the call to mutual care.
As we read the rest of this passage of Paul’s letter, we see the balance of everyone having their own part in ministry and being a functional member of the whole body. (Read 12:6-13.) We are all a part of the body, folks. Everyone’s gifts are needed. And when one is missing from the body because they are sick, or busy, or resting because they did not take care of themselves, the body is lacking. Each of us is a vital part of this body. We must take care of ourselves if we are going to add to the ministry God calls us to live out.
Now, don’t miss hear me. I am not suggesting people should never get sick, or get hurt, or you can never have a Sunday off to rest, however, I am suggesting that when Sunday becomes a recovery day for Saturday night, there might be some self-care issues to deal with.
I want to come back to the issue of mutual care. As a part of the body, we are accountable to Christ and to one another. I don’t think we hold one another accountable. People feel like church is a volunteer activity, unlike mandatory work. But church does not work as an organization if we are not accountable to one another. Which brings me back again, to the issue of self-care.
God has blessed each of us with bodies for the task of living and learning and growing in faith. God has blessed us with a body of Christ in which we share mutually with one another, so that no one is in need. God blesses us with more than enough to share. Let us honor God’s good gifts of more than enough, by taking care of ourselves so that we can respond to God’s call with all that we have and all that we are.