Stewardship

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This coming weekend’s readings will commonly be classified as stewardship readings.  It’s hard to avoid that label when you have the parable of the talents.  But really, these readings are another in a series in Matthew on active waiting.  In a sense, this is what stewardship is.

Often we equate stewardship only with money.  Money is a piece of the puzzle, but it is only one piece of it.  If money is the only part of stewardship, then we should just talk about money.  The down side of that is that we raise the importance of money beyond what it should rise to.

Given that this is the season in which churches will be passing mission plans and budgets for the coming year, looking at stewardship is really important.  And it comes down to the definition of what it means to be a steward and what stewardship is.  There are many good resources out there on stewardship and I encourage people to tap into them.  The Stewardship of Life Institute is one such resource.

Getting back to the main point, how we approach our mission plan/budget is important.  What drives what is the question.  Is money the driving force and determines what a church does?  Or is the mission plan the driving force and money is a means to carry out the mission?

In our current age of declining churches, where the expectation is decline, many will fall to the first way of making a decision.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  That ways starts with the expectation that there is limitation – limited money, limited resources, and limits to what God can do, and what we can expect our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to respond to God’s call with.

Or we can start with the idea that God is a God of abundance and that God has big plans for us – to use us to make a big impact and change many people’s lives.  This goes further than just that though – it’s the idea that changing people’s lives will lead to more people’s lives being changed and more people wanting to experience an encounter with Jesus.

Being a steward doesn’t mean hording what we have and burying it for safe keeping.  Rather, we are called on to take what has been handed to us from God, and to go out and use it to expand the kingdom – God’s kingdom.  As we do this, people will respond and lives will be changed.  And more people will come in search of this Good News for their lives.  This is how the Gospel is spread.  This is how the kingdom unfolds.  This is how we are called to be stewards.

Money

God has lots of money.

Do you believe this?

So often we start from a point of lack.  Yet we claim to worship a God of abundance.  But do we really believe it?  Do we believe that if God wants something to happen that God will make the resources come together to make it happen?  The resources of time, money, and people, among other things.  Or do we think that this is just wishful thinking?  Do we sabotage God’s plans because we doubt what God is up to and the way God goes about it?  in our doubt, do we close our eyes to what God is up to?

I’m not into the claim it and it will be yours idea.  Or the idea that God blesses people only through material blessings.  I’m saying something different here.  Are we open to how God actually works – especially in ways that might not make sense to us?

So often in our churches, we start with a sense of lack.  We think we don’t have enough money for this program or for that ministry.  Often churches begin with the assumption that the only resources that God could possibly tap into reside solely inside the church building and only with the most active members.  Boy, that’s limiting God and making the unfolding of God’s will much more difficult than I think it is and that I’ve seen too.

God has lots of money – and just in the pockets of the people sitting in the pews.  It’s all around us, just waiting to be used to help bring about God’s will in our communities.  Often our doubts prevents us from seeing where God’s money is.

Yes, my friends, God has lots of money.  More than enough to do all that God has in store.  Money is a tool.  When we see it as something more than that, it becomes an idol that has to be protected.  But when money is a tool, look out, great things happen.

God has lots of money.  Do you believe it?

A simple message for today

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I don’t feel like writing much for today.  So, I’m keeping it real simple.  Here’s what you need to know:  God loves you so much that God keeps coming and coming to each one of us over and over, again.  God doesn’t get tired or exhausted.  And there is nothing you can do to move closer to God.  God’s taking care of it all.  Just let that sink in.

Never ending spin

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You have to give credit where it’s due.  In this case, it would be concerning spinning away election results.

Mind you, this could be written after every election, regardless of the results and who was declared the winners and the losers.

One thing that can always be counted on is that there will be never-ending spin from partisan insiders.  That’s their job.  But it’s also a part of their worldview and belief about the world.  Partisans can spin away anything.

Hard core loyal partisans can even do mental gymnastics.  This has happened many times before.  It happens when one party switches positions on a policy and the other party adopts what they were opposed to previously.

When hard-core partisans don’t get everything they want, they keep pushing because it’s never good enough.

This isn’t all bad.  In fact, like I said, there are some positives sides to this – like the fact that someone who deeply believes in a cause will never give up and will keep pushing to get what they see as right.

To some degree, we in the church could use some of that fire.  But not all of it.  Spinning away things isn’t a positive trait.  It’s really quite annoying actually.  It’s also an unwillingness to accept the reality of the situation.  It makes having conversations about just about anything really difficult.

As a church, we shouldn’t spin away things.  We shouldn’t spin away decline in the church.  We shouldn’t spin away financial troubles.  Spinning away sexual misconduct has been a problem for the church.

We can leave the spin behind.  But we shouldn’t leave the fire in our soul behind – the idea that there is more and that settling for the status quo is just fine.  It’s not.  There’s plenty of Good News to proclaim.  There are plenty of people who need to hear a message of mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  There are plenty of people who are hungry and homeless.  There are plenty.  We can’t and shouldn’t spin that away.  But we can get to work.

Sexual misconduct

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Roy Moore, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein – all names that have come up in the news in the last couple of weeks for the same reason.  Sex.  Not just any sex, but sex for favors, sex with minors, sexual manipulation, etc.

These men, along with a whole host of others that it would take too long to list here, have been in positions of power and influence.

What is it about power and influence that makes people think that they can just use others however they want?  Politicians have gotten in trouble for this many times before.  Priests and pastors have too.

Ultimately, it’s an abuse of power and a use of power in an inappropriate way.  But frankly, that’s using words pretty lightly.

Because we shouldn’t forget the victims.  Their lives were impacted in seriously negative ways.  It’s not just the victimization in a physical sense either.  It’s the whole person.  Yes, the physical act is bad enough.  But the mental and emotional scars are terrible too.

The challenge is this – this is not a topic that people like to talk about.  The problem is that this isn’t confined to just power and influential people.  We need to be aware that there are others who have suffered at the hands of someone else.

The church has an opportunity to be a place where we can talk about these type of issues.  But only if we are opening to hear the stories, to walk with people.  And the church has an opportunity to explore how we can do better so that there will not be more victims.  We can talk about this without shame or guilt.  People don’t like to talk about sin, but this is one area that I think many can agree is a sin – the mistreatment of others.

Let’s talk.

 

Jumping around

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During the celebration after the LWF 500th Anniversary of the Reformation worship, we got to experience a wide variety of entertainment.

One of the most unusual groups, were these guys.

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These guys were fun to watch. I’d show you the video, but apparently WordPress isn’t feeling up to allowing me to upload it.

So instead, you’ll have to live with my description of what happened.  So, there’s one of the guys who is using a mic and he’s singing/chanting.  He’s getting a beat going and in turn each of the guys takes a turn walking out to the middle of the open space, while another guy jumps over the first guy.  Yes, I mean that literally.  Some of the guys walk ducking their heads slightly, but others don’t even do that.  These are not short guys either – each one was over six-foot easily.  These guys were getting some serious height.

Pretty amazing.  I think this qualifies under the idea of “Don’t try this at home, kids.”