A reflection on stewardship given by Mike Haberlein on November 12, 2017
Texts: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Matthew 25:1-13
Good morning -
I am part of this year's Stewardship Committee and have been asked to speak this morning about the very subject of stewardship.
Before I start I have to acknowledge that I don’t feel comfortable talking about
stewardship unless I first tell you that Curt and I have not been able to keep up with our entire pledge for this year and I suspect we will not be able to fulfill our entire obligation we made to the church for 2017.
It’s probably not coincidental that the OT passage from Joshua is included in today’s readings. God know that very often we all say and do things with all good intentions that we fail to finish. We screw up . . . . and God already knows this. One of the recurring themes in OT is imperfect people wanting to be faithful but then failing to be faithful. GOD is faithful even if we are not.
The gospel reading today of the 10 bridesmaids has many interpretations but one of the most important themes is preparedness . . . . and that is preparedness for the coming of the Lord. Jesus used this parable to clarify what it meant to be ready for his return and how we should live our daily lives until He comes. This theme is found
throughout the lectionary readings through November and throughout the season of
Advent as we prepare for His birth.
To quote an unknown source “We do not know the time or the hour when Jesus will return but we are urged to be prepared. That preparation cannot be bought or borrowed because our relationship with God must be our own.”
We read in Hebrews 11:1 – “Our salvation has always been by faith, not by good deeds . . . . faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When we commit to faith we begin the cultivation of that relationship with God.
So what is stewardship and why is it an essential part of a relationship? The dictionary defines it as “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.” But what does it mean for a Christian?
If you were at church a few Sundays ago you heard Clare give a sermon based on the verse from Matthew 22:21, in which Jesus said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.” A related verse: Romans 13:1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.”
I think what Clare was trying to convey is that “everything is God's” and we are his stewards. We cannot separate or categorize different parts of our lives so that some do not include God as the focus. From that perspective we are put here on earth to take care of all of God's creation, from the world itself, to all his children. Simple as that.
How do we go about doing completing that assignment?
One of my father's favorite Bible verses, which I read at his funeral, comes from the Book of Malachi: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
What blessings are being referred to in the Malachi verse?
God has already poured down on us the greatest blessing there can ever be: the gift of his Son as a ransom for the sins of the world with the promise of Grace and
Everlasting Life. What is our part to play in the relationship with God?
God loves us, he wants the best for us . . . . but God is not responsible for our
human choices. God created us with free will. We have a choice as to whether we have a relationship with God.
God wants us to love him and what he asks for is a sign. What kind of signs is God looking for and what are his expectations? I believe his expectations go something like this:
1) He wants true relationship with each of us, individually.
2) He wants us to care for one another, as we are all brothers and sisters and His children;
3) God also wants us to care for all that he has given us, be it the environment, or the gifts of mind, body and spirit;
4) He wants us to be generous as he has been generous to us;
What does it mean to be generous? God wants us to be generous with our time, giving freely to help others, to work for worthy causes and to take time out to help a stranger, to feed the poor, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and attend to the widow; God wants us to be generous with our talents: if we have the gift of speaking, he wants us to spread his word; if we have the gift of creativity, he wants us to use it to His Glory; if we have the gift of hospitality, He wants us to use it to welcome others; if we have the gift of music, He wants us to glorify His Name.
God wants us to be generous with what we have in consideration of what we need, not necessarily what we want. I believe he expects us to keep that in balance. When we have so much, he wants us to use what we have as an expression of our love for Him.
So . . . As a practical matter, how do we go about our financial stewardship as we demonstrate our faith? For me, after making a financial commitment, and making it a top priority in my life, I have been successful sometimes, financially speaking, by making it a weekly ritual. One year, I made it a point to always have my checkbook in the glove compartment of my car so there was no excuse for not putting my pledge into the offering plate each Sunday. More recently, I made it part of my Sunday morning ritual: 1st stop: 7-11 for my diet coke and two chicken Monterey jack taquitos and then west on 9 Mile to stop at Huntington Bank to make a cash withdrawal from the ATM machine.
The ritual helped me, and I invite you to find your own way of making your giving a regular part of your life.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with one last thought: The blessing or gift of Grace and Salvation are everlasting and eternal. There is no more important gift to God's children than the sacrifice made on the cross: Jesus' death was a ransom for the sins of humanity. No amount of money, power, or prestige can equate to Grace and Salvation.