A sermon by Keith Herron, Pastor, Holmeswood Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo.
Stewardship Commitment Sunday
September 22, 2013
On the day you were born, you were given a gift! No doubt you didn’t know it at the time because you were busy doing all the things newborns do at their birth. You were conscious but you don’t remember any of it because you were just an infant. It’s impossible to go back to that time without a memory to make sense of it. No regrets about the past because you had no past to consider. No concern about the days ahead because the future was an idea you didn’t even know existed as yet. All you knew was the moment, nothing from the past, nothing of the world of things that were headed your direction. There was only one verb tense in the language of feelings. All moments were in the present.
Having no thoughts to think, you were guided by instinct, by which you were testing the waters of what it meant to be alive: Will someone feed me when I’m hungry and hold me close when I’m afraid or worried? Will someone sing me to sleep? Will the world be safe or will it be frightening and harsh? All these questions are forms of a bigger question: Will I be loved?
No matter … you were given a gift that has been with you from your birth until now. What is the gift? It’s the gift of existence. It’s the gift of life itself. In short, you were given a life and you have been a steward of that life since that moment when you first opened your eyes and cleared your throat with the hearty cry of life.
Admittedly, others helped you along the way, but somewhere in time and experience, you took over the reins of your life and have since been plowing yourself across the arc of time on your own. You made your own decisions and held the responsibility for those decisions squarely in your own self, whether it was acceptable to you or not.
This is the contract of life you unknowingly signed when you showed up. By the time you became a fully mature self, you became the steward of that life. Stewardship is the notion that what you do with your life is your response to the responsibility and comes with having a life. Thus, you accepted the terms of life’s contract that must be accepted for life to be lived.
Thus far, we’ve spoken of stewardship in individualistic terms. Today I want to pull us together as a body of baptized believers because I have a strong conviction about the church as a community and believe Christ is most powerful when we’re joined together as a church.
This is Stewardship Commitment Sunday and I want us to focus on the idea that a part of our stewardship is the notion that we have great power when we join together as Christ’s church.
But where there’s great power, there are responsibilities. Stewardship is the key to acknowledging those responsibilities. When we are God’s stewards of the gifts of God, we will become God’s partners in the world.
I. The Stewardship of the Gospel
At the heart of the church there is both a great mystery and a great treasure. Our scripture from Paul’s letter to the Colossians points to this great truth. What was previously hidden has now become known. The pathway to God’s acceptance of us has been illuminated so that any can now find it if they’ll look for it with the eyes of faith.
- We are stewards of the gospel. It’s ours to share. It’s been put in our hands to share with all we can. We, the church, are the stewards of the good news and we must be faithful stewards in sharing it.
Let’s take Paul’s words here as our own: We are a body of baptized believers who are gathered in Christ’s name! We have been given this good news we’ve experienced in Christ and now we’re to go out in the whole world in his name.
I’ve preached consistently in this pulpit of the good news of Jesus from both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Not once have I named any other path to God other than through Christ. At the end of every worship service I faithfully announce the good news and invite people to give their lives to Christ.
Paul battled the Gnostics in a first-century culture that had many gods to consider. There were so many ways to god that it spun their heads. So Paul said it plainly, “(It’s) Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:27b-28, NRSV).
Years ago theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote, “The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to every generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.”
The first order in stewardship is to realize we have a message to share with our world. Christ is our hope of glory and this church is pointed towards that truth. We have the right message. In our combined stewardship as a church bound together with one another, we are to partner together with one another in sharing that good news.
II. The Stewardship of Church Leadership
One of the church’s treasures that need stewarding is the leadership of the church. When we gather together as a body of baptized believers, we bring all the gifts God has given us. What are you doing with those gifts? Have you found ways to turn them loose in this place? Or have you let those gifts sit idle because you’re too busy in other concerns to offer them?
A few years ago, the Placement Team produced a list of church members who are not involved in any organized place of service, whether it is a committee or a ministry group. The list was surprisingly long in my thinking.
We have a stewardship of our spiritual gifts in this church. Maybe you were involved in the past and someone hurt your feelings or you think you’re too busy to help your church. Who knows what reason keeps you from stepping forward? Nevertheless, it’s your responsibility to deal with those issues so you can find your place and can offer your gifts to the combined ministry of the church in Christ’s name.
Florida pastor Barry Howard wrote this past week, “When church members faithfully participate, ministries flourish like kudzu on an Alabama hillside. When church members merely spectate, rotate, or vacate, ministries shrivel like a California grape en route to becoming a sun-dried raisin.”
The church needs you and the Bible tells us that the kingdom of God is a treasure that’s been placed in our hands not to keep but to give away.
The church was meant to put its gifts into action and to live vibrantly and joyfully in partnership with God.
III. The Stewardship of Financial Resources
Finally, we’re challenged together to be honest about an issue that Jesus wasn’t afraid to discuss with people and that’s their relationship to the resources God has entrusted in their care.
“Not equal gifts; equal sacrifice.” That’s the mantra of proportional giving, or what the Bible calls tithing. Can you imagine what would happen to this church if its members practiced proportional giving as taught in Scripture? The Bible teaches that the people of God should bring a tenth into the storehouse as our act of worship. In that habit of worship, the giving of a percentage of our resources becomes a tangible way we worship God. For some of you, my suggestion that you give a tenth of your income would be akin to me suggesting you hop on a spaceship and enjoy a weekend trip to the moon.
Let me say clearly, Wanda and I have practiced this biblical teaching the whole of our partnership together, long before we went to seminary or went on a church’s payroll. It’s a holy habit we’ve kept all these years together and we will do so again for the year ahead.
But if a tenth is too much, let’s cut it in half, what if everyone gave a nickel for every dollar earned … do you realize how revolutionary that idea would be? We would be challenged beyond our wildest dreams into exuberantly creating the ministry plans that would help us reach our community. Not only that, but we would let loose more joy in this place than a barrel of monkeys could stir up because when we give as an act of worship, God gives us joy in return.
We have a great mission in front of us. Christ has called us to do great things in this community and around the world. But if we’re ever to be faithful in doing them, we’ll need to do them together. Suzii Paynter, our new leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, built her sermon this summer around the idea, “You can be alone, or you can be the Fellowship.”
In our act of worship, our response to God will be to bring our commitment of giving to the altar where we will join with others who will do the same. As you place your commitment letter in these baskets, ask God to bless them and multiply them for the ministry plans we share for the coming year. A part of those commitments include our gifts “above and beyond” meant to fund the capital projects that must be completed.
Let’s pray …
After serving as bridge pastor at First Congregational Church of St. Louis, Missouri, during the past year, Herron moved recently to Lawrence, Kansas, where he will continue to minister in interim settings. He is author of Living a Narrative Life, Exploring the Power of Stories (Smyth & Helwys, 2019).