This Children’s Message and Sermon were presented at Resurrection on April 10, 2011. The title is the theme of the 2011-2012 Stewardship Appeal. April 10 is Commitment Sunday and the preacher is Pastor Jim Kniseley.
1. “Sticks” I have a bunch of sticks to teach us something important. Each of these sticks can be broken very easily (break one or two). But look what happens when I put all these sticks together. Try to break them now. Our church is something like these sticks. When we’re one our own, we aren’t nearly as strong as when we band together. That’s why Jesus created the church, which he calls “the body of Christ.”
2. “Coin Banks” Many of you have brought your coin banks today to church. You have been putting in coins each week to help a very good cause: helping feed hungry people through Lutheran World Hunger. I am pleased that you will be putting them in the basket today when all the folks bring forward their offerings and sharing cards. What a great example of being strong by putting our blessings and thank offerings together.
3. “Flower Seeds” The theme of today is “Share God’s Blessings…Imagine the Possibilities!” Can anyone here tell me what you think it means to “Imagine the Possibilities?” (responses from children) To “imagine” is to see into the future and to hope that something good will happen. I have a packet of flower seeds. If I plant these in the ground and water them, what do you think will happen? What part does God have in making these seeds into flowers?
Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Lord, save us! We’re perishing!”
“Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
I can’t think of any better way to begin a sermon on Stewardship Sunday. We may not be in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, but some of us are a bit fearful about our finances. We too are called by the Lord of the Church to have faith. Making a commitment or, as our cards today state, an “estimate of sharing”, involves faith that we are in God’s hands and God will provide for our needs.
Why is it that we can so easily read about people in the Holy Bible that had faith that God would provide and were taken care of, and we can’t believe that this applies to us too? The first two lessons today tell us about the faith of Abraham. When God told him to move to a new land, he did it, even though he had no idea where the land was and what he was supposed to do when he got there. The writer of Hebrews gives us the best definition of faith we will ever hear: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”
Why did God promise a blessing to Abraham? The answer in Genesis 12 is what folks often miss. So he and his people could be a blessing to others. People of faith ever since have learned this valuable lesson: Our blessings on this earth are to be shared with others. God expects his people to be generous people.
How does the blessing of Abraham apply to us here today? Many of us have been imagining God’s future for Resurrection these past several months. The Council has asked for individuals and church teams to imagine without constraint about what we could be and do to be a part of God’s mission. What we are doing today, in fact, is part of that imagining. What if we truly believed that God will provide and that our limitations are not God’s limitations? What if some folks who have held back because of fear that they will not have enough or that the congregation’s needs are too big, would simply trust and respond as generous givers?
Here’s a very recent sign for me that God brings unexpected blessings: I met with a group of wonderful Christians yesterday. They came to look at our facilities and see if this where they might find a church home as a partner ministry with Resurrection. I saw them as a blessing from God when they walked in. They are a new and obviously vibrant group of African American Christians. They told me they want to be racially inclusive and want to be in a place where everyone is welcome. If they came here they would want to worship with us occasionally and were most interested in partnering for things such as Hope House and School Dressing Days and feeding the homeless. If they come here, I believe, it will be because God is faithful to his promises and provides for our needs in ways he determines, not because we can make it happen.
The best known stewardship verses in Holy Scripture are found in Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Corinth. He writes to say he’s coming to visit and wants to receive an offering for the saints in Jerusalem. He says, “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Paul explains to the new churches (including Corinth) that because of their rich blessings, and all they have to be thankful for, it is their turn to help others. So he writes further, “Each you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Cheerful giving. What a concept. I like how Frank Jacobeen put it last week in our Adult Forum: “Some say you should give until it hurts. I like to say you give until it feels good.”
That’s the spirit of this story that Mark Allan Powell got from a Pentecostal Minister: A young boy, 8 years old, living in a small town, was told by his mom to walk to the florist and bring back a bouquet of flowers for the dining room table. He had to walk through town carrying the flowers on the way back to his house, and he felt embarrassed that some of his friends might see him and tease him. But he did it all the same; he was an obedient son, and he did what he was supposed to do. Then, ten years later, he was in love with a young woman. He saved money from a paper route, went to the florist shop, and walked the same streets with a bouquet that he had bought for her. This time, he says, “I didn’t think about what anyone might think if they saw me. I was only thinking of two things: how happy she would be to get the flowers, and how fortunate I was to be the one to bring them to her.” I’d like to think that everything we do in worship, including our tithes and offerings, are done because we have a loving relationship with God our Father and his Son Jesus.
Please notice that we are practicing today what we truly believe. We are not pledging to a budget. The budget is not even prepared. What we are doing is an act of faith and worship. Later we’ll hear the collective amount that we have as resource for ministries we want to do. I hope and pray that the offerings we give and the estimates of sharing we write, will come as a result of prayer and will be given as an act of worship.
Mark Allan Powell shared this last week in the Adult Forum Presentation. He and his wife have grown from folks who gave offerings just when they showed up at church and just what they had in their pocket or purse when the offering plate came around, to folks who give one per month electronically in order to make sure their offerings are given even when they can’t personally be present at worship. And he also told us this: he has started doing some sacrificial giving. During the week he looks for an opportunity to give up something he likes, and he puts that money in an envelope, and he bringing it to church and puts it in the offering plate as a part of his worship. And he thinks, “If Christ gave himself on the cross for me, the least I can do is to make a sacrifice for Him as a small way of showing my gratitude.”