Friday, October 30, 2009

Sermon 10/25/09 -- Stewardship in the Life of the Disciple #1

The text for this morning’s meditation is found in Matthew 25: 21 – “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
We are going to consider discipleship in light of what we have heard from the Gospel of Mark over the past few weeks as well as stewardship in the life of the disciple.
This Fall the focus has been on interactions between Jesus and the crowds and the disciples. Let’s take a look back.
Jesus told his disciples that they should set their mind not on human things but on divine things. He said that we should deny ourselves – that we should actually renounce any claim to our SELF.
Jesus told his disciples that they were to be servants, not seeking the highest position but claiming the lowest.
Jesus showed his disciples that they were to welcome those whom society forgot.
Jesus healed the people in the crowds who were pressing in on him.
Jesus called his disciples to radical generosity as he told the rich man to sell all that he had, give it to the poor and come and follow.
Jesus described a very radical kingdom. A kingdom where the most important are the least and the least important are the greatest, a kingdom where the disciples sit down at a Round Table after they have put their mops and dish rags down.
God’s work. Our hands. We’ve been speaking of this for some time now. It’s been the subject of a church-wide video contest.  It’s the tagline for the ELCA. And it could even be thought of as the tagline for the life of a disciple of Jesus. God’s work. Our hands.
One of the parables that Jesus told is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It is the Parable of the Master and the Master’s servants and the talents. A master was preparing to go on a journey and he gathered three of his servants around him. To one he gave 5 talents – now a talent is a unit of currency in ancient times, but today we think of it as a gift or skill. Both apply for our purposes. So, to the first servant the Master gave 5 talents, to the second he gave 2 talents and to the third he gave 1 talent.  The first two servants took what was given them and used those talents and multiplied them and earned a profit for their Master so that they could return a surplus to him. The third took the 1 talent and buried it in the ground so that he didn’t lose it and could safeguard it for the Master’s return.
To the first two the Master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” But the third received the judgment and condemnation of his Master.
This is not a parable about investment strategies. This is a parable about what we, as disciples of Jesus and as stewards of what he has given us, do with what we have been given.
How do we live into: “God’s work – Our hands” as “good and faithful servants?” There are many aspects of our life together as disciples and servants and followers of Jesus. Some of these apply to our life as a community and some apply to how live our individual lives.  As a community we worship together, we serve together. Individually, we each pray daily, we each read our Bibles regularly to learn new things and apply familiar things to the way that we live our life. And after the first of the year we may look more closely at some of these things
But right now, we want to focus on stewardship and giving as one of the marks of a disciple. Remember that Jesus has called us to “radical generosity.” Now, I have to tell you, the part of me that loves lattes, wants a netbook, and hopes for clothes shopping weekend while on vacation rebels against this notion of radical generosity. That’s because I think that what I have is mine, I earned it, I’m entitled to it, thank you very much, and, yes, I will give some of it to God.
But from the Parable that is our text today, I learn that what I have – whether time or talent or treasure – is NOT my own and I cannot use it in whatever way I want. But in the same way that Paul asks the church in Corinth, so must we ask ourselves – what do we have that we have not received?   I have college and graduate degrees. Are these my own? No, I have received these because of tuition paid by parents, courses taught by professors, scholarships received from donors, textbooks written by scholars.
Some years ago, I knit Earl a sweater. My own creation, right? Well, no. I followed a pattern written by others, used yarn prepared by others and needles manufactured by others.
We remodeled our home – our own? Well, no.  The ideas that we used came from things that we had seen elsewhere. The materials we used were manufactured by others.  Some of the labor was performed by us but other more specialized work was done by others. What do I have that I have not received? The answer is, “Nothing.”
As a follower of Jesus, I am to step out boldly to put what God has given me to work for God’s kingdom, not my own self-interest. That is what a steward or a caretaker does.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
 Giving radically of what God has given us is what we do in response to God’s grace.  It is an expression of faith.  But who's faith does it reveal?  I believe that when we give of our time, when we share our talent, when we offer our treasure, we are responding to faith, in faith.  We are responding to the faith our Master has shown us, the faith that we can be his caretakers here on earth.  And we are responding in faith that he will continue to care for us, and that we will live in the joy of the one we claim as Lord. 
We will be talking more about this over the coming weeks.  What would it look like if we regularly gave a chunk of our time to an agency or organization or family who needed it? What would it look like if we regularly gave generously of our skills and talents for the work of the Kingdom? What would it look like if we regularly gave generously of our treasure? Please consider these things over the coming weeks.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” 
See with new eyes what God has given each of us. See with new eyes how he may want us to use this to further the Kingdom. See with new eyes God’s work and our hands, his good and faithful servants.
Amen. May it be so.

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