Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 17, 2004
The Gospel: Luke 18:1-8a
Sermon: "Stewardship Sermon"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them."
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 17, 2004
The theme for this year's stewardship drive is "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." I believe this theme to be most appropriate at this time. For just a minute let's take a look at the state of the world around us. We have unrest in many areas of the world. Our troops are involved in battles and police actions daily. Our country is involved in a tight political race where people are using childish and damaging means to express loyalty to their candidate of choice. The state of Florida has had a bulls eye painted on it as far as weather goes. Finally, there is unrest in our churches. Different decisions by the powers that be have affected our understanding of what living in communion is all about. At first glance it doesn't seem that there is much for which to praise God, and yet there is.
We have been blessed at St. Thomas. Over the last two weeks we have heard two talks about stewardship. Both talks have mentioned the importance of the family we have here. We are a big family. Like all families we don't see eye to eye on all issues. Ask about any one of these issues I just mentioned and it is possible to get any number of possible responses. Everyone has an opinion about the war, the election and the church. Some of the opinions are similar and some are very different. Just like any family we have different views. The important piece is that we can express our views and we can live with the similarities and the differences. We stay together. We don't act like a child and take our ball and go away. We stay together. We stay together because of God's love that dwells within us. The true family sticks together through thick and thin. They stay together because of their love for one another. This church has exhibited this kind of love. For us it is a love grounded in God.
When a community's love is grounded in God great things happen. They happen because we acknowledge that we are not giving to God in hopes that God might love us. We know that God loves us. We give to God because we are thankful. If we give for any other reason then we have missed the point of the teachings of Christ. Jesus spent his ministry healing the sick, teaching about God's love and caring for God's people. He constantly said he could do nothing without the love of God. At the cross he showed us what the ultimate expression of the love of God does. The ultimate expression of the love of God conquers all sin and death and offers eternal life to all. Jesus was willing to die for us to literally be a living example of the incredible love of God. For this reason and this reason alone we give of our lives to God. We give of our time, talents and treasure.
At St. Thomas we do give of these three aspects of our lives. We give of our time and our talent. On Tuesday of this week I had an opportunity to talk to Bishop Curry one on one. He wanted to know about the ministry of St. Thomas. When I finished he was very impressed. He was amazed at what this church does in all aspects of our life including worship, Christian education and outreach. We are growing in all areas of our life. The number of children in Sunday School is growing. More people are coming to Christian education opportunities. We have reconnected with our brothers and sisters in Eden to work together for the good of our communities. We have an increased presence in diocesan programs like Happening and Cursillo. Our outreach programs are growing. We support Hospice, Help, The Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, The Outreach Center, The Salvation Army and a host of other projects. We feed the hungry and we tend to the needs of the poor, the sick and the dying. We are responsive to the needs of our community.
Finally, we take care of our needs at home. We respond to pastoral needs for one another. We have been hurt this year by the loss of many members of the church and the community. In each case we have responded to the needs of the families with compassion and care. We are still continuing our care. We have instituted the lay Eucharistic minister program to its fullest extent. We can not show our care pastorally more significantly than to share the body and blood of Christ directly from the table to those who are unable to attend.
Finally, we have shared of our treasure. Last year, we received pledges of$163,000 dollars. I want you to know that St. Thomas went up in its giving last year. Many churches in the diocese lost funds. They lost funds over the arguments in the church and many people left their church families. The problem is that the people hurt the most were the people the community could assist right outside the door and the community themselves. I can not help but believe that our love and care for one another has been the glue that holds us together. As a result we have grown. We have more members and more people who want to be a part of this community. We are growing in many ways and all of this growth is a blessing from God as well.
This year it is our desire to continue the sharing of the love we have received. In fact, we want to increase the sharing of that love. Pastorally we want to develop the Stephen's Ministry program where people are trained to reach out and be more effective lay ministers. Christian
Education wants to increase the opportunities to reach our children and youth. Outreach wants to increase its capacity to help those in our community who are poor, sick, disabled and need a helping hand. In worship we want to provide the best worship experiences possible through good liturgy and music. All of these dreams take time, talent and treasure.
Hopefully, everyone has received the proposed budget for 2005. This budget represents a 7% increase over last year. In short if someone gives $100.00 that means a $7.00 increase. This proposed budget is a bare bones budget. It means minimal increases across the board. The wish budget would mean an increase of 11 %. In order for us to do everything we would like to do we are actually looking at a budget of $175,000. Now, I know, the vestry knows, and the finance committee knows we are all in very different places in our walk with Christ. We are in different places in our abilities to give of time, talent and treasure. The decision about how a person responds to the blessings he or she has received is between God and that person. It is the most private decision a person has. It is one that takes prayer, contemplation and stepping out in faith. The biblical standard of giving is the tithe. Some of us may be giving the tithe and some may not. The decision is individual and is affected by many factors. We are asking everyone to pray diligently about their offering to God. We are asking everyone to see what they can do in time, talent and treasure to insure the work of God in this community of Reidsville and thus to the world. We can not hope to change the world alone. We can hope to work for God for positive change where we live. As we respond in this manner we are Praising God from whom all Blessings flow. AMEN