Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for the Christ the King and Stewardship Sunday Message at Kingswood United Methodist Church; 22 November 2015

November 22, 2015 is Stewardship Sunday at Kingswood United Methodist Church.

Scriptures for next Sunday are: Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:15-22

You can read them here: NIV2010 and ESV

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In the last few weeks we talked about what commitment to God is and how our commitment to God manifests itself in the way we live our lives.  Today is the last sermon in this series.

Today is also the Commitment Sunday that was organized by the Finance Committee.

When we started this series we looked at the lives of Lazarus, Joseph the Patriarch, Moses and what it means to be standing on a Holy Ground. We talked about the resuscitation of Lazarus. Simplistically speaking we saw that when Jesus resuscitated Lazarus from the grave, Jesus did it because he knew Lazarus and because he trusted that Lazarus would not waste the gift of life. It does not mean that when some of our prayers do not get answered, that God does not trust in us. We live in a fallen world; disappointment, unrealistic expectations, death and suffering are the product of us living in a fallen world.

Bible is full of the examples of how commitment to God manifests itself in our lives.

{Illustration}

These stories from the Holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that commitment to God is about discernment and seeking understanding of what God is doing in the world around us, and what God is doing is always inherently bigger than ourselves.

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Albert Einstein said once that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Commitment to God – among other things – is about watching for and embracing new paradigm shifts; commitment to God is about embracing God-thinking. Our commitment to God begins and ends with recognizing that we need God in our lives; that we live in a broken world and that we cannot solve problems on our own; and we definitely cannot solve our problems without changing the way we think and interact with God’s Creation.

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That brought us to a discussion of how we restrict our thinking and limit our possibilities. God is always doing something new; when we limit ourselves only to what we already know and are comfortable with, we are running the risk of being left behind. The illustration that I used was, “when God gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We tunnel our vision into only one possibility – “make lemonade.” What if God wants us to make lemon preserves, or lemon merengue pie, or lemon cookies, or lemon bars?

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Our commitment to God is rooted in embracing paradigm shifts and allowing God to mold and shape us in his own image as the world changes. When we lose that understanding and begin to resist changing with the times, we run the risk of being left behind because God is always doing something new. What God is doing often gets reflected in popular culture.

{Illustration}

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We live in a world that is constantly changing, that needs to be understood and re-interpreted by every generation and in light of what God is doing, and in light of how we – the human race – are messing up the world. Feeling God’s “heart beat next to mine” is about our search for God’s Grace and guidance to right the wrongs.

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That is why God organized us into communities that we call “churches” and that is why God gave us centers of operations that we call “church buildings.” Church buildings are tools in the arsenal of church communities that can be used to reach out to our neighbors, for mission and outreach projects, and as a gathering place to recharge our spiritual batteries.

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I think of church buildings as Lilly pads – interconnected by roots (our common history and heritage/the Blood of Jesus), providing a place for all kinds of people from all walks of life to recharge and refocus as we navigate our lives.

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Commitment or Pledge Sundays are about making sure that our “Lilly pad” is in good working order and is conducive to making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. When new members make the decision to join our community, it is about their recognition and confidence that we feel God’s heartbeat next to ours.

Commitment to God is in our understanding that we need God in our lives, and that that our neighbors need God as well. God expects us to bring the Gospel to them. “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary” (St. Francis of Assisi). Remember the Gospel reading about sheep and the goats? In that reading, both sheep and goats knew their shepherd; both the righteous and sinners had an idea of who Jesus was and had a relationship with the Holy. The difference between the two was that in one group faith lived PRIMARILY in their hearts with empathy and compassion. The second group had faith that lived PRIMARILY in their heads – faith stopped with the rules.

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Our commitment to God is in living our lives in such a way that God knows that we will not waste what was entrusted into our care. Our commitment to God is in taking God more seriously than ourselves.

Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Our neighbors, however, do want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith. The world is packed with men and women who need, want, and crave to hear about wonderful things that the Holy Spirit is doing (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 143) and the Holy Spirit moves mightily in our community. Most people want to be a part of something meaningful and something bigger than themselves. There is no better place to find all that than in a community of faith that takes God more seriously than we take ourselves (Micah 6:8, MSG).

{Transition to the Stewardship Sunday}

The Pharisees came to ask Jesus if they should pay taxes, and Jesus, looking at a silver coin, asked whose face and name were engraved on it.

“The Emperor’s,” they said. “Well then, pay to the Emperor what is his” Jesus replied, “and give God what is God’s.”

All of us are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Each one of us is a “coin” that bears the living likeness of the Living God.

Giving of ourselves with presence, prayers, gifts, service and witness, is the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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