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 Sunday’s Message; 30 October 2016; Matthew 25:14-30

This Sunday we will continue talking about Stewardship

Scripture for this Sunday is: Matt 25:14-30

You can read this pericope here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Today we will continue talking about stewardship.

Last week I shared with you my personal discomfort with “stewardship” campaigns. Such campaigns make me feel as if I am treated as a “giving unit” or that I am a target of a campaign.

I personally do not like to be treated as a “giving unit.” I am a child of God, created in God’s own image.

I also do not like feeling like I am a target of a campaign because it feels dehumanizing to me.

I am NOT saying that stewardship sermons and campaigns have no place in the context of the Christian community.

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I am saying that I think stewardship is something that flows from the heart and is a tangible manifestation of your love for God, and gratitude and recognition of what God has done in your life.

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Today’s reading tells a story of three workers. Each of them was assigned a project and each worker was given resources “each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). Jesus makes it clear that these project assignments were not random, and that the boss-man was not a deranged tyrant.

We heard the story. The first worker took resources entrusted him and was able to earn a handsome profit. The second worker did the same.

The “plot thickens” with the third worker. Listen to how Jesus describes the interaction between the third worker and the landlord.

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NIV2010 Matthew 25: 24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

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None of us want to find ourselves in front of Jesus hearing that. But the truth is that all of us have been in the position of each of these servants. We do not mind being in the shoes of the first two workers; being in the shoes of the third one is not something that we aspire to. Sadly, most of the time we are not even aware when we are in his shoes.

The good news is that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This letter to the church in Thessalonica continues in verses 10 and 11, “[Jesus] died for us so that … we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up

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The movie Last Holiday (released in 2006) tells a fictional story of Georgia Byrd who works as a clerk in a department store. She has dreams and ambitions but she is too timid to do anything about making her dreams a reality. Instead she keeps a journal that she calls “The Book of Possibilities.” We can even say that she lives a small life tucked [or hidden] inside big dreams. Most people don’t even notice her because she is too scared to be real and genuine. Her whole life happens in a cocoon. That changes one day when she is misdiagnosed with an incurable disease and told that she has only two or three weeks left to live.

I do not want to give away the whole plot of the movie. Thinking that she is dying, Georgia manages to reinvent herself and break the cocoon that she previously wrapped herself in, the cocoon that prevented real life from reaching her. She meets new friends who like her because they see the genuineness in the new Georgia Byrd, genuineness that was hidden before.

Before being misdiagnosed, Georgia did the same thing with her life that the third servant in today’s Gospel reading did with the resources entrusted to his care; Georgia built a safe cocoon around herself and hid behind the façade of timidness. It was a “terrible way to live” (Matt 25:26 MSG) and there was a lot of boredom and frustration in her life until she was able to break free of her limitations, take calculated risks and embrace the possibilities that life can bring. Georgia Byrd teaches us that weeping, gnashing of teeth and darkness (Matthew 25:30 NIV) can be quite comfortable when we cannot imagine what else our lives could be.

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We live in a world that could stand a little reinventing. By a “little” I actually mean “quite a lot.” The rate of change in our society is fast, and due to inertia and lethargy we have a lot of people who have a difficult time keeping up with that change. Instead they do what Georgia Byrd did – hide behind frustration and limitations instead of taking calculated risks and embracing the possibilities that life can bring.

Similarly, most church communities can also stand a little reinventing, and by a “little” I actually mean “quite a lot.”

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Evangelism and outreach does not mean “we hope that a lot of people like us move back into Brookside and start attending our services.” We have a wonderful story to tell of what God is doing in each of our lives, and even more than that we are the story of God’s Love in our community. YOU ARE GOD’S LOVE LETTER TO THE WORLD. Today I want to ask you: how do we, you and I, tell the story of God’s Love with our lives?

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In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said “I will build my church.” Jesus called us to make disciples for the transformation of the world. God did not tell us to go out and make members of Kingswood United Methodist Church… he told us to go out and make disciples for Jesus. When we are faithful in doing this, God will be faithful; our growth will be the outcome of partnering with God, and may come in unexpected ways.

Stewardship is about taking calculated risks. Stewardship is about building a community where we build and encourage each other to allow God to work in us and to shine through our lives.

There is a saying, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Stewardship is about building a community where we empower each other and create a place for our neighbors to be empowered as well. Three major components of stewardship are {1} witness, {2} presence, and {3} prayer.

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NIV 1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that … we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up

In order to gather for worship, for Bible Study, to have space for fellowship and opportunities to “build each other up” and reach out beyond our church walls, we need a physical space. That is where our tithes come in.

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We stand on the shoulders of devout Christians who came before us (Hebrews 12:1). They were diligent in their witness, in their presence and in their prayers. They were diligent in their tithes.

Together with them we stand on the banks of the River of Life that flows from our Savior’s heart. We stand a little further downstream, but we stand on the banks of the same river.

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