This past week was a study leave week and it was productive. Mostly I focused on worship planning which meant I was looking down the road, and not only focused on this Sunday but on All Saints Sunday next week when we honor those who have gone before us. And this Sunday, today is designated Stewardship sermon Sunday as a way to kick off our Stewardship campaign. Now I didn’t tell you that ahead of time because I was afraid if I did, you wouldn't show up. On top of that in preparing for today, my thoughts kept jumping ahead to next week, the day we talk about death. What does that tell you about how hard it is to talk about money? That it’s easier to discuss death and dying in the church than it is to talk about money.
Here we have a church and intellectually we know that it runs solely on donations and rental income. That’s across the board, every church relies on both. So we know we have to talk about it, and yet we’d almost rather not.
So welcome to Stewardship Sunday. The day we begin asking you to consider what you can give financially and also energetically through your spiritual gifts.
And if you’ve been resisting membership because you think that's the threshold one crosses to be asked for money, I’m sorry to disappoint. If you’re coming here on any kind of a regular basis, you’ll be asked too.
Which begs the question; what is all of this, what we do here, what you get here, who you are here, what is it worth to you and how can you allow that to be reflected through your giving?
I had an all too common conversation with someone Friday night who as soon as they remembered I was a pastor decided they needed to tell me why their not religious, because as I’ve mentioned before, the minute the word is out, people start apologizing for cursing, or drinking, for not going to church or not believing in God and I just want to have some fun.
But this man and I were talking and he was telling me how he didn't believe in religion… So I began asking what I always ask, what is it you don’t believe in…And then the usual answers, the literal word of God, creation in six days, the ways church has hurt a lot of people, causing wars and fighting, molestation, abuse, the way it excludes gay people, homeless people, the ways in which it's hypocritical. So I did what I always do, which is not to argue because all that's true and we always have to examine where any good-natured institution fails. But I also reminded him of all the good that churches are doing in the world and that not all of us believe the same things, or act the same way, just like people themselves, none are perfect, only God is perfect. Which is why we call Jesus as head of
Todays scripture is a wonderful reminder of how we get it both right and wrong all the time. Just the name of the man who calls out to be in a relationship by being healed by Jesus, the only one who by the way in marks gospel in need of healing who has a name… so that should cause all of us to sit up and pay attention to the name.
Back to that conversation, I had on Friday here’s what I had never heard before. He said, my mother belonged to the same church for over 40 years and gave over 200k to that church and then the church just closed one day. What does she have to show for all that money? What a waste.
This is a point that had never been made to me in this way, especially not a few days before a stewardship sermon. So I took a moment and said….She must have loved her church very much. And her church must have loved her as well.
And I don’t mean they loved her because she gave money. But because like everything else when it comes to God, Christ, spirit and the church, there is a relationship at work. We are all in
This sanctuary, like all sanctuaries, provides for us or should provide for us a place to take refuge from the upheaval of what life can bring. Which is why it’s especially devastating for all of us when people are killed in houses of worship. The one place, other than our homes that should provide safety, sanctuary, peace, when that is threatened, it shakes our core, it makes us question everything we thought we could trust.
And as horrific as that was, there
Are you depressed yet?
Why would I bring all of this up on Stewardship Sunday when I should be inspiring you instead of depressing you?
Because I want to ask you, in response to this morning’s scripture- a question. And I want you to feel the gravity of what hurts before I ask you, what makes you well? Jesus told the blind man, the only man who has a name in all of the healings in Mark, that his faith had made him well. God knows this man by name and God knows you, long before you were born, God knows us even when we don’t know our own name, as we enter into
Which brings me to this question for all of you. Why are you here? Surely there’s something here for you. We all define faith differently.
At St. Luke, we understand faith as a verb. That “in the doing” of our faith we practice loving and serving others as we understand Christ to have loved and served others; through compassion, inclusion, acceptance, and understanding.
Is that what makes us well? Can we practice loving others as a way of making all well with our soul? Expressing love as a faith-based community is a wonderful place to grow firm foundations for the shaky ground and challenges life brings.
We all believe differently with our heads. Which is why the better question is-What makes you well?
Love does, and relating to one another in love based community is what makes us well. It’s the sanctuary and place where we get to work together and love one another regardless of what the world says we should be thinking about the other. I hope that this past week lit a fire for you as did for me. IT has reinvigorated my commitment to
Let the events of the world reinvigorate your commitment to the place you come to be reminded of all of that.
Where else is this happening in your life? Where else can you enter into relationship through service and love to create something that offers sanctuary and peace amid all the division and
So when you're thinking about your pledge think about what makes you well. This is, like any relationship, a place where the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. When you serve on a committee, you develop relationships with people. When you invest your time and create together, your investment in the relationship grows with it. So yes, there is more than one way to give.
But we need both. We need your financial commitment, not because we're a sinking ship, far from it. But we’d like to reach more people, spread the love, invite them into our home here which needs some repairs, but mostly needs to reflect the value we place on what the church represents in our lives.
Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bar Timaeus does the opposite. As soon as his sight was restored, he “followed him on the way.” In other words, he became a disciple. He joined that group of disciples on their way to Jerusalem in commitment to serving. Mark wants us to see that the blind beggar Bar Timaeus was in some important ways a more genuine disciple than those who Jesus had chosen. He was the one who uttered the words that define our relationship with Christ. I want to see you again.
We can see Christ all over our