1 John 3:17-18
When you and I acknowledge that God is the owner there is peace and enjoyment in life. If we think it belongs to us, then we spend much of our life rationalizing, arguing, hoarding and trying to hold on to what we think is ours. Life is not enjoyed, instead life becomes chaotic.
Whose Ball is it?
Is the name Tim Forner familiar to you? Do you remember Tim? One day Tim was seated out in left field as a part of the grounds crew when Mark McGwire's record setting 62nd home run was hit over the left field fence. Tim was the one to get the ball. There had been a lot of talk about that ball being worth one million dollars. Tim is a young man who could use the money - being a grounds keeper is not a place to earn big bucks. So what does Tim do with the ball? He gives it back to Mark McGwire. When he was asked why he gave it to McGwire, he simply said, "Because the ball does not belong to me, it belongs to Mr. McGwire."
Tim asked nothing in return.
Interesting to note that he did appear on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Today Show and several radio shows. David Letterman flew Tim to New York to tape a spot. Disney paid his way to its Florida theme park, where he acted as grand marshal in his own impromptu parade.
A few days later, Sammy Sosa would hit his 62nd home run in Chicago. Do you remember that scene? The ball was hit out on the street, a mob of fans went after the ball ... there was fighting, biting and accusations that the ball had been stolen from the first person who retrieved the ball. A riot broke out.
Now the courts are trying to figure out who owns the ball.
I would like to suggest to you this morning that these two scenarios are reflective of what happens in our lives as we deal with our own personal stewardship.
When you and I know and acknowledge who it belongs to, life is far different than when we think everything we have belongs to us. When you and I acknowledge that God is the owner there is peace and enjoyment in life. If we think it belongs to us, then we spend much of our life rationalizing, arguing, hoarding and trying to hold on to what we think is ours. Life is not enjoyed, instead life becomes chaotic.
From 1 John 3:17-18: "If you are rich and see that your neighbors are in need yet close your hearts to them, how can the love of God be living in you? My children, our love should not be simply words or mere talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action and truth."
Part of the action has to do with giving. It has to do with the giving of our time, our talent and our money. Today and next Sunday, we at Augustana have the opportunity to make a faithful response of our time, our talent and our money to the Lord. The time has come for us to act.
In the past couple of weeks you have been given information about the mission and ministry of this congregation. You have received the congregational goals for the new year of 1999. Next Sunday morning during worship, each of us will be asked to make a commitment of our time, our talent and our money. It is our faith response to a God who has given us everything we have. It has been given by God who gave his son Jesus Christ to die on a cross so that we might be forgiven and have new life.
And now, it is time for our faith response. As we make our faith response, as we make a conscious decision about what we will give it will be most helpful for us to know who the owner really is. And once we have understood that God is the owner and we are asked to share, then there can be a freedom in our giving that will make a tremendous difference in the lives of others.
So, how do we decide what we will share of our time, our talent and our money? A few weeks ago I sat in a meeting at Luther Seminary where a friend told of going with his wife to shop for a new bedspread. He had never done that before. He was amazed at how much it cost. Later that evening he was sitting at his desk writing out a check for World Hunger. Each month, he and his wife have an extra gift they give to a special cause, this month it was World Hunger. As he wrote out the check he noticed that he and his wife had just spent three times as much for a bedspread as they were giving to World Hunger. He said, "It didn't feel right. So, I talked to my wife about it and we wrote out another check to World Hunger." Then he said, "We all know about comparative shopping, I would like to suggest that we do some comparative giving."
Think about it. Compare the time you spend on your own leisurely pursuits to that time given to help others. How often do you use your talents to serve others as compared to using those talents for your own interests? Take a look at your checkbook and compare your giving checks to those you spend on other things in life. This morning I have a concern and an invitation.
First, the concern. Most of you know that a few months ago this congregation received the promise of a one million dollar gift that was given with the intent enhancing and growing the mission and ministry of Augustana. It was not given to replace any part of our current member giving. Your Planning Committee has been hard at work putting together a plan to be faithful stewards of this gift. The concern I have is that if anyone thinks his or her financial gift is not needed, then we could be headed for disaster. This is a time of great opportunity for us as a congregation. Your faithful giving together with the one million dollar gift provides great opportunities for mission and ministry in the name of Christ in the coming years.
The invitation I have for you this morning comes in a variety of parts. First, I invite you to understand that God is the owner of all we have been given. I invite you to acknowledge the owner by your faith response in the giving of your time, talent and money.
This week I invite you into a time of prayer as you consider what your faithful response will be to God who has given us all we have. Then I invite you to be very specific in your financial gift.
Over the course of more than two decades, there have been people who have had a plan for their financial giving. One simple way is to grow in your giving by 1% of your total annual income. If you have an annual income of $30,000 you would increase your gift by $300.00 or just less than $6.00 per week. You can do the figuring based on your annual income but I invite you to have a plan for growing in your giving.
The really good news before us this morning and on Consecration Sunday next week is that we have a lot of people counting on our faith response. What each one of us does will make a difference. May it be said of us that we saw the need of our neighbors, opened our hearts to them and showed our love to others in our action of giving with great generosity.
Take time to pray about your faith response this week. Come next week acknowledging God as the owner of all you have been given. And please remember this, if you fail to use your gifts, if you fail to share what you have been given, the universe loses that gift forever - there is no back up, there is no duplicate for you and the mission and ministry of this place we call Augustana will not be what it could have been. I invite you to come, share your gifts and make a difference in the name of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Gary L. Langness is ELCA Pastor and Stewardship Leader.