First of three stewardship sermons from Peace Lutheran - link together
2 Corinthians 8:1-7; Matthew 25:14-30
Pastor Obed Nelson delivers a sermon about what it means that we share with others the first fruits of the gifts that have been given to us by God. This sermon holds great personal and reflective stories.
Stewardship Lesson # 1:
Give in Proportion to What God has Given You
Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; Matthew 25:14-30
Date: Nov. 11, 2007
Author: Pastor Obed Nelson, Peace Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, SD
For the next three weekends, we pastors are each going to talk about what it means to respond to God's gracious love with our time, our talents and our money. With Susanne in Africa with our global mission team, our house has been very, very quiet. This has given me time to appreciate her even more. So this week I have let my memory wander and count how richly I have been blessed.
I think my first memory is of my mom holding me in her squeaky rocking chair. I was fortunate to be born into a family who loved me and treated me well. If you ask my two older brothers they would probably say I was a bit spoiled.
Even though my mom never earned any income and dad had a very modest salary, my folks saw to it that I and my brothers had what we needed. They believed strongly in education and supported us in going to Augustana Academy and Augustana College. I never could quite figure out how they could afford it, but my mother told me that during my high school and college years she went seven years without buying a new dress.
While at the seminary, I met the love of my life and consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have shared over 41 years with Susanne. We have lived and worked in Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Texas, Alaska and now in Sioux Falls. We have been blessed with three great children and now with six grandchildren. And this weekend I am lucky enough to have Erin and her three little ones bring their energy and life to our home on Lewis Avenue.
Friends have been a rich blessing to us. Susanne and I have a Christmas card list that we have to constantly pare back to keep it at 200. Through thick and thin our friends have been a source of strength.
I feel so fortunate to have experienced life in the context of the community of faith, always aware of God's abundant grace and love. When the fourth graders led us last Sunday in the Luther's explanation of the apostles creed, I thought back to people like Helene Lerseth, Marvid Oie, Harlan Norem, Ruth Stenseth, Clifton Madson, Jim Limburg, Alvin Rogness- - Sunday School teachers and other teachers who constantly reminded me of God's gracious love and promises.
This is not to say that I have not had struggles. Like all of you gathered here, I have had times of testing and challenge.
When we started our life together, Susanne and I had to learn to make many decisions, one of which was how to spend our money. Recognizing that we were immensely blessed by our young family, we made a decision quite early to stretch ourselves a bit and give a proportion of our income back to the church. We have never been sorry that we wrote that first check of the month to the Lord's work. And when we moved to Sioux Falls we quickly signed up for Simply Giving at Peace. When I look at the monthly bank statement, each week there is an entry for Peace Lutheran.
This giving a proportion of income was something I watched my mom and dad do. Saturday night my mom always wrote a check and put it in the envelope for church the next day. She did this until she died at the age of 93....every week Our Saviors Lutheran got a check from mom, even if she couldn't get there. They never had much money, but they never lacked for what they needed. The inheritance that my brothers and I received didn't come in a will, but in acts of love shared with us spread over our lives.
I remember once having my son Stefan ask me when he was in high school, "Why do you give so much to the church every week?" My answer was simple: "Because God has always provided for us and it is a way of saying thanks."
Pastor Paul, Pastor Rolf and I very seldom preach about money. And in many ways that is not very biblical. Jesus talked about money a lot. In his three short years of ministry, he spent a great deal of time trying to help his disciples understand the importance of sharing with others their gifts of time, talent and money. And after his death, it appears that the disciples finally got it. The New Testament church stressed sharing and generosity.
Listen again to what Paul writes to his Christian friends in Corinth....in fact...let's read together:
2nd Corinthians 8: 1-4
"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily save according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints."
Earlier this fall Susanne and I were invited over to Maggie and Todd Schmidts for a morning brunch. It was a delight to be seated at the table and to feast on all sorts of good things on Maggie's beautiful pottery dishes. We had muffins, egg dishes, a variety of fruits, breakfast sausages, ham....it was brunch to rival Spezias.
It would have been a much different experience if we had been invited over to their house and seated at the table and have Maggie say to Todd. "Well, what do you think. Do we have anything for them to eat?" It would have been strange to hear Todd say, "Well, Maggie, maybe we have some leftovers in the fridge." Can you imagine Todd & Maggie pulling out various dishes of cold stuff....perhaps a smidgeon of rice left over from a week earlier....or some left over scrambled eggs from two days ago...or maybe a piece of cold toast, left over from yesterdays breakfast?
That would be unheard of, wouldn't it? We were given a wonderful brunch...now mind you it was not cavier or lobster....nor was it porterhouse steaks, but Todd and Maggie were generous in sharing with all of us a portion of their storehouse.
God did not give us leftovers. To bring us back into his family God gave us his very best....his only Son. We have been invited into a relationship where we are offered forgiveness when we have not deserved it. All of us, in this sanctuary, have riches that would dazzle people in third world countries.
And so my dear friends, God invites us to share of our best, not just leftovers. He invites us to give some of our prime time, not just spare minutes. May God help all of us respond to his gifts in proportion to what we have received. Amen
May the Peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Obed Nelson is pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD.