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Just Talk About What's In the Bible

Text: Luke 14:25-33
This church is a place where we experiment in being stewards....of managing our lives with Jesus at the center.  Today Jesus has given us three places where we can practice this stewardship:

  • In our relationship to Jesus as one that is not only at the center but is the most precious relationship we have.
  • In the invitation to be shaped by the carry the cross into our daily lives
  • In surrender of our possessions as a celebration of our freedom in Christ.

Just Talk About What's In the Bible
Pentecost  15C
Luke 14:25-33
Sept. 5, 2010
Glenn Taibl

In a recent issue of Martin Marty's monthly journal -- Context he told the story of a Rabbi who has just moved to a new synagogue. An elder of the synagogue wants the best for his new Rabbi and so he offers this advice:

  • Rabbi - we don't talk about Social Justice issues here.  There are people who will be very offended if you raise concerns about homelessness, war, medical care reform and the leave those things alone.
  • We don't talk about intimate relationships here.  Support healthy families and raising children in our Judaic tradition but keep it focused.  If you talk about divorce or sexuality...people will become angry,  Some may leave.
  • We don't talk about money in our synagogue...people work hard for their incomes and they want to keep their financial matters to themselves.

Finally the rabbi asked:  "What is it that I can talk about,  

The elder thought for a moment, "Well, just talk about what's in the bible."

I suggest we follow the good-intentioned elder's advice today...let's play it safe and only talk about what's in the bible.  We certainly wouldn't want to be offensive.  We want you to come back next week.  Let me try this out to see if you are comfortable with that idea.  

From the Gospel of Luke:

  • Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
  • Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
  • So, therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
    If you are going to follow Jesus....sit down and count the cost....

Now, how did that little experiment go?  At first blush, I don't think it worked very well. Then again...maybe it works better than you think.

Jesus is talking about Stewardship today.
Let me share my definition of stewardship. Stewardship is the management of all of life with Jesus at the Center - especially in our relationship to God, others, self and creation.  Jesus is talking about stewardship and the subject is so serious that he doesn't mince words.  He doesn't play it safe.  If he jolts us it may be that Jesus intends to change our perspective, to transform our way of looking at some of the most important areas of life.

Jesus changes how we see our most important relationships
This past week, our daughter Erika Lynn, celebrated her 35th birthday.  I thought about her all day...she really is a remarkable young woman and I love her deeply.  I called her on Tuesday evening and told her that I love her very much and that I am grateful that she is a part of my life journey.  I love Erika's daughter - Annika Maj -- my granddaughter and her husband Andrew Herbert. I love my wife Rebecca June. I love my friend Dave who retired this week after 40+ years in the workplace.  You get the picture.  There are a lot of people to love.  

Jesus is not asking me to hate Erika Lynn or Rebecca June or Annika Maj or Andrew Herbert.  God is asking me to manage these relationships -- to hold the precious intimacy of these relationships with Jesus at the center. Jesus loved them before I did...Jesus loves them as I do now and Jesus will love them long after I am able to in this lifetime.

Jesus is asking us to love him as - more than those who we love most.  

  • To give the same fierce loyalty, the same willingness to sacrifice
  • To give life itself for his sake.

All that we would ever think of doing for those who we love most in regard to our resources, our time, our hopes and dreams...Jesus invites us, wants us, expects us to give to him.  It is a beginning point of stewardship. And the reason for it is simply because we love this Lord as life itself. Stewarding life with Jesus at the center transforms all of our relationships.

Jesus invites you to carry the cross and follow.
A friend once told me that he thought the cross was a symbol for how far humankind was willing to go to remove God from the center of our lives -- to keep God from messing around with us.....but it was also a sign of how far God is willing to go to show God's forgiving, transforming love in the face of our brokenness.

The cross of Christ goes into our darkest places and gives life and hope.

Bishop Fulton Sheen was a popular speaker in the 60's 70's.  He was assigned to be bishop of Buffalo, NY during the peak of the civil rights movement when race riots were common place.  He was criticized for not doing enough for the civil rights movement.  He said, he thought that much of what was being asked of him was merely symbolic without the transformative action that changes all of life.

He then told a story of  pilgrims  to the Holy Lands who would visit leper colonies...they would take baskets of food, bibles and crosses and place them on the edge of the colony and withdraw..shouting as they went...come out...receive the baskets we have left. Jesus loves you.

He said one pilgrim did it differently, he took the basket into the colony.  He found a leper whose body was ravaged by the disease.  He opened the basket and took out the cross. Held it to the man's bosom and said, "Jesus love you and so do I."

Sheen said, that is what we are called to do in our time.  To be God's presence in a dark world.  One pilgrim wore the cross on a necklace around his neck and the other word the cross in his person.  The cross was shaping his entire life.  This is what we call stewardship.

The name of this church is Lutheran Church of the Cross.  We are here to carry the cross of Jesus into this community.  If all we were to do is be here today to sing our hymns, read scripture and then have our coffee and cookies together - we would miss the point.

We are the presence of God's willingness to go into the darkest places within this community and within the hearts and lives of the people who we are called to serve.  We are here to turn loose our resources and to share generously....We are here as a people who are being transformed by the cross of Christ.    That is our identity...this is how we steward our lives.

Jesus changes the relationship we have to our possessions.  
To give up your possessions is to give up the notion that they are your possessions. They aren't yours.  Everything belongs to God.

You may be thinking...I know, I know - or I have heard that before - but it isn't practical - and I like what the elder told his new rabbi in the opening story this morning...better leave this one alone - we don't talk about money here.

Jesus means to transform this part of life - our attitude about the gifts that have been given to us...including our financial resources...including our

This may be the most difficult place for you to permit Christ's entry into your life...but Jesus intends to go there.

Lynn Twist in her marvelous book, The Soul of Money describes us as being conduits that carry the flow of resources to those in need.  She says that some people believe it is their right to block dam up that flow and it is at the cost of the people downstream and finally at their own cost as they are consumed by Toxic Scarcity.

Jesus talks about money - possessions because he means to transform your relationship to what you believe is free you to be God's presence in this world through the management...stewardship of these resources for the world that God so loves.  Jesus invites you into a life of celebration and freedom...the life of the disciple.

I was a gift officer for Luther Seminary for nine years and I visited people to invite them to support the work of the church through the seminary.  I visited a man in Orlando, in his 90's.  I had met with him a number of times.  On one particular visit he told me that I was the 32nd person from an ELCA institution to visit him that year.  He didn't seem daunted by the steady stream of requests.

I said, Arthur I know you are a very generous human being,  Can you tell me what percentage of your income you gave away last year?

"72%" he said.  

I said, "the government only allows deduction on 50%."

He said, "What difference does that make.  I only needed 28% to live on.  It all belongs God and we are God's stewards."  

The church, this church is a place where we experiment in being stewards....of managing our lives with Jesus at the center.  Today Jesus has given us three places where we can practice this stewardship:

  • In our relationship to Jesus as one that is not only at the center but is the most precious relationship we have.
  • In the invitation to be shaped by the carry the cross into our daily lives
  • In surrender of our possessions as a celebration of our freedom in Christ.

I agree with the elder who told his new rabbi - just talk about the things that are in the bible....if we listen and hear it could make all the difference in the world. Amen


Glenn Taibl is a stewardship leader, a member of the Financial Stewardship Team at Luther Seminary.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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