Stewardship Resource

I Have a Bone to Pick (not given but we can give one)

Sermon  Sermon
  • Author: Don Fultz, St. Paul Area Synod ELCA, companion synod coordinator with Iringa Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
  • Updated: 07/15/2013
  • Copyright: Don Fultz

Stories about how people can become backbones to others through their generosity.


I Have a Bone To Pick With You
Sermon by Rev. Don Fultz
Elim Lutheran  Church, Scandia, MN
November 25, 2007

In every community, organization, and church there are many different people with many different perspectives on how to do/accomplish anything.  Someone has described group participants in this way: There Are Four Kinds Of Bones In Every Organization: .  There are:
* Wishbones who spend all their time wishing someone else would do the work
* Jawbones  who do all the talking, but very little else
* Knucklebones  who knock everything anyone ever tries to do
* Backbones  who get under the load and do the work

Each kind of bone is reflected in the Gospel from Luke 23 today:
Wishbones -  all those who got Pilate to agree that Jesus should be put to death, and even the criminal who mocked Jesus while he himself was nailed to a cross

Jawbones -- the soldiers who cast lots for Jesus clothing and mocked him

Knucklebones - all of the people who chose not to believe Jesus and what he was doing for them

Backbones -- the criminal who admitted his own failure and understood the punishment and of course Jesus himself.

What is the result of those who choose to be Backbones  ?  They are the ones who receive the marvelous word from Jesus: Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise!!!

Can there be any better or clearer evidence/reason why we should all strive to be Backbones?  God's kingdom grows on the backs of those who are willing to be Backbones

Today is Christ the King Sunday in the life of our church calendar year.  It is a day when Judgment is applied and we surely need to thank God for that gift.  In Swahili the Tanzanian's will say: Bwana Jesu Asifiwe!  Praise The Lord Jesus Christ. 

Today The Gospel Is Calling Us All, Each And Everyone Of Us, By The Power Of The Holy Spirit, To Be Backbones In This Community Organization Called Elim Lutheran Church, Scandia, Minnesota.


Elim Lutheran Church is a very important and significant body of God's People for me.  I served Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake from 1980 to 2000 and Elim was a neighbor and a participant in growing the Kingdom of God in this place.  I was privileged to serve alongside Bob Engstrom for many years in that time.  In this pulpit stood a son of the congregation of my youth, Trinity in Walnut Grove; Pastor Alvar Walfred proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this place for many years. 

Backbones you are because the Gospel has been proclaimed in this place and you, with Jesus, have proclaimed to this community "Father, forgive them, for they know not  what they do" and you have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in your hearing "Truly, I say to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise!"

This should not be a surprise because God is a God of surprises!

You know the story of Zaccheus -- he was not a well liked person in his community because he was a jawbone; he did a lot of talking and a whole lot of taking.  He took way more than was his right to take; he stole from his own people and filled his own pocket to overflowing.

But for some reason, when Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming to his community, he wanted to SEE Jesus (I'm not at all sure he wanted to meet  Jesus!).  Because he was a short, small man, he climbed up in a Sycamore tree so he could more easily see Jesus.   You need to understand, a Sycamore tree typically has a large branch that grows parallel to the ground, about 3 feet above the ground.

Surprise!!   If Zacchaeus was high enough above all the people to see Jesus, this meant that Jesus could see Zacchaeus.  So, in Jericho, Jesus came to the tree where Zacchaeus was stationed and he invited Zacchaeus to come on down because he was going to come to his house!!!!! 

Immediately I think Zacchaeus thought: "My house is not prepared for guests, my wife does not know anyone is being invited, there is not enough food and there has been no time to invite other guests and besides, who would I invite because no one likes me!"

But quickly, Zacchaeus realized Jesus had invited himself and he was now eager to entertain Jesus.  But, we all know what happened.  Because he met Jesus and entertained him in his own home Zacchaeus was Changed; He Became A Backbone Instead Of A Jawbone.  He gave back to his community in ways that overcame the stealing person he had been. 

God Is A God Of Surprises!!!  Your Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ in Kivalamo know all about being Backbones.   In their poverty, they don't think much about taking anything from others because others don't have much to take.  So they work  at surviving and they help each other survive because that is the nature of their daily routine.  Our friends in Kivalamo have so much to teach us and they are good at it.  In their poverty they know what it means to pray, have faith in Jesus, express their trust in God in joyful and exuberant worship without watching the clock. 

Generally they can grow enough food for their own survival, but in the last three years there has been a serious shortage of rain and therefore drought. 

In one of our parish villages some people were eating only every third day and that was one meal.  It was very common for many people in the Iringa Diocese to be eating only one meal a day. 

Your brothers/sisters here in St. Paul Area Synod provided over $60,000 to help the Iringa Diocese and the government share food to stay alive until the next crop would be harvested (because they were getting some rains that would help their current crop produce good products). 

In the meantime, they needed help.  Maize (corn) was purchased from a government storehouse and distributed to all villages that had need.  Church and government collaborated so that all who needed help received it (and no one was able to double dip). 

We were privileged to be in several villages for distribution and what a joy to see the joy and hope on the faces of the people, knowing they would survive until the next harvest.  It also proved to be an evangelism tool. 

When the church distributed food in a village, everyone who needed food received food.  It was learned later that when Muslims distributed food, it was only for the Muslims.  As a result, many Muslims came to faith in Jesus Christ and requested baptism.  You backbone people in SPAS assisted in a fantastic way in the Iringa Diocese and you need to know that. 

Not all the money was needed for the distribution, so the plan is to use the remaining money to buy new seed which will be distributed to farmers for their new crop planting, taking place these very days in the Iringa Diocese.  Bwana Jesu Asifiwe.

Your brothers/sisters in Kivalamo are building their new worship center with your support.  We have been privileged to worship in that place.  In fact, on Easter Monday we worshiped at Kivalamo. 

The Monday after our Easter Day is as much a holiday in Tanzania as is Easter itself.  We traveled to Kivalamo in the company of Benjamin Ngede, whom many of you know, because that is his home village. 

On Easter Monday there were over 500 people at the Kivalamo station, probably more than were present the day before on Easter Day.  There were so many people, some were outside and the children clung to the bars on the open windows of the worship center.  Well over a 100 children sat on the floor in front of the altar for the 3 hour service.  Holy Communion was shared and 3 different offerings were taken. 

The folks at Kivalamo are waiting for folks from Elim to come and visit them.  Knowing that we were coming to Elim today, we received word from Kivalamo leadership to bring their greetings to you here at Elim, grateful that together you can share the love of our Lord Jesus Cchrist.  They are backbones!!! I have a bone to pick with you.

Agriculture is the stable and staple industry in Tanzania where 88% of the people are farmers.   Tumaini University/Iringa is starting an Agricultural Institute, under the direction of Mark Jensen from SPAS.  This will be a critical addition to the livelihood of folks in the Iringa Diocese and Kivalamo and needs/deserves your support.

Their mission statement: We are dedicated to share the love of Christ while teaching improved farming practices to the people of Tanzania.  We are committed to help them develop self-sufficiencies along with skills that will enable them to produce and market  products beyond their own subsistence in order to increase their quality of life.  May God's grace be upon us all.

Their goal is to take Iringa agriculture from current 90% subsistence to 120% subsistence production in 10 years.

This is to be accomplished by taking current researched practices of Sokoine University and University of Minnesota to village farmers via:
*Demonstration plots at Mgongo, Mpanga and Lulanzi farms, plus 660 villages with pastors/evangelists serving as extension agents
*Running short courses to train pastors-farmers-consultants
*Developing markets, domestic and export for any excess or cash crops
*Adding value to crops by processing which will bring higher prices and
*Giving incentive to produce more than at just subsistence level.

Your support of students in Secondary School is making a difference in the country:
*Average income is about $280/year; those finishing high school average $800/year
*Unemployment rate is 3-5 times lower for those with high school education
*Educated couples average 2-3 children, rather than 7-9
*Have lower HIV/AIDS rates
*Live, on average, more than 10 years longer.
Your support of secondary school students (high school) is already making a difference!!!

Helping Kivalamo have access to safe drinking water in another way you backbone folks at Elim are walking Bega Kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder) with your brothers/sisters in Christ.  You are also assisting them to have better access to health care.  It might seem that you are providing so little, but what you are doing is providing  So Very Much.  They are grateful and thank you from the bottom of their hearts.  They are, though, still waiting to see you face to face!!!!  Please plan to come to Kivalamo for a visit -- Soon!

How crucial is it to be "backbone" people?  Paul Harvey put it very clearly on radio!!

I want to end by using comments from Paul Harvey and end with thanks to Elim for being Backbones.

Paul Harvey Commentary
"The Rest of the Story" -- radio program

Regarding the moral & ethical degradation in America:

We have exploited the poor and called it Lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and call it Welfare. .
We have killed our unborn and called it Choice. .
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it Building Self Esteem.
We have abused power and called it Politics.
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it Ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it Freedom Of Expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it  Enlightenment.
We don't even sing "God Bless America" any more in schools.

We Have Lost Our Spiritual Equilibrium And Reversed Our Values.

Paul Harvey's on air prayer:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.  We know your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good' but that is exactly what we have done.  Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set Us Free.    A M E N"

Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, "The Rest of the Story", and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.


Don Fultz is is actively involved as a coordinator for the YouTube Video of Bega Kwa Bega, Shoulder to Shoulder St. Paul Area synod program. This is a grassroots movement in which congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod are matched with congregations in the Iringa Diocese.

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