Tumbling in the Sand
The texts for Sunday September 27, 2015 (18th Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 26): Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; and Mark 9:38-50
What is stewardship?
Some people—and maybe you’re among them—
think that Stewardship is about convincing you
that you need to give money to the church to help pay the bills — to keep the ministry going here
And I could certainly talk about why the church is worth supporting.
It is the only place you will go to hear about what God is up to
in your life
in your community
in the world
It is the only place you will go where — I hope —
you are encouraged to dream about God’s vision of a different world
a better world
a just world
a world where death does not have the final say
It is the only place you will go where bread and wine are placed in your hand
and you are told that this it God for you
And then you will sit next to other who you are reminded
are part of the body of Christ
and that you belong to that body, too — that you belong to God.
It may not be the only place, but it is certainly a rare place place where you can come
and confess that you are broken
and rather than getting a “how to fix yourself” lecture
you hear that you are forgiven
and that God is working on healing you
and this whole broken world
and you are welcome to participate in that healing work, as broken as you are.
It is one of the only places you can come anymore
and sing together—even if you don’t think you can sing pretty
—because the point is not about being pretty but being together.
It’s one of the only places you can find anymore beyond the family where the old and the young
and everyone in between can become friends and learn from each other.
It’s a place where we are supposed to be free to be broken together
where we can doubt together
where we can grow together
and where we can practice being disciples of Jesus — we can practice being the kingdom of God.
And one of the ways that we practice that is through the language and practice of Stewardship
Which, by the way, is not what I just did.
Stewardship is not really about trying to get you to support the church — as important and good as the church is.
Instead, it’s is about practicing
Stewardship is about practicing
Practicing generosity — which, being made in the image of a generous God is
a life – giving, joyous thing for us to do.
But, it is something we need practice at.
We are trained in the world and by our own brokenness
to hold things
to keep for ourselves
and to value thrift
All the while, judging those who could use our generosity
on how worthy they are
Stewardship is the practice of intentionally giving away so that we learn to be generous
and it learning to be more generous
we find ourselves more grateful
and more joyful — not to mention more connected to each other.
That’s part of the practice of stewardship
—generosity, gratefulness, gracefulness, community, and joy
Stewardship is also a practice
of reminding us who our God is.
Oh, I know it’s easy to say that all that we have
and all that we are
is a gift of God
and we are stewards.
And God — the God of love and life
the God who created the world and delivers those in bondage
the God who cares about the least of these
the God who died on the cross and broke open the grave
is our God.
But, that is not how we are told to live in this world
And even with the best of intentions
we pick up the gods of society
the gods of money and market
and power and status
and death and security.
Just as an absolutely unintentional example —
I’ve heard a lot about the meeting we had a couple of weeks ago about the buildings
and what should be done about the properties that we have.
I’ve heard a lot of advocating putting both properties on the market
and letting “the market decide.”
Would it not actually be that we should let God decide?
And that God might, indeed, use the market ot make things come about?
It seems so innocuous to use that language
and yet, the Market is not a deity to decide things.
The Market is not in control.
And what a difference that makes—
that our God is in control — our great and generous and loving and caring God
is actually in charge.
Not the Market.
Not the money in our savings accounts
Not our selves with our own abilities and strengths
but our God —
Who creates things from no-things
Who makes people out of no people
Who brings life from the dead
and calls light and creation from chaos and void.
— that God, our God, is in control.
So, stewardship lets us practice
practice reminding us who our God is.
And that, I think might be a way to think about this hyperbolous gospel text.
We, who rely on ourselves —
on our own hands
our own vision
our own path and feet
our own independence
need to be made lame and blind.
We need to put aside the things we are tempted to make into gods — the things we trust more than God
in order to learn to trust
the one who cares for the littlest, the last and the lost
— not the ones who help themselves and the non-biblical statement from Ben Franklin would like us to believe
If we find that our selves
lead us away from our true God —
then we should perhaps give them away.
And it might well feel like gouging out an eye
to give away our gods
to give away what we think is so important to us that it is a piece of us
Stewardship calls us to the practice of tithing — our money, our time, our talents
So that we might remember
that these things are not our gods
that these things are not what we trust
that they are not as important as moving into a world made whole
of us, broken but freed from what binds us
of God making all things new.
And so, let us practice stewardship
Let us practice generosity, gratefulness, gracefulness, community and joy
And let us practice remembering — living — who our God is
the one who really is in control
the one we really trust
the one who loves us enough
to sustain us through life and death and life eternal.
Love this. And good luck in your next adventure.