So, we’ve been talking about stewardship, and we started off the first week talking about how stewardship does not equal money, but rather its a way of living.
In the last session we talked about how another large part of stewardship is about respect. And it’s not about our respect for the church, but the churches respect for the gifts that we give. We talked about how in this day and age people want to know that it is that their gifts are going to. Partially its because we have so many more options to send our gifts to, partially its because we have so much more information available so we can make lots of different decisions, and we can so easily send money to the places that need them. But finally, why shouldn’t people know what their gifts are going to? And this is probably the biggest change over previous generations. Folks don’t naturally know, or have a lot of hope in what the church is doing.So part of what we have to do is to be able to tell folks what it is that we do, and and give them a reason to give to who we are. And the real secret to this is that it’s not just for other people that we do that. But it’s also something that we do for ourselves. One of the things that we’ve lost track of over the years is the reasons why we do what we do. Why do we give?
So we go back to those most important things.
- Who God is
- How we’re saved
- How we live
- Our mission
We know that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the work that we do. We grow in our understanding of how we’ve been saved through study and through coming together with others. We also see Christ revealed through what we learn from others. Studies, and especially group studies are important for this. And is why we’ll be looking at a couple of different studies to start in the next couple of months.
We’re going to skip the third one for a minute and go to the fourth one. We talked last week about one of the easiest ways for people to know us, and begin to understand what we’re doing and have hope in it is through the missions that we engage in.
In this session we’re looking at how we live. We’ve got two different stories about what Jesus says and does in his life, and more importantly in his understanding of who he is. On the one hand we have Jesus telling us who he is. This is from Luke 4 and he’s reading from Isaiah and says that today this has been fulfilled in your hearing.
But then, on the other hand, Jesus asks the question in chapter 9, “who do they say that I am?” Part of being able to tell our story is knowing how others view us. If what others see contradicts who we think we are, then we’ve got problems.
If we are going to be people who live out these core ideas that come from scripture. If we are going to be people who are good stewards of what God has given us, and sharing what we do with others in such a way so that they really understand who we are, then one of the first things we have to be able to do is to be clear about who we are. Then, after that we can ask, who do people say that we are?
But the hardest part is that we have to know who we are. This means we have to have a good understanding of what we actually do, and not what we hope we do. To get at that, we need to see it for ourselves. So I’m recommending that we take a page out of Methodist history and keep a journal…..even if its a short journal.
I want each of us to keep a record of where we’ve been and what we’re doing in terms of our faith. You can do this in a number of ways. Given that we live in a technological age, you can do that electronically. You can use a word document, a spreadsheet, although I think those are old-fashioned a little bit. (remember I’m a nerd)
There are other electronic ways of doing that. There are apps for phones out that you could use in one fashion or another. But I think my preferences would be to use services like Evernote or Penzu.
Evernote is like my electronic filign cabinet. If I need to save something, especially electronic articles out of journals or magazines, or web pages, or emails, or sermons, or just about anything I write anymore, it all goes into Evernote. This would be a good program that you could use. Or, a simpler program is Penzu.
Its an electronic journal that you can use on a phone, tablet, iPad, or even computer. This is what I’m going to use, and its what I use as a journal for myself also.
If you aren’t nerdy like me, then there is always paper (which is sometimes a better choice). You could use something as simple as a spiral bound notebook, or a ledger, but if you’re going to use paper, and there are times when even I think its better to use paper over other things, then go for something a little nicer, or sturdier. You could use something like an artist’s sketchbook which has a tendency to use better paper and be built a little tougher, or a notebook with a better binding on it. Or, there are all sorts of leather bound journals available now.
What I want us to do is very simple. Anytime we do something that relates to our faith, whether its just offering a prayer, or reading a passage of scripture right it down. Every time we come to church, either for worship, or Sunday School, or a study, or even a meeting, write it down. Every time we do something that reaches out and helps others, write it down.
What I want us to see, is what kind of patterns develop. When its down on paper, or typed up on a computer, then its there. We can see it, we don’t have to rely on our memory which can sometimes trick us and tells what we want to hear, and not what we actually did. This is so that we can see who we are, and we can no ourselves better. Jesus told the people that the scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. He knew who he was, do we?
When we can do that, and we can tell others who we are, then we can also start to really listen to who they think that we are. What we want is for those things to match up. If they don’t, then we have work to do.
We do these things out of faith–faith in God. As we get to know ourselves better, then we can better see what God is leading us to do, and we can begin to take steps forward. And the great thing about writing these things down is that then we can see how we grow over time.
What I want us to do with this information is to chart our paths of growth. We first see a little more of who we are. Then we ask, what can we do better, or do more of, and set those things as goals.
And yes, part of that will be about money. We ask, what are we giving now, monetarily, then can we give more. Honestly, sometimes the answer will be no, we can’t do more. That’s part of life, but that’s also why stewardship is about our whole lives and not just money. Sometimes we can’t give more in that area, but we can give more in our time and service to others. That’s part of what we have to figure out.
Would I like to see everyone (myself included) give more money, yes, but what I want to see even more is that we all grow. That we see where we are now, and then say that’s where I want to be in the future.
Be thinking of that over the next few weeks. On the last Sunday of this series, the last Sunday before Lent starts, we’re going to bring those things together and we’re going to offer them up to God, and say that these are our commitments that we give in faith. This is how we’re going to grow over this next year, and that were going to keep track of this, so we can see that growth.
And I expect, that by this time next year we’ll see great changes. Amen.