Moana: Restoring The Heart

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 24:36-49.

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 29:14b-18.

This week in worship at South Shore United Methodist Church we will consecrate our commitments to God for the 2020 ministry year. We will offer God our pledges for how we will support God’s work within our shores and towards new shores through our presence, prayers, gifts, service, and witness.

We give because God gave first. We love because God loved first.

We give because God loves us.

Our study of I Chronicles 28 and 29 ends with King David praising God through prayer in and with the assembly. I believe these words of Scripture beautifully summarize our learnings during this season of stewardship. May they guide us as we complete our giving discernment in preparation for the 2020 ministry year. I look forward to offering my family’s commitment alongside yours this Sunday.

For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our ancestors, keep for ever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts towards you.

Prayer: “Take my will, and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure-store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.”* Amen.

*“Take My Life and Let It Be,” The United Methodist Hymnal 399.

 

Moana: Sailing Onward

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 22:39-42.

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 29:10-13.

Pastor Andy Stanley says, “Every decision [we] make financially flows from something [we] believe about money – about debt, investing, spending, saving, purchasing.” He also says, “We have a difficult time changing our outcomes because we make the same kind of [financial] decisions because we are not fully aware of what our beliefs around money are.”*

Therefore, if we want to experience new outcomes based on our financial decisions, then we must become aware – and possibly change – what our beliefs are around money.

In our Stewardship Focus text for this week the words youyour, and yours are read and said again and again. King David is praising God. With the youyour, and yoursDavid fully acknowledges that greatness, power, glory, victory, majesty, riches, honor, might and strength come from God. “For all that is in the heaves and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all” (v. 11).

Friends, this is our founding belief about money. Holding and being aware of this belief will initiate a wave of change and difference in our lives as this belief shapes our financial decisions that give rise to our lives’ outcomes:

God owns it all!

God owns it all. God distributes as God sees fit, which is not fairly or evenly. This is frustrating to many of us. We can become jealous and resentful, and if we follow that path, then inevitably we will miss out on the blessings that God has gifted to each of us in our desire to have what was blessed to another.

We are not the owners of what God has given; we are managers. We are stewards. Stanley believes that when we realize our role as stewards of God’s wealth – as stewards of the portions God has entrusted to our care individually – that we will quit feeling guilty about money. Stanley offers that money managers never feel guilty about the wealth that they manager; rather, they feel responsible. The more responsible managers are, the more wealth is created. As the people of God, some of this wealth can be monetized, but not all of it. The ‘other wealth’ created is that of trust, of discipleship, of faith. Those are the treasures that we do not leave in this world. They accompany us across the veil of eternity into the next.

This shift in belief is powerful. It is transformative. Making this shift in belief takes courage. Living it out takes even more courage! And friends, we are equal to the task.

Prayer: “Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King. Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from thee. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose.”** Amen.

*Andy Stanley Breakthrough Study Series

**“Take My Life and Let It Be,” The United Methodist Hymnal399.

 

Moana: Facing Your Crab

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 6:20-26.

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 29:5b-9.

Having declared his professional and personal resources in support of God’s vision, David asks the gathered people, “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord” (v. 5b)? The people responded – the people gave! – each from their station in life, their responsibilities, and their resources. They gave of their time and of their talents. And then they rejoiced becausethey had given willingly. The Scripture says, “for with a single mind they had offered freely to the Lord” (v. 9).

My Sweet Mama has been known to say, “If you want to know who the Lord is in your life, then look in your checkbook register.” To which I have been known to say, “What is a checkbook register!?”

All snickering aside, the sentiment of her statement is wise and true. Our checkbook registers, our bank statements, our credit card bills – they all reveal the nature of our financial decisions. They tell the story of what we think is important and value. And as items recur or increase in frequency on these documents, so increases their value and importance in equivalent measure.

Pastor Andy Stanley observes that it is quite easy for people to talk about their financial decisions – where we spend, how we invest, why we save – but if we ask people – if we ask ourselves! – to articulate our beliefs about money, suddenly we seize up! We are speechless. We are uncomfortable. If we say anything we say politely that we do not discuss money. But I think that is front. I think that is a cop-out we tell ourselves. Because I believe many of us would rather politely say we do not discuss money than pointedly face our fears about money.

Am I spending appropriately? Am I investing wisely? Am I saving adequately? 

And most especially, Am I honoring God with my giving?  

I believe God’s people in King David’s day were able to give with a single mind because they were all sold on the vision that God had something more – something greater! – in mind for future generations and that God wanted them to be a part of it. This was not a vision that was funded on the backs (or pocketbooks) of a few but of an entire community. Our God is a God of abundance. Abundantly more can be accomplished with God than without God and abundantly more can be accomplished in the community of God’s people than on our own.

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The journey that accompanies a life lived as a steward of God’s blessings is one that will take us far together. A crucial first step needed to begin this journey is to honestly face your relationship with – and possibly your fears about – money. Remember, you do not walk alone. An entire community of faith accompanies you on this journey. With grace may we enter this time of reflection trusting that God will lead us in how to respond.

Prayer: “Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of thy love. Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.”* Amen.

*“Take My Life and Let It Be,” The United Methodist Hymnal 399.

 

Moana: You’re Welcome

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 5:17-26.

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 29:1-5a.

Identifying and allocating resources is an important step in equipping a vision to become a reality. David received the vision to build a Temple for the Lord. Solomon would oversee and complete the construction of the house of worship. But before ground could be broken or the barn could be raised, the raw materials had to be identified.

David identifies resources from two places – professional resources and personal resources. He gives gold for the goldsmith; silver for the silversmith; bronze for the bronzesmith; iron for the ironsmith; wood for the woodsmith; gems, precious stones, and marble for the artisans. He gives from the resources he has access to as King. Then David turns to his personal resources and gives from his own treasure in support of God’s vision before him.

We, too, are in possession of both professional and personal resources. While we may not be able to allocate professional resources in the same manner of as David, I believe we are able to leverage those professional resources and skills in service to our God. I believe deeply that we cheat ourselves from the fullness of the life of faith if we believe we live and practice our faith as isolated experiences in worship. The skills and resources we have received and developed within our vocations, trainings, educations, and professional experiences shape our faith. Our vocations, trainings, educations, and professional experiences are also themselves the arenas where we are most present to practice our faith! Most of us spend much more time in work buildings than we do in church buildings. Applying ourselves to the work of integrating our faith into our professional experiences will reveal how God calls us to give of those professional resources in honor of him.

Giving from both our professional and personal resources acknowledges that we hold nothing back from God. It is such an honor to be included in God’s incredible work.  May we offer our whole selves – vulnerably and expectantly – to see what God will do next.

Prayer: “Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere; open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!”* Amen.

*“Open My Eyes, That I May See,” The United Methodist Hymnal 454.

 

Moana: It Calls Me

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 1:16-20 (Luke 5:1-11).

This week Judi Hamrick will offer her leadership in worship by offering the sermon. This gift to our congregation is part of Judi’s certification process to be recognized as a Certified Lay Minister in our congregation. Thank you, Judi, for your preparation for and service in worship this Sunday!

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 28:3-8.

King David has this vision to construct the Temple of the Lord. He has gathered God’s people around him both to join in the excitement of this vision and to actively be part of it.

There will be no “armchair quarterbacks” in this arena.

Having made all the appropriate preparations, the word of God is heard, “You shall not build a house for my name, for you are a warrior and have shed blood” (v. 3). David was a man after God’s own heart. He was also a warrior king. While he would not build the Temple, it would be built from his house, by and under the supervision of his son, Solomon. David, therefore, spent his life – serving and stewarding – to lay the foundation so that Solomon would be ready to construct and complete God’s home.

One aspect of stewardship – of our giving to God in support of and in response to our faith – is that we give in full knowledge that we may not experience the final product. This awareness leads us in the following shift of belief: the act of giving is, in fact, the product we are to pursue, rather than what is achieved or accomplished as a result of our giving.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inauguration speech, “True [the leaders in the present age] have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”* If we live – if we give – only for our own generation or only so that we experience the final product, then we live as self-seekers. We will, then, be a people without vision and surely we will perish.

I am confident God has more in mind for us. So much more. And we will behold and become it as we make ourselves available to God’s leading and through our stewardship lay the foundation for future generations.

Prayer: “Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear; and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!”** Amen.

*Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, as published in Samuel Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Volume Two: The Year of Crisis, 1933 (New York: Random House, 1938), 11–16.

**“Open My Eyes, That I May See,” The United Methodist Hymnal 454.

 

Moana: Where You Are

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 4:1-11.

One of South Shore’s Small Groups is working their way through Andy Stanley’s Study Breakthrough. One of Stanley’s sessions subjects breaking through finances and the small group thought I would appreciate hearing his thoughts on stewardship. I found Stanley’s sharing quite helpful, and will therefore use his thoughts to help frame my blog posts throughout South Shore’s Stewardship Series. Each week the blog post will share the Scripture for that week’s worship service. In addition, the blog post will share and offer reflections on a passage from I Chronicles.

Stewardship Focus ~ I Chronicles 28:1-2.

David is King. The once boy shepherd and conqueror of giants is now king of Israel. Within his purview is the whole nation of Israel – all its peoples and assets. And within his view – all Israel’s neighbors.

As King David observes Israel’s neighbors, he observes that their gods are at home in vast temples while Israel’s God is housed in a tent, known as the Tabernacle. Considering interreligious dialogue – which in those days were also dialogues of international politics – David felt that Israel’s God looked quite homely or plain, which is not – in any way – the manner in which David had come to know or experience the one true God of Israel.

Deeply rooted in a desire to honor God with a fine residence that would serve as the house of worship for the people of Israel, David endeavors to build the Temple. Early on David realizes that this vision will only be accomplished by gathering people around it – by engaging their senses, their resources, their passions, and most especially, their faith.

As we begin this stewardship season, I think it wise that we prepare ourselves to engage this time of study and discernment in that same spirit as David and the people of God. As we gather around a vision of being called to stewardship as a way of discerning where God is calling us in our stewardship, may we employ our senses, resources, passions, and most especially, our faith to this prayerful work.

I look forward to this time of study with you and anticipate with joy where God will lead our acts of faithfulness.

Prayer: “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”* Amen.

*“Open My Eyes, That I May See,” The United Methodist Hymnal 454.

 

The Blessing Of Giving

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 20:32-38.

I spent a lot of time in reflection this week. Little did I know a year ago this week would be my last week before maternity leave.

I think God was merciful; my preaching in flats for one Sunday was enough!

We thought our due date was November 5 – actually it was November 12 for reasons that still do not make sense to Andrew and me – but Joshua had other plans entirely.

I think he wanted to redeem October for me. Now I would think of this month for him first…and for LOFs…do I have to assign them a number?

This time last year we had just moved all our furniture back into the parsonage following the new flooring installation. We were still unpackaging shower presents. I had no idea where the special hospital folder with all the paperwork in it was – you know the one you have when you go to the hospital!? (Turns out you do not have to have it…)

That week I worked patch shifts. We unloaded the second truck. I spent the day in a district meeting. And then I went to a doctors appointment – and they were astonished I was walking and talking. They were also slightly terrified when I said I drove myself to the appointment; according to the blood pressure machine I should have been in the midst of a seizure or a stroke.

Andrew picked me up and we went to the hospital – without the folder. We waited and waited and waited. I did not respond to any of their medication – to reduce my blood pressure or to start labor. We waited and waited and waited. We cried. We rolled our eyes. We hoped. I wanted Joshua to be safe. Andrew wanted both of us to be safe.

And then Sunday came. And with Sunday – peace. Great friends and leaders stepped into the pulpits, and Trunk or Treat leadership, and Charge Conference participation and we stepped into the operating room. Britney Spears’ Wrecking Ball played over the speakers. “Sometimes there are weird noises in here,” the anesthesiologist said. Moments later, soft cries. Joshua was here. And his presence erased all the fear and anger and worry and mess from the preceding days. That day I received the third greatest gift in my life. The first is my relationship with God, the second is my relationship with Andrew, and the third is the relationship with our son. We delight watching him grow in knowledge and love of God and the world God made each and every day.

Andrew and I joke from time to time, “We have kept Joshua alive [this length of time].” On Monday we can say, “We have kept Joshua alive for a whole year!” But the truth is that he has given us life – he has given us life for a whole year. Joshua has given us a life we never dreamed could be until October 22, 2017.

I tear up when I think about all we have received since receiving Joshua in our arms nearly a year ago – all the encouragement and gifts, all the hugs and crazy stories, all the honesty and care.

The generosity of others in our lives – especially in Joshua’s first year of life – teaches and encourages our generosity. This is a beautiful lesson learned as a result of living faithfully in a community of believers.

Thank you, dear friends, for welcoming and loving our son so well in his first year. Because of what we have received from you, we are inspired to give, and to give more.

Prayer: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”* Amen.

*”Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” The United Methodist Hymnal 140.