November 17, 2015 What Do You Do With What You Keep?
I have bitten off more than I can chew this week.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me through Dr. Mark Powell’s talk on Stewardship at the Candidacy Retreat this past August. I particularly was moved when he said, “Stewardship is not fundraising, but churches have made stewardship and fundraising synonymous. Churches need to do fund-raising but call it what it is. Let stewardship be stewardship. Church members will roll their eyes and listen patiently while the pastor preaches a fundraising-disguised-as-stewardship-sermon, but I have found that they really do want to wrestle with the questions of what does it mean to be a steward of God’s creation, God’s gifts, and God’s blessings.”
So when I planned the sermon themes for the fall I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to do a fundraising sermon last month and to do a stewardship sermon this week. Preaching the fundraising sermon was hard, but I am finding that the preparation for the stewardship sermon is harder.
I recall asking my college pastor why he never preached a sermon on tithing. (At the time I thought that was the only way to decide how much you will give to God.) I never forgot his reply, “I don’t do it because I have not yet figured out what to say about the other 90%.”
Two other stories.
Last week I read about a high school Sunday School teacher who decided to ask her youth to engage in an experience of seeing how much more simply they could live. She felt inspired to invite them go home and count the number of pairs of shoes that they had, but then she felt the Holy Spirit nudge her, “You first.”
She went up to her closet and began pulling out more shoes than she ever thought she had. She thought she perhaps she had twenty but as the count surpassed eighty, including a number of pairs that she had bought and never worn, she stuffed a great many of them into trash bags to be given to the local used clothing center.
Another story. Gandhi was approached by a woman asked him, “My son is disrespectful to me, does not pay enough attention to his studies, and it is all because he eats too much sugar. If you speak to him and tell him, ‘Don’t eat so much sugar,’ I am sure that he will listen to you.”
Gandhi replied, “Please return in two weeks and I will give you an answer.” She was a bit chagrined that he was waiting so long but she agreed.
When she returned in two weeks, she was met by Gandhi's aide who told her, “Gandhi says to come back in a month.”
But, a month later the same aide said, “He says come back in two months.”
Really angry, she waited the two months and when she was finally ushered into his presence she burst out, “Why are you waiting such a long time to answer such a simple request.”
Gandhi replied, “I never realized how hard it would be to give up sugar.”
I never realized how hard it is to be God’s steward.