Acts 2: 41-47; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 12:13-21
A few weeks ago, I encouraged all of you to dig into your Bibles and read the book of Acts. That is what I am doing right now. And it seems like no matter how many times I read or study the book of Acts – I never get tired of looking at verses 41-47 in chapter 2 of the book of Acts. And quite frankly – I am always challenged – as your pastor – to try to live up to the model that is offered to us in these seven verses.
But here in these verses is a model of what the church can be like. And as you’ve heard me say many times before – this model is what I like to call the Acts 2 church. And I like to think that this church – Zion Lutheran Church – is indeed an Acts 2 church.
So what did this Acts 2 church look like? First it says that they were devoted – they were devoted to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. They shared what they had as any had need. So it seems to me that a church that is going to be an Acts 2 church will strike a balance that includes worship and fellowship, teaching and learning, serving and sharing. And when we look at the church as described in Acts 2, what happened? What we find is that, “…day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
Today we continue our series on “Why Church Matters.” And I want to say that there is something about an Acts 2 church. Especially when that church cares about what Jesus cares about. Invests in what God cares about.
You know that our mission is to love God, and love our neighbors as ourselves, because nothing else matters. That’s the primary thing we need to remember about who we are as the church. First and foremost, it’s about God. It’s not about you – it’s not about me – and getting our needs met. No. First and foremost, it’s about God. And secondly, it’s about people.
So how do we fulfill that mission? Well one way is when we worship God. To worship God is to praise God. To give God thanks to God for all that God has done for us. Now I’ll say more about the worshipping church as we close out this series next week when we celebrate Christ the King Weekend. But for now let me say that worship is the primary way in which we show our love for God.
But there are other ways in which we show our love for God. And it seems to me, that we can do that when we do pay attention to others. When we represent Christ to our neighbor! So we can pray for each other, spend time with each other – do things for each other.
But what I want to talk with you about today is that your contributions are making a difference for God and for others in and through this place. That’s loving God. That’s loving your neighbor. Touching hearts and changing lives. And I don’t know, to me that just feels right. It feels good. Does it feel good to you? I just want to say thank you to all of you who are helping to make a difference.
And I am so proud of so many of you who have learned how to properly manage the resources that God has put into your hands. By the way, that’s what stewardship means. That’s what being a steward means. It means that you are a manager – not an owner, but a manger – of all that God has given you.
And because of that, you know what it means to give back. And let me tell you – when you wisely invest financially in the things that God cares about – the first thing I want you to remember is that you do this as a way to say thank you to God. And then you do this in order to show compassion and concern for others in need. You invest in those things, those places, those people that God cares about. That’s what you’re doing when you give.
Because what we’re really doing is investing in others. And when you invest in a person of any age, you are investing in something that is going to last forever. Yes, we know that someday our physical bodies will die. But we also know that there is also a resurrection – when we will live with God forever. So when you have the courage, the passion, and the vision to invest in facilities and in ministries – you are touching hearts, and changing lives. You have the courage to be an Acts 2 church!
I believe God wants us to making a difference. That’s why I say the church is in partnership with moms and dads – to give kids the proper direction and guidance for their lives – a purpose and a hope for the future. And oh yeah – while these things are happening, at the same time, we give them Jesus. Again, in partnership with moms and dads in the home, we give them Jesus – the only Lord and Savior who is able to give us grace – his undeserved love and favor – to live this life – and hope for eternal life with God yet to come.
And that’s where your contributions to the work of the Lord make a difference. Just look around. Each person you see – each one with whom you share the peace – each man and woman and child who comes through these doors is touched by you.
Is this important to you? I think it is. Jesus lets us know in our Gospel reading today that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Did you know that your money follows your heart? Hey – show me your check book – and I'll show you what really matters to you – I’ll show you where your heart is. Okay – you don’t really have to show me your check book – but we’ve been talking for several weeks now about why church matters. It matters to the heart of God. It is made up of people that Jesus cares about – people that Jesus died for – and Jesus wants us to care about what He cares about. So does your checkbook show that you care about what Jesus Cares about?
So where is your heart? Do you have a heart for God and the things of God? Are you ready to invest in what God cares about? If your heart’s not there – if this is not a priority – then I guess your treasure isn’t going to be in those things that God cares about either.
This past week, I read the story of “…a Methodist minister who on a Sunday – after the ushers had brought the offering forward – lifted up those offering plates and prayed this prayer, ‘Lord, regardless of what we say about you, this is really what we say about you, this is really what we feel about you. Amen.’”
And I thought – wow! That’s pretty gutsy! Glad it was a Methodist minister, and not a Lutheran! The thing is – it’s true. “Your money follows your heart. If your commitment to Christ has not yet reached your billfold then it has not yet reached your heart.” Those are harsh words, I know. But if we are honest about this – we’ll discover just how true it is.
So let me ask you. If you are giving nothing, then I have to ask, where’s your heart? But if you are motivated to invest in what God cares about – if you are motivated to make a difference – to touch hearts and to change lives – then let me suggest that your motivation to give most likely means that first – first you have already given yourself – you have committed your life – to the Lord.
Secondly – you know that investing in what God cares about is just one way to thank God and to show love for your neighbor – in other words – both those outside the church as well as your brothers and sisters in Christ.
And just remember – that God takes great delight when you give. When you care about what God cares about. After all – what does our reading from 2 Corinthians say? “God loves a cheerful giver.” So there you have it.
And because of you and your contributions – your partnership in this ministry – we can provide meaningful worship. Sunday School, confirmation, dynamic youth ministries, Bible studies, ALPHA, Total Family Ministry, Stephen Ministry, MOPS – that’s mothers of preschoolers, not those things you clean your floors with – Eucharistic Ministry to shut-ins. You are making a difference in these areas when you invest in what God cares about.
As your pastor, I have grown towards the tithe – the giving of 10% of our income to the Lord for the work of the Lord – and beyond. Today, again, I encourage you to grow as well. Discover the joy of giving – the joy of tithing. And I know that that kind of giving involves sacrifice. And remember our definition of sacrifice – sacrifice is the giving up something you love deeply for something you love deeper still. I want you to know I’ve been tithing ever since I got my first job out of college. And you know what? I have never lacked for a thing.
But I don’t – I cannot – I will not lay this down as a rule or a commandment – but let me just invite you to determine where you’re at now – and to challenge yourself to grow one step – just one step closer – to the tithe, or beyond, in the coming year. Determine where your giving is now as a percentage of your income – and then grow by one half percent – one percent – whatever. That’s what we call “Grow One Step.”
You see, folks, if we have honored God with our lives, with our stuff, and with our finances – if we are committed to allowing God to build an Acts 2 church in this place – then let me tell you that there will be a tremendous sense of ownership – of satisfaction – YOU will feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction – of being part of something good that is greater than yourself. A tremendous satisfaction that you have touched hearts and changed lives. That you have made a difference for Jesus Christ – because Jesus has made a difference for you. That you are investing in what God cares about.
And that my friends – that is why church matters.
Let us pray. Lord God, thank you for reminding us once again of your grace – your undeserved love and favor. You have given us the privilege of managing the gifts that you have so generously placed into our hands. We pray that you would remind us always to invest in those things – those places – those people that you yourself care about – of the difference we can make by what we do with what you have given us. May your Holy Spirit rest upon us now as we partner together –to be the people you want us to be – in the Acts 2 church you are building in this place. Amen