Luke 10:25-28; Psalm 96; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12; I Timothy 6:6-10,17-19
Man! Am I glad that this year’s political campaign is over! Anybody else feel the same way? Now – you might not be happy that your candidate didn’t win. And that’s okay. I’m thankful that the process works. And now what we need to do is to continue to pray – not just for the president elect – but for all of our elected leaders – and for our country. But this – unfortunately nasty campaign – is over. And I want to suggest that perhaps now – now the healing can begin. Yes?
But there is one campaign that is not over. And as I told you last week – it is a campaign for God. I am campaigning for God – and I hope all of you are too!
So let me cut to the chase. Today is our Consecration Weekend – and for those of you who are here for the first time today – or you are new to this church – Consecration Weekend is something we do here just once a year. This is a day that we consecrate ourselves to the church – we consecrate ourselves to Jesus Christ – the Lord of the church. We do this in a specific way by declaring what our financial commitment to the work of the Lord at Zion Lutheran Church will be for the coming year – in this case – 2017. Later on we will have an opportunity to do just that.
So if you are a guest with us today, you can relax. This is something we ask of those who are disciples here at this church only.
Last week I reminded you that followers of Jesus Christ are those who belong, believe and become. Belong, believe, become.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we belong to Him. We belong to Jesus Christ – and we are members of Christ’s body – the church. And as members of this church – this congregation – we live out that belonging in and through Zion Lutheran Church. We all have a stake in what happens here. We all have the great privilege of participating in and benefiting from the ministries that take place here. So disciples of Jesus Christ are people who belong.
But we are also people who believe. We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the person and the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is what we say we believe anyway when together we confess our faith in the words of one of the creeds that we use each week.
But after we say, “This I believe,” comes the process of becoming. As disciples of Jesus Christ – we become. It is a process. It is always a process – the process of becoming. Becoming everything God wants us to be. Doing what God wants us to do.
And it is precisely in this area of becoming that I want to talk to you today. We talk a lot around here about our lives as disciples as becoming more and more like Christ Jesus himself. The popular way of talking about this is “Christ-likeness. Christ-likeness.” And it is my firm conviction that we are never more like Christ than when we give.
We say that we are people of blessings – that we have been blessed by God. Well, if you believe that that is true for you – then your great privilege – our great privilege – as God’s people – as disciples of Jesus Christ – is to give gifts – to share our blessings with others.
And here’s what you are doing when you give. First, it is one of the best ways I know of showing gratitude to our Lord, the giver of gifts. It’s a gratitude that goes beyond just praying a prayer of thanksgiving –as important as that kind of prayer is – giving to the Lord’s work backs up our words of thanksgiving.
But this is also an issue of trust. You’ve received God’s blessings in whatever form that takes – and now you’re saying, “Lord – I’ve seen what you can do – and I am going to continue to trust you for blessings both now and in the future.
And of course, you hear me say this all the time – when you give – you are demonstrating that deep down inside – you have the need to give. To give to something that is beyond yourself. To give to something that is good. To give to something where you know you are going to make a difference.
In other words – what you are doing is investing in what it is that God is doing here in this place. Again – I said this last week. Just look around. Look at all the kids we have in worship – in Sunday School – in confirmation – in youth groups. We have a great staff to lead these ministries. Great music. Great musicians. Look at the variety of worship opportunities we have each weekend. Look at how the members of this church are cared for – and how we care for each other. Look at the outreach to the local community and internationally. Even as I speak we are sponsoring a mission team that is in Haiti right now. We’re dedicating shoeboxes today filled with all kinds of things for children in third-world countries around the world Your dollars are paying for these things. Your dollars are making a difference. You are investing in what God is doing. And I want you to know that. And – I want to tell you – thank you.
I hope you are seeing that your gifts do have an impact. You are investing in what God is doing here in this place. You make a difference! Touching hearts. Changing lives. Making a difference.
Having said all that – there’s something else I want you to think about. There are a variety of reasons why people attend a church for the first time – and then come back again – and keep on coming back. A Catholic priest once told me, “People are going to go where they are fed.”
So let me ask you. How have you been fed? Her in this place – how have you been fed? Why do you keep coming back? A popular phrase today is “value added.” What is the value added that you get in this place? How have you benefited from being a part of God’s Kingdom here in this place? How have you grown? How have you changed? What have you learned? Do you find yourself becoming more and more like Jesus Christ? What does this place mean to you?
Boy! That’s a lot of questions. Well, hopefully you’ve been thinking about this – and praying about what your financial commitment to the work of the Lord will be here in this place in 2017.
With that in mind, let me leave you with this thought. Let me ask you: What if every member of our church supported the church just as you do? Huh? What kind of church would we have? What if every single member served the church, attended the church, loved the church, shared the church, and gave to the church exactly as you do? What kind of church would we be?
You think about that. Because God has extended to you an invitation – an invitation to take part in what God is doing. He wants to fill that God-shaped hole in your heart with His Son Jesus Christ. So that we might become the people God wants us to be – to do the things that God wants us to do – in the places where God wants us to be.
After all, that’s what today is all about, isn’t it? In our own ways we can learn how and why we are to give. We can be impact disciples who make a difference – in some way – whether large or small. You can make a difference. You can be an impact person who makes an impact – perhaps even a huge impact – on someone else’s life. Simply because you give. Together we can do this. This is something we can do together.
We say that Love God, love your neighbor is our mission statement. It’s kind of a nifty slogan, wouldn’t you agree? The last reason that I can give you for making a financial commitment to the work of the Lord here in this place is this. I want you to do this for love of God and neighbor.
That’s why I chose the Gospel reading for today. Listen again to what it says. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Remember, the Bible talks about a tithe – the giving of 10% of one’s income to the Lord for the work of the Lord. Again – I will never lay this down as a law. But I would not be doing my job if I did not invite you to consider the tithe. Now I also realize that 10% is a stretch for many. I know that. But let me ask you to consider where you are at – as a percentage of your income – and to grow one step – one step towards a tithe.
I am at 15% of my income. It took me a number of years to get there – step by step. And let me tell you, it is one of the best things I have ever done. So let me encourage you for 2017 to grow one step. Just one step. That’s all it takes.
Even though this nation’s political campaigning is over for now – just remember that the campaign for God continues. I want you to cast your vote for God.
And as you do, just remember what that great theologian, Winston Churchill, once said, “We make a living by what we get. BUT – we make a life by what we give.” Folks – my life’s experience tells me that Mr. Churchill is absolutely correct. And since this is so, then let me encourage you to do what the Apostle Paul tells us to do in that reading we heard from 2 Timothy. “Grab hold of the life that really is life.” If I can put the two together we get something like this:
“We make a life by what we give – so grab hold of the life that really is life.”
Yeah. Grab hold! Grab hold my friends! Grab hold of the life that really is life – for love of God – and neighbor. Amen