Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 3:5-6, Philippians 4:6-8, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12
As some of you know, I was away last weekend. I had been invited two years ago to return to the church where I had been a member for the five years that I lived in Dayton, Ohio when I was in my early to mid-twenties. By the way, the name of that church is Zion Lutheran. Can’t go wrong with a church named Zion, can you!
I had been invited to return to preach last year, but I told them I couldn’t be there because I would be on safari in Africa. Sounds like an excuse doesn’t it! And I suppose that would have been funny, except that it was true. So the pastor settled for this year. That church will be 200 years old in the year 2020. So I asked if they were planning their 200th birthday celebration around the theme “2020 Vision.” “As a matter of fact,” said the pastor, “that’s exactly what we’re calling it, and we’ve already begun to plan for it.”
Well, this church – this Zion – does not yet have a 2020 vision plan, but I predict that as the year 2020 gets closer, not only will this church, but every church in the country will be talking about having 2020 vision. Those of us who wear eyeglasses wish we still had 2020 vision, right? I mean, it’s so clever, right? Well, it’s not so much clever as it is obvious.
You know, every church needs a vision. The Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. SO I want to do a couple of things today. I want to talk to you a little not so much about 2020 vision – but a 2014 vision. And then how you and I together can focus on and support that vision.
In a nutshell – let me tell you where I believe the Lord is leading us. It is one of my core beliefs that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. So one part of the vision that God has for this church is that it will continue to be a growing church. I believe God wants this church to grow. And I’m not just talking about how many people show up every week. I am talking about that, but more importantly – I’m talking about what happens in the hearts and minds and lives of everyone who comes through our doors. A church can grow in numbers – but if there isn’t also a growth in our love for God and for each other – if there isn’t a growth in our understanding of God and God’s word – then the best a church can be is a mile wide, and an inch deep. I don’t believe God want us to be a mile wide and an inch deep. I believe God wants us to grow deeper in our understanding and in our practice of what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
So what are some of the things we can expect in 2014 and beyond that will help us to keep growing? The first thing that comes to mind will be the calling of a second pastor. Once that happens we will be able to focus our energies on jump starting our Stephen Ministry and ALPHA programs, which have been dormant the past few years.
We have a great music ministry. And you know, I think we have one of the most dynamic youth and family ministries that any church could hope to have. We have a fantastic staff in Elaine and Kurt. But I’ll tell you, we couldn’t do the things we do without the many volunteers who work alongside Kurt and Elaine – just doing what needs to be done. I’m looking forward to converting our lounge area into a coffee shop that will spill out into the hallway. So I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m pretty excited about what the Lord is doing in and through this place, and where this church is headed.
So how can we support that vision? Today is our Consecration Weekend – and for those of you who are new to this church in the past year, or are here for the first time today – Consecration Weekend is something we do here once a year. This is a day that we use to consecrate ourselves to God and His church. In other words, today we are setting ourselves apart for the work of the Lord in a specific way by declaring what our financial commitment to the work of the Lord at Zion Lutheran Church – what our support of God’s vision for this place will be in 2014.
So if you are a guest with us today, you can relax. This is something we ask only of those who are members at this church.
So let’s return to our Scripture readings. These are readings that I have selected specifically for today – with a little help from our church council. Because in addition to talking about vision and consecration, I want to talk about one thing that can get in the way of God’s vision and our commitment to it. And that thing is worry.
I would guess that there’s not a one of us who doesn’t worry. Some of us worry more than others. The problem with worry is that most of us worry about things that we have no control over.
In our council meeting devotion time on Monday night, one council member said her grandmother was a great worrier. She worried about the weather. We all agreed that we can’t do anything about the weather, but if bad weather is on the way – we can take precautions ahead of time. Sure beats worrying. And yet we worry. Worry about the big things. Worry about the small things. Worry about the past. Worry about the future. Worry about our family. Worry about our jobs. Worry about finances. Worry about that test in school, or the term paper that’s due tomorrow. Worry. Worry. Worry.
Do you know what God’s answer to worry is? Anybody want to take a stab at it? It’s trust. Trust. So I asked the church council in our devotion time – what does it mean to trust? And here are some of the answers they gave.
• It’s waiting for God, but sometimes you have to take action.
• It’s hard work to learn to trust God. Sometimes life overwhelms. You want that new car. That dream vacation. A bigger TV. If only I had this one thing. Sometimes it’s hard to learn to trust God.
• Someone wisely said, “Things become easier when we come back to the center.”
• And someone else said, “Sometimes it’s two steps forward, and one step back.”
• We also acknowledged that for some it’s easier to trust God than others. For some, life is hardship and suffering.
• One person said, “For me I am so blessed, and things are easy.”
• Any someone else said, “But sometimes those who are suffering also feel blessed, and show tremendous trust.”
So we talked about trust. And then I asked what the Bible has to say about worry. And since we’re living in the wonderful world of smart phones and ipads, within seconds two people found Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-8.
So listen again to what Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 about worry. “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ …indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So what does Jesus tell us what not to do? Worry. Worry. Instead, what does he tell us we are to do? That’s right. Seek first – what? The Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things that you need will be given to you.” What things? All the things you need. Notice it says all of your needs. NOT all of your greeds. There’s a big difference there. God will supply all of your needs. That’s a promise. Do you believe that? Do you trust that?
Here’s the problem with worry. Worry says, “I don’t believe you God. I don’t believe that you keep your promises.” When we worry, it’s as though we are living as though God does not exist.
Now I know that that sounds harsh – because let’s face it – we all worry. And sometimes it’s hard not to worry. But I’m here today to tell you that God wants you to trust him. God wants you to trust him – and trust is God’s answer to worry. Repeat that with me. Trust is God’s answer to worry.
What does our reading from the book of Philippians tell us? “Do not worry about anything.” Do I need to repeat that? “Do not worry about anything.” Again, that’s what we’re NOT supposed to do. But what does God want us to do? “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Pray with thanksgiving. I like the saying, “If you worry, why pray? If you pray, why worry?” Worry never changed a thing. It’s stewing without doing. But prayer changes things. God wants us to come to him – to present our needs – again, not our greeds, but our needs – to present our needs to him in prayer.
I want to encourage you to consider what it is that God has done in your life. First, He has given you Jesus Christ. Jesus died for us so that we might have the forgiveness of our sins, and God raised Jesus from the dead so that we might have the gift and the promise of eternal life with God forever. Do you trust God to do that for you? Do you? Well then, if we can trust God to do that for us – and that is the really hard part of what God does for us – I mean, you try raising someone from the dead! If we can trust God with the hard stuff, then it seems to me to that it should be a slam dunk to trust God with the easy stuff, yes? Food and clothing, home and family, meaningful work, everything we need from day to day. Again – in our council devotions someone was quick to point out that that’s what we mean when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s asking God for – trusting God for – everything that we need for TODAY.
So today, I am going to ask you to trust God. I’m going to ask you to trust God to provide you with all that you need. And then I’m going to ask you to commit – to consecrate yourself – to commit a portion of what God is giving you to the work of the Lord. To support the vision for 2014 that I shared with you earlier. I invite you to invest in what God is doing here.
Remember, the Bible talks about a tithe – the giving of 10% of one’s income to the Lord for the work of the Lord. Now I do not –and 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 – half a percent – maybe even one percent – just take one step towards a tithe.
I want you to know that I am at 16% of my income. It took me a while to get there, but let me tell you – it is one of the best things I have ever done. And I promise to you that I will grow in my giving in 2014. My beloved wife Nancy gives more than 20% to Crossroads Lutheran where she is a pastor. And you know what? We have never lacked for a thing. Even in those days when we were living paycheck to paycheck. We never lacked for a thing. Never.
Trust is God’s answer to worry. And God wants us to trust Him. To trust God who says, “Do not worry about your life.” To trust God who says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication – with thanksgiving – let your requests be made known to God.” And when you do that – you know what’s going to happen? The Bible says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Do you believe that? Do you trust God to do that? Amen