Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Thankful Tithe

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Stewardship / Financial Commitment Sunday

Genesis 28:10-22
God blesses Jacob in a vision ("Jacob's Ladder") and Jacob responds in worship and offering.

 Some statistics on the Bible and money… 500 verses on prayer, 500 on faith. 2,000 on money and possessions. Nearly half of Jesus’ parables, and 1 out of 10 gospel verses. 
• Take out page of scripture. Genesis 27 Jacob tricks Esau out of birthright and blessing by lying to dying father. Esau makes plans to kill Jacob (27:41). Rebekah sends Jacob off to her brother’s land 500 miles away (here to Montreal). It’s his first night running away. He receives a dream /vision / visit from God, who tells him I will protect you, I will multiply you, I will bring you back. Jacob’s response? Awesome. I will give you 1/10 of what I have.
(Two generations before, his grandfather Abram had given a similar spontaneous offering of a tenth of his resources in response to a divine blessing.)
Jacob’s motive? Thanksgiving to God. Praise, worship.
• Nearly 2,000 years after Jacob’s visit from the Lord and his spontaneous tithe, the author of the NT book of Hebrews recounts in chapter 7 how the tithe became standard, a way for one who loved God to honor God as well as a way of funding the Temple and the priesthood.
• These are some of the scriptures that have led the church across generations and millennia to teach the practice of the tithe as the standard giving for the faith practice of the Christian. (The UMC believes that tithing – setting aside of one-tenth of one’s income for God – is a biblical standard for the lives of disciples. The UMC expects its pastors and its members to tithe faithfully.)
• One of the radio stations I listen to is 88.7 WXPN, a member-supported public radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, and this past week was WXPN’s annual membership drive... They dedicated maybe a quarter of their broadcast time during this drive to tell their listeners about the benefits listeners receive for the free service, and how pledges of even as little as a dollar a day sustain the service.
The tithe is a way a Christian acknowledges that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it...” Giving a tithe is like paying rent to God for living off his bounty.
• Tithe is personal investment in Great Commission of Matthew 28... If the church is about the business of going into all the world, baptizing and teaching, a person who tithes is saying I’m part of that.
• Tithing is a way of putting trust in the Lord. One time the disciples said to Jesus, Increase our faith. I imagine God saying: "I can think of a way to increase faith... give up some of your resources. I will help you rely not on your own devices but on me... "
• Tithing has the unexpected blessing of increasing joy. As an act of worship there’s an excitement about it, like Jacob when he awoke after his divine visit from the Lord.
• A Christian tithes to demonstrate love for God, to demonstrate that God comes first... "I love you, Lord, you get my firstfruits."
• Look in today's bulletin and you’ll see some 2011 budget info... the annual budget that provides for the mission and ministries of our church as well as our denominational support comes out to about $4400 a week. For most of 2011 we’ve come short of that mark.
The sad truth is, if every member of the church faithfully tithed (gave ten percent of their income), we wouldn’t have a budget deficit, we’d have a surplus.
Something like 5% of American adults tithe, and a Barna report shows that at best overall less than a quarter of Christians tithe (that’d be about 35 of the people in this room right now).  Average offering is not even half of that, it’s around 2.5%.  FYI I don’t know who does or doesn’t. I tithe & The UMC believes the practice to be biblical and the starting place for Christian giving.
• I invite you to consider tithing, or to commit to step towards tithing.  Maybe you're not ready to commit today, okay, take sheet home, talk and pray, talk and pray with trusted friends or with your pastor.
If you are uncomfortable filling sheet out because people will figure out your income, don’t fill in your name. or fill in your name and indicate whether you’re tithing or moving towards tithing.
• I invite you to join me...

• Response to the Word: Financial commitment cards and Offering

Heavenly Father, we acknowledge you as the giver of every good and perfect gift. We praise you for your generosity and kindness toward us. We rejoice over your grace as the basis of your dealings with us. Help us to recognize how blessed we are so that we might be moved by love in serving you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ready For Action

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
New Members received today, also Commitment Cards
and it's the tenth anniversary of September 11th.

1 Peter 1:13-25
We are given some words about holy living

 Today is about saying Yes to God,
Yes to God the Father, Yes, God, I will listen to you, Yes, I will obey, Yes, I will learn from you. Yes, I will let you set the course for my life.

Yes to God the Son, Yes, I will follow you, Yes, I confess you are Lord and savior and I need you and I love you, Yes, I will love as you loved, Yes, I will give of myself as you gave of yourself, Yes, I receive your forgiveness and I will forgive others

Yes to God the Spirit. Yes, I will pray as you move me, Yes, I will listen for your still small voice amongst the clamoring noises of the world, Yes, I accept the freedom and power you give me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression, Yes, I accept your encouragement and your marching orders.

• Why yes? Why Ready ourselves for Action?
For the same reason that firefighters and emergency responders are honored today, b/c they put their life on the line for others.... not knowing whether they will survive or not, not knowing whether they’ll successfully deal with the emergency to which they’re responding. And FFs&ERs don’t stop being FFs&ERs when they’re off duty, just like you don’t stop being a Christian when you aren’t in this building... they go forth as public servants and representatives. 

• Why yes? Why Ready ourselves for Action? b/c the Lord Jesus Christ put his life on the line for humankind,
        Knowing he’d be rejected by his people
        Knowing he’d be turned down countless times
        Knowing he’d suffer and die
        And knowing that YOU are worth it...
          knowing that he could set you free

Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb. (1 Peter 1:18-19).

• When Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, the angels gathered around, in all kinds of wonder... “Lord, you suffered terribly down there. Do the people understand how much you sacrificed for them? Do they know how great your love for them is?”

No, not yet. Just a handful of people know right now.
“Well how will you let everyone know?”
I’ve asked a P,J,&J, and a few others to spread the news. They’ll tell others, who will tell others, who will take the message to the ends of the earth.
Knowing the nature of human beings, the Angel Gabriel said, “What's your Plan B? If you want the message spread, I’ll go...”
There is no plan B... I’m counting on them.

Twenty centuries later, there is still no plan B. Jesus is counting on you and me...

• Response to the Word: Commitment cards and Offering

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Body Work

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 18:15-20

• A man dies and goes to heaven. As St. Peter was giving him a tour, he pointed out one particular building where you could hear the music and shouts of praise.  "That's the independent church," explained St. Peter. "They are glorifying Jesus. Good stuff."
As the tour continued, they walked by another church that was filled with excitement and praise.  "That's the UCC church," explained Peter.  "They love to praise God, too."
As they continued touring, St. Peter suddenly indicated that they needed to go quietly by the next church: "That's the Methodist Church," he said. "They think they're the only ones here."

(Hey, if it's a potentially disparaging joke, I might as well place the shame on me, right?)

There will be perfect unity in heaven, as all will happily sing glory to the Lamb.

• Matthew 18 is about unity on earth and in the church. Reconciliation and humility.

• The mission of The United Methodist Church is to "Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."  Everything The UMC does is to that goal.

The mission statements of some of the churches I know. Their mission statements are known and owned by the members, and everything they do is to the goal of living their missions...
 - Making gentle a bruised world.
 - Invite, Embrace, Empower

• What is our mission in Ctown?
Something we work towards together, gives glory to God, defines our purpose in Ctown, part of every thing we do.
Over next weeks and months I hope to examine our mission together.
Therefore Next week: commitment Sunday: how will YOU be involved in the life of CUMC?

May our worship services and the ministries and missions we are involved in bring about reconciliation and transformation

• Hymn 286 Blessed Be the Tie That Binds