Bulletin: 11-6 Bulletin
Sermon: 11-6 Sermon
What is a Saint?
November 6, 2016
Rev. David Goode
See selected readings found at the end of this sermon.
Today is All Saints Sunday. It is a day to remember those in our family and in our church family who have died in the past year. The Bible has a lot to say about the saints. Not the New Orleans Saints, but the saints in heaven and the saints on earth.
What is a saint? The definition of a saint has changed over the years, so let me start by giving a brief history. In the first three hundred years of the church, a saint was someone who died for Christ’s sake, the martyrs of the church. St. Ignatius said that the “blood of the martyrs were the seeds of the church.” Therefore, to qualify for sainthood in the first three hundred years of the church, you had to die for Jesus’ sake. Christians died by lions in the coliseum, by being burned at the stake or crucified. That was how you became a saint.
Then, things changed around the year 313. In 313 AD, Constantine became emperor of the Roman Empire and he made it a law that everybody had to be a Christian. It was not that Constantine was religious; but he was a smart politician and was using Christianity to be the glue which held his empire together. So, what was a saint now? A saint was a famous person who died and the Roman Catholic Church said that they were now a saint. The church built a chapel in honor of that saint and you could go into that chapel and pray to that saint. These saints would then have a talk with God up in heaven, because they believed that the saints had God’s ear. This was an important part of the medieval Christian religion. For around thirteen hundred years, saints were the dead religious heroes who were up in heaven, who heard our prayers and then talked them over with God.
Then the Reformation came, which we celebrated last week. Martin Luther and all the other reformers did not like the idea of praying to and through the saints. The new idea was that we do not have to talk to a saint who would then talk with God on our behalf. The Reformation taught that we could pray directly to God, without a saint, without a priest and even without the church. Therefore, during the Reformation, the meaning of a saint changes again. Christians began to refer to loved ones who had died as saints.
Well, about a hundred years ago, things began to change again in the church. They started making lists of people who died in the past year and published those names in the bulletin, as we have in our morning bulletin. A saint then is a person in the congregation who died this past year.
However, do you need to be dead to be a saint? No. When we were putting together the bulletin this week, our church office administrator Kaliane asked me “what is a saint?” Saints are people of great holiness, virtue and benevolence. Saints are good, kind, and patient. Saints are people who live with unbearable circumstances, or with people who are miserable to live with. We have considered two thousand years of history of the word saint.
Now let us look at what the Bible has to say about saints. We read several of the passages in the Bible that talks about saints. The word, saint it seems, is never singular – It is always plural. The word, “saints” means “God’s holy ones”. We are God’s holy people.
The first scripture verse in our reading this morning says: As for the saints in the land, they are excellent in God’s sight. God’s greatest pleasure is to be with them. (Psalm 16:3). My greatest pleasure is to be with my wife, family, friends, and church family. They like me. They love me. They enjoy being with me. I like them, I love them and I enjoy being with them. There is no greater pleasure in life for me than to be with these people. It is the same with God. According to the Bible, God’s greatest pleasure is to be with his people; who walk with him and talk with him and simply enjoy being with God.
What is a saint? A saint is a person who was killed for Christ in the first three centuries. What is a saint? Those people who were religious heroes of the church, had chapels and churches built in honor of them and they are now up in heaven interceding with God for us. What is a saint? Our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, and those who have died and gone before us into heaven.
What is a saint? I think Jesus has the best answer to this question: Those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Those who love their neighbor as they love themselves. That makes you and you and you a saint. You are all saints. You are the living saints of God. In addition, we are saints bound for the Promised Land (anthem title that follows).
Bulletin: 10-30 Bulletin
Sermon: 10-30 Sermon
Up a Tree and Wanted
Rev. David Goode
October 30, 2016
Jesus singled out Zacchaeus, calling Zacchaeus to spend time with him. Despite Zacchaeus’ reputation, Jesus affirms him as being worthy of his special attention. Jesus wants Zacchaeus to be part of his life and ministry. Do you hear Jesus calling to you today? Do you hear Jesus calling to Hamilton Park United Church of Christ to be part of bringing salvation to all? Even if we do not feel worthy, Jesus calls us. Jesus even calls people with criminal records in Lancaster County through the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization, which we will learn more about from Melanie Snyder a little later in the service. Jesus is calling, are we listening?
Zacchaeus was a man who lived in the city of Jericho. We heard that Zacchaeus “was one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax collecting business; and he had become very rich.” To become a tax collector, you had to bribe a Roman official. Rome told you how much to collect and if you could collect more, you would keep the extra. Zacchaeus was good at gouging his fellow Jews, so he ended up being quite wealthy.
For a Jewish man to become a Roman tax collector was unthinkable. It was high treason. It was like going over to Syria and joining ISIS. You would be hated for being a traitor. If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew; your family would disown you, you would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue and you would be looked at as bad as a murderer. As a result, Zacchaeus was miserable on the inside.
If you are feeling a little down, you came to the right place today, because this is a place of hope. This is a place of Jesus Christ. How do we know that we can have hope even when things do not look like they are going well in our lives or in our church? Because we know that God notices us and we matter to God.
Jesus noticed Zacchaeus up a tree. He said to him: “Zacchaeus!” Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” Why do you think Jesus did that? I think it was because Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ heart, just as He knows your heart today. You might be up a tree today, or maybe even out on a limb. You may think God has forgotten you, but there has never been a time when God took His eyes off you. God notices you and sees every breath you take.
God notices us and lifts us up. All his life, Zacchaeus had been ridiculed and rejected. He was a corrupt tax collector. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus in front of this huge crowd and called him by name, which probably shocked everybody because Jesus knew the name of the biggest crook in town. Nevertheless, despite Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus lifts him up while everybody else is putting him down.
You have probably heard it said that God loves you so much that he carries your picture in his wallet. Can you imagine, on God’s refrigerator is a picture of you and Hamilton Park United Church of Christ. Isaiah 49:16 God says; “See, I have written your name on my hand….” God lifts us up and believes that we are worthy of being in mission and ministry with Christ today. No matter who we are or where we are along life’s journey; God wants us today.
People made Zacchaeus feel unloved because he was a cheat. So, Jesus did something about it. He did not just walk up to the tree and look up and noticed Zacchaeus. In addition, He did not just call him by name and affirm him in front of those who hated him. He invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. We read in verse 7, “All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
We are all a bit like Zacchaeus. We have done things that have hurt others. We have made some poor choices in life. Hamilton Park Church has hurt others and made some poor choices. However, Jesus is far more interested in changing us than He is in condemning us. He looks at you and says, “I know you, I love you and I want you to be part of my service of salvation to all.”
God has called you and Hamilton Park United Church of Christ for a purpose. What are you going to do? Zacchaeus’ response was to quickly climbed down from the tree and bring Jesus to his home with great excitement and joy. He took Jesus up on His offer for a relationship and seemed to be changed instantly. Verses 8-9, says: “Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay back four times as much.” Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” Something had happened in his heart, because the most selfish man in the city suddenly became the most generous man in the city. Jesus Christ and the love of God changed him. Jesus says, that is why I came, to seek out and save the lost. That is our purpose and mission today.
“How do you want to be remembered?”
2 Timothy 4:6-8
October 23, 2016
Rev. David Goode
There is an old story told of a woman’s husband who had died and she wanted to let others know about the funeral. She called the person in charge of funeral notices at the paper local paper. The widow asked, “how much do funeral notices cost?” The response was, “$5.50 per word, Ma’am.” “Good” the widow said; she then asked, “do you have a pencil and paper handy?” “Sure do Ma’am,” the response came. The widow then said, “okay, please write this: ‘Fred Dead.’” The person on the other end was puzzled and said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I might have forgotten to mention there is a five-word minimum.” “Hmmmmm…” the widow said as she thought. Then she asked: “Still got your pencil and paper?” “Yes, Ma’am.” came the reply. Okay, print this: “Fred dead, Cadillac for sale.’”
Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” How do you want to be remembered when you die? What five words do you want on your tombstone? If you were at your own funeral and people from the most important parts of your life (family, friends, work, and church or community organization) were speaking about you, what would you want them to say?
Now, maybe I am thinking about this because we have had four funerals in the past few weeks. However, as we read Paul’s words to Timothy this morning, it seems to me that he is writing his own obituary: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” How do you want to be remembered?
Paul wants to be remembered joyfully as a servant of God, who offers himself up as a sweet fragrance. Even though the New Revised Standard Version translates Second Timothy 4:6 as saying “I am already being poured out as a libation”, it is best translated “I am already being poured out like a drink offering”. A drink offering was a type of sacrifice. Both Old Testament Jews and their non-Jew counterparts were familiar with drink offerings. A worshiper would approach the altar of hot coals with a goblet of wine. As a prayer or special vow was spoken; the wine would be poured on the coals. The wine instantly evaporated, giving off a cloud of smoke and a sweet rich fragrance. The drink offering was a symbolic way of saying, “I gladly give all that I have to the Lord. The sacrifice that I offer is symbol of my wholehearted commitment to God. I hold back nothing. All that I have, I gladly give to my God.”
Paul also calls his death a departure. This too pictures a concept common to his readers. It refers to a ship hoisting the anchor, raising the sails, leaving the harbor, and setting sail for a distant port. It also refers to an army that has made camp near a battlefield. To “depart” means to break camp, leave the battlefield, and head for home. Paul joyfully lays down his whole life and is ready to go home with no regrets. Paul has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
The phrase “I have fought the good fight” was the description of a wrestling match. Life can be tough. However, finishing well is worth the effort. Finishing well does not mean living primarily for your own comfort and spending your time and money on your pursuit of the American dream. You may attend church every week. You may profess to follow Christ. However, if your purpose in life is to be as comfortable as you can, then you are not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If, on the other hand, you live for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and extending God’s kingdom through your labors, your time, and your money, in accordance with the gifts and opportunities that God has given you, then you are involved in that goal of finishing well. Let me tell you, there is no retirement from church life and work.
Paul says I have finished the race. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Winning means not quitting. It means not finding excuse after excuse to stop working for the church and falling short of the finish line. Life is not so much about how fast you go, but do you finish well?
Finally, Paul says I have kept the faith. This simply means Paul refused to compromise the truth. When other people fell away, Paul preached the Word. He did not back down, he did not compromise, and he would not preach what people wanted to hear. Paul never retired from following God and building the church. He fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Paul never stopped fighting, never stopped running, and never stopped believing!
How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to be remembered in regards to Hamilton Park United Church of Christ? “I got tired and stopped fighting for church renewal and growth.” “I stopped running for the cause of church renewal and growth.” “I stopped believing in a bright new future for the church.”
Do you know that there are five committees here at Hamilton Park United Church of Christ that does not have a chairperson? Finance and personnel, Property, Fellowship, Care Giving and the newest committee Preschool. When the new pastor arrives next year, do you want them to bring renewal and growth to Hamilton Park Church; or do you want them to run committees? When it is all over for you, will you hear the words: Well-done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your lord. Or, “you didn’t finish well, but come on in anyway.”
How do you want to be remembered? What five words will you be remembered with? “I killed Hamilton Park Church” or “I saved Hamilton Park Church”? Keep on fighting. Keep on running. Keep on believing.
*Hymn “O Jesus, I Have Promised” #493
Sermon: 10-16 Sermon
Don’t Quit–Pray Persistently!
October 16, 2016
Rev. David Goode
A newspaper comic strip showed a little boy kneeling beside his bed for his bedtime prayer and saying with some measure of disgust, “Dear God, Uncle Jim still doesn’t have a job; Sis still doesn’t have a date for the prom; Grandma is still feeling sick – and I’m tired of praying for this family and not getting results.” Praying is a problem for this little boy and I think that he is not alone. Prayer is a problem for many modern people, especially when our prayers do not produce what we want. When we take prayer seriously, we do not hesitate to be persistent and consistent in our times with God.
In today’s parable, the poor widow kept on begging the judge to grant her justice. She did not just ask once and say, “Let me know what you decide.” She peppered his ears with persistent petitions. Have you ever asked God for something, and when God did not answer your prayer immediately, you quit praying? That is a big mistake.
The most effective prayers in the Bible are those that were prayed persistently. In Psalm 55:16-17, David wrote: “I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David was not one of those one-a-day vitamin prayers. He was an all-day pray-er! Remember, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing.
In the Old Testament, Hannah desperately wanted a child. For many years, she prayed and prayed to have a child. And after her prayer went unanswered for years she didn’t say, “I give up!” Or like that little boy in the newspaper comic strip, talking to God with disgust. She kept on praying for years, and eventually God gave her a son – Samuel, the mighty prophet.
Even Jesus prayed persistently. On the night before the crucifixion, He was in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart to God His Father. His prayer burden was so intense there were drops of blood, like sweat, on His forehead. He prayed, “Father, take this cup from me – but not my will but yours be done!” He prayed it repeatedly. Three times Jesus cried out to His Father who heard Him, gave Jesus the strength and resolve to face the cross.
Paul had some kind of painful affliction that he called “a thorn in the flesh”. He begged God to remove the pain. He asked not once, not twice, but three times before the God answered. And when God answered, it wasn’t the answer Paul was wanting. God did not take away the thorn; instead, God gave him the grace to cope with the pain. Therefore, Paul began to give God glory in the midst of his pain.
Persistence is an important factor in prayer. However, persistence is a valuable commodity for every area of our Christian life, not just prayer. God blesses those who persist. Therefore, whatever you may be facing right now, do not give up! This parable of Jesus concerning the widow and the dishonest judge is a story about encouragement. Jesus is saying, ‘Take heart. Don’t give up praying just because the times are hard’. ‘Keep on praying!’ Why? Because of the relationship that we have with God. Keep on praying because God is gracious and kind. Keep on praying, even if the whole situation looks hopeless in our eyes. Keep on praying because God loves us and is waiting to answer our prayers in a way that will be for our benefit. Keep on praying because God is willing and waiting to hear from us, and wants to apply his loving answer to every request we bring to him. Sometimes we may doubt, we may be angry, we may be upset, we may question “why?” but God is always there ready to listen.
One of the largest organizations in America is the Quitters Club. The reason you have never heard of the Quitters Club is because they never meet, the members quit coming. There are no dues, the members quit paying them. The Quitters Club is comprised of people who faced a tough job, a tough marriage, a tough sickness, or a tough failure; and they quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. However, when the going gets tough, the quitters get going…away. What we need in the church are people who will exhibit good, old-fashioned “sticktoitiveness.” That’s probably not even a word, but it needs to be!
My younger son Jon played football for years. I remember one game when he recovered a fumble and headed towards the goal line. He was carrying a couple of guys from the other team with him. He did not make it to the goal line; but he demonstrated persistence or “sticktoitiveness.”
Even the best of people get knocked down in life, but what sets them apart from the quitters is that they get right back up. Life is full of adversarial people who will tackle you. You will face difficult circumstances that trip your feet out from under you. The poor widow in Jesus’ parable was knocked, but she refused to stay down. She got up and persistently made her request to the judge.
Sadly, many Christians pray, but they really do not expect any answer. I heard about a Sunday School teacher who had her children write letters to a missionary they had been praying for. The teacher explained that the missionary was very busy and would not have time to send a reply to every child, so they should not expect to hear back from him. One little boy wrote this letter: “Dear Mr. Smith, I am praying for you. I am not expecting an answer.” Are you like that? You pray, but you are not really expecting an answer?
I have known people who have quit praying because they did not seem to get an answer. If I walk into a room and flip on the light switch, I expect the light to come on. If it doesn’t, I don’t curse Thomas Edison and say electricity is a lie. I start looking for the problem. Maybe the light bulb burned out, or a breaker has been tripped, or the power is out. If it seems your prayers aren’t answered, don’t quit praying, start looking for the reason. It may be the wrong request, or you may have un-confessed sin in your life, or the timing may not be right. God always answers prayer. God answers prayer in different ways: yes, no or wait. Or god may answer our prayers quickly or later or better or simply no.
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY. Jesus used the word “quickly” in verse 8 to describe how God answers prayer. The word “quickly” is a relative term. If someone was injured, I would say, “Call 911 quickly!” However, if a couple gets married only four months after they first met, I might say, “They sure got married quickly!” The word Jesus used means “suddenly.” Your prayers may seem to be unanswered for months, and then BOOM! You get the answer.
I heard about a person who was rushing to the mall to buy something. It was pouring rain and she did not have an umbrella. As she drove into the parking lot she said, “Please, please, Lord let me find a good parking place near the front door.” Just as she said those words, she saw the back-up lights of a car as it backed out the best parking space in the entire lot. She said, “Never mind, Lord, I’ve found one myself!” What a joke! God answered her prayer so quickly she did not even have time to understand it was God at work. God may answer your prayer QUICKLY.
God may answer your prayer LATER. God always answers prayer immediately, but sometimes it is later. When your prayer is heard in heaven, God acts on the request immediately, but it may take awhile before you get the answer. If it seems God hasn’t answered your prayer yet, don’t quit! The answer could be just around the corner. God’s delays are not God’s denials. Our sense of timing is flawed, but God’s timing is impeccable. So pray persistently, and then wait patiently for God’s answer.
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY or LATER or maybe even BETTER. Sometimes we do not get what we ask for, because God has something better in store for you. Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham once said, “If God answered every prayer of mine, I would have married the wrong man seven times!” Sometimes when you ask God for something, He has something better in store for you!
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY or LATER or BETTER or simply NO. When we get a NO, that is still an answer to prayer. Do not ever stop praying until you hear God say, “No.” At that point, stop making that request and start praying in a different way. When my mother was dying of cancer, I prayed and asked God to heal her. I did not stop praying, I prayed persistently. After years of praying for God to heal her, one day I felt in my heart that God was saying, “David, I’m not going to heal her the way you want her healed. I’m going to totally heal her by bringing her home to be with me.” At that moment, I stopped praying for her healing. I changed my prayer to, “Dear Lord, keep her free from pain and help her to enjoy the days of physical life that she has left” and God answered that prayer. Do not give up on prayer because God will never give up on you.
Bulletin: October 9th, 2016
Sermon: Be Thankful
October 9, 2016
Rev. David Goode
There were ten of us there that day. Each of us needed healing from the leprosy that ravaged our bodies. We were outcasts; other people wanted nothing to do with us. In fact, we were ordered to stay away from the public and we were forced to cry out “unclean, unclean” if anyone came near us.
Then, we saw this man. He did not avoid us like the rest; in fact, He came forward and called to us. We saw that it was Jesus. We had heard about this man. Some said He was the Messiah. Others said a great teacher. But one thing they all agreed on was the fact that He had a healing touch. That’s what we needed, so we cried out, “Have mercy on us.”
I’ll never forget what happened next. He told us to go show ourselves to the priests. That could only mean one thing; we were going to be healed! We all looked at each other in disbelief and my friend turned and started towards the temple. We all followed, excitedly discussing the possibility of being cleansed.
Then, it happened. We hadn’t gone very far and I felt kind of warm, even tingly. I could hardly believe my eyes! My skin dried up. I was healed. I looked in disbelief at the others and they too were clean. It was a miracle! Just like they said, this man Jesus was a healer!
My friend turned around and headed back. We called out to him, “Where are you going?” He said, “I’m going to thank Him. I’m going to thank Jesus.” Well, I thought about turning around and going with him, but then one of our group said, “I’m not going to thank Him until I make sure that this healing is permanent. I might get leprosy again tomorrow, for all I know.” The others murmured in agreement. “We would have been healed anyway,” another one said. “Yeah, we suffered enough, we were owed a blessing.”
“But, don’t you see, Jesus healed us. He is the one who…” and I was interrupted immediately. “You’re the one who doesn’t see,” another man said rudely. “I’ve got to get home and tell my family and friends the good news. I’ve got to make up for lost time. Maybe I can even get my old job back.” “Yeah, let’s throw a party tonight.” a younger man said.
“But, don’t you think we should at least thank Jesus,” I continued. “Thanks, shmanks,” the younger man said. “Jesus knows that we appreciate it, now let’s move on.” It shames me to say it, but I never went back that day.
In fact, I never did say “thanks.” I got so caught up in the healing and the comments of the others and wanting to start my life over that I never did tell Jesus that I was grateful. I never told Him how much I appreciated Him taking a chance on me. I never told Him how much His blessing meant to my life and to the lives of my family and friends. I never told Him how wonderful I felt and how He changed my life that day.
Today, we want to be the one out of ten who gives thanks to God. You may be thinking, but I didn’t receive a healing like they did. What do I have to be thankful for? There are so many things in this world that needs healing and my life needs help as well. Then add to that our bodies getting older and falling apart due to sickness, disease, and death. However, in spite of all of this, we can still be thankful!
How can we be thankful for a car accident? Be thankful that there are hospitals that can provide immediate care. Be thankful for cell phones to call for help. Be thankful for insurance companies. Be thankful for the times you did not have an accident. Be thankful that we have transportation. We do not understand why accidents happen and diseases kill people; or why bad things happen to good people.
However, we can either be a complainer or we can be a contender. You may have heard of Kyle Mayner, also called, “The Contender”. When Kyle Mayner’s mother was pregnant, the doctors said they could not find his legs. He was born without hands or legs, and yet his mother was thankful for him. Despite his handicaps, he eats with a spoon, played football while in High School and graduated with a 3.6 average. Two months after his High School graduation, Kyle was a keynote speaker at a forum for the disabled. “Anyone,” he told the crowd, “can overcome their boundaries and achieve their dreams.” Being a thankful person and a contender in life, he was content with who he was. That is the power of thanksgiving and we learn to be thankful in all things.
Like that one leper, we can be one of the thankful people today. Be thankful for God becoming one of us in Jesus Christ, the healer and savior. And if forgiveness and salvation isn’t enough for you to break into your happy dance, just think:
- If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
- If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
- If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the thousands who will not survive this week.
- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
- If you can attend church meetings without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are blessed.
- If anyone in this world has a reason to be Uncommonly Thankful – It is us!
We take our privileged American life for granted. We are used to having so much, that like the 9 in our story this morning, we do not stop and say thanks. We simply assume that we will have all the good things of life. Maybe to be like the “one” in our story, we can show our thankfulness by writing a list of the specific blessings, which we are thankful for.
- Thanks for the warm bed in which I awoke.
- Thanks for the roof over my head.
- Thanks for the food I ate and the water I drank.
- Thanks for the air I breathed.
- Thanks for my family.
- Thanks for my job.
- Thanks that I can see, hear, and talk.
- Thanks for my health.
- Thanks for my computer.
- Thanks for the TV.
- Thanks for the newspaper.
- Thanks for the beauty of the day.
And that’s just the beginning. If you had to list all your blessings, you would have to list all of the bad things that did not happen to you today. How long would that take?
Sermon: Jesus Brings Us All Together
October 2, 2016
Jesus Brings Us All Together (World Communion)
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Matthew 26:26-28
Rev. David Goode
Each Year, on the first Sunday of October, we gather around The Lord’s Table with all our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world. We celebrate Jesus and what Jesus did for us and for all. We celebrate what Christ does today for everyone, through the power of Holy Spirit. We celebrate Jesus, who prays that all of us will be one. We celebrate Jesus, who welcomed the little children into his arms. We celebrate Jesus, who took time to bless everyone – no matter who they were and no matter what others thought of them. Jesus Christ – savior and our Lord of the world. Jesus Christ – the promised one of God for all. Jesus, the son of God – and yet human:
- human like us….
- a human who struggled to be faithful to God,
- a human who was called to love his neighbors as himself,
- a human who was tempted like we are in every way,
- a human who suffered as we suffer.
The letter to the Hebrews speak of Jesus in exalted terms – calling him “the radiance of God’s glory” and “the exact representation of God’s being”, and “superior to the angels”. And this is true – our whole faith speaks of it, but the letter to the Hebrews also remind us of something else that our whole faith speak of. It reminds us that here, on this earth, Jesus was made like us. That he was made like us a little lower than the angels and was one with us; born of a woman, born as our brother to walk as we walk through this life. Jesus was one with us, able to sympathize with us, able to identify with us, able to rejoice with us, able to suffer with us. And, because of what he suffered in faithfulness to God, Jesus is able to intercede for us – pray for us – before God.
The signs before us today — the bread and the wine, they remind us of how he came to be our Savior, they remind us of what his love and his faithfulness cost him. There is plenty of room around this table, for the young and the old, for the rich and the poor. For people from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Germany, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Russia, Slovenia, Thailand, Zimbabwe, the United States and everywhere in between – Plenty of room for all.
“Practice Generosity Now”
1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
September 25, 2016
Rev. David Goode
How many of you would like to be remembered as someone who was selfish and greedy? Ok, how many of you would like to be remembered as a generous person? Most of us would like to be remembered more as a generous person than a selfish person. This morning we are going to take a look at our bible readings and consider how to be a generous person.
There is a story about a mother preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5 and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you should be like Jesus! Give me that first pancake!”
In a telephone survey, people were asked, “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person?” An overwhelming number said yes. What about you, do you consider yourself generous? The follow up question was, “Describe the last time that you did something that was generous.” Can you think of the last time that you were generous?
Now, the surveyors did not consider the details of the answer to be important. Instead, they had a stopwatch and they were timing the respondents to see how long it took them to remember their last generous act. Guess what the average time was? Twenty seconds. Twenty seconds – that’s a long time. First, there would be a few seconds of silence. Then they would hem and haw for a moment slowly saying, “Welllllll, let me seeeee.” If it takes us that long to remember the last time when we were generous, then are we TRULY generous people?
Think of the story of Lazarus and the Rich man for a moment. Lazarus, a poor beggar ends up in Abrahams’ arms, while the Rich man ends up in hell. The rich man was selfish, failing to share even the crumbs that fell from his table with the beggar who lay at his gate. The Law and The Prophets tell us: feed the hungry, look after the widow and the orphan, do justice for the alien and the stranger in your land, take care of those who are suffering, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The rich man knew the law and he chose to be selfish and uncaring. This beggar at his gates was not even worthy of the leftovers from his feast. How about us? Do we notice the under nourished, the widow, and the orphan? Do we provide justice for the alien, the refugee, and the ones who our society choose to discriminate?
We do not want to be self-centered like so many people in our society today; we want to be like Jesus, generous and caring people. So how do we become generous? Today’s second scripture lesson has some suggestions. Paul instructs Timothy: do not trust money; put your trust in God; and practice generosity.
First, generous people do not put their trust in money. If we look at the lesson from first Timothy, Paul has many things to say about this. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God.” On American money, there is a motto, “In God We Trust.” Unfortunately, too many do not trust the words of the motto; they trust the money that these words are printed on.
We just finished watching the final show of the season of “Americas Got Talent”, were the winner receives a million dollars. The first of these types of shows was “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” Now there are several shows that give away lots of money. The sad thing is, these are some of the most popular shows on TV today. On the other hand, we are told to buy a lottery ticket and win more than a million dollars. Most of us would say “yes”; I want to be a millionaire. Why, because we think that money will solve all of our problems? We believe that money will give us happiness. We believe that money will give us security.
Money does not add up to security. Ecclesiastes 10:5 says this: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Trusting money is trusting in something that does not have the power to make us secure and happy. We cling to money thinking it will give us the things we need in life. However, if we are to become a generous people, we have to learn to stop trusting in money as our source of happiness and security, so that we can be able to let go of it and give it away. Andrew Carnegie, who amassed a fortune, ended up giving away 99.5% of it. He said, “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.”
You may be aware of the movement called “The Giving Pledge” launched by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in 2010. It is a campaign to persuade billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. As of June 6, 2016, 139 individuals from 14 different countries have pledged more than $365 billion dollars. Some of you may be thinking, I am not rich – I do not have a billion dollars. However, wealth is a relative thing and most of us are rich beyond measure compared to 90% of the world’s population. In addition, we are not doing too bad compared to about 40% of our own society.
As I was preparing for today, I stumbled upon an interesting website that allowed me to find out how rich I am on a world scale. (http://livingwage.mit.edu/articles/19-new-data-calculating-the-living-wage-for-u-s-states-counties-and-metro-areas). I entered my yearly income and it told me exactly where I fit in. To give you an idea, I am richer than about 5.4 billion people and there are only around 600 million richer than I am. That means I am in the world’s top 11% of rich people. Now I do not know what you earn, but to give you more of an idea, if you earn more than $10,000 a year you are still in the top 14% of the world’s richest people.
Generous people do not trust money, they trust God. When we trust God, we become generous and are able to share with others. Stop trusting in money and trust in God.
Then we can practice generosity. Generous people become generous, by developing the skill of generosity. Paul is trying to teach generosity, because generosity is not in our human nature. Generosity is a skill, which we must work at. Singing is a skill. Cooking is a skill. Serving community meals is a skill. We all have skills. If you stop and think about something that you are good at, you are good at it because you take the time and energy to develop that skill. And if we practice that skill, then we would certainly improve that skill.
Generosity is the same thing. It is not something that comes naturally. It is something that we have to work at and develop and practice. Our faith constantly offers us the challenge to be generous and giving: Giving to the church, giving to our neighbors, giving to strangers, giving our time, talents, and money.
Generosity should become the way of life for the Christian. In Hebrews 13:16, the Bible says, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Galatians 6:9-10, says, “Let us not become tired of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Practice generosity. Be generous to your church, to your neighbors and to strangers. What was the last thing you did that was generous? What are two or three things you could do this week to practice generosity?