Stewardship Weekend October 16-17, 2021
“Love In Action” I John 3:16-20
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton, Colorado
When the Broncos are winning my car radio finds its way to a sports talk station. I like to hear everything good about our quarterback and offensive line. I’m excited to hear about the receivers and the dominating defense. But the last few weeks I seemed to have lost that channel. I don’t want to listen to the barrage of bad news. So, until they beat the Raiders this weekend I won’t be listening to them.
So, my back up, at least recently, has been KVOD – 88.1 FM – Colorado Public Radio Classical Music. You’ll see me conducting the orchestra or the choir from behind my steering wheel. But a couple of weeks ago they were on their semi-annual plead-a-thon. They play a really great piece of music and then they spend the next 10 minutes telling us that they just need 6 more listeners to call in before they will play one more note. They entice you with the free vacation to Steamboat or Vail or Aspen if you can contribute regularly to them. And when they get a donation they tell you that they only need me and four of my friends to call to meet their hourly goal. It almost makes me want to go back to the Bronco bashing on my other station.
Is that what today is? Stewardship Sunday – the one Sunday of the year that we have to endure so we can get the other 51? No – it is actually a good day. I like asking for the giving of your money and the use of your time and the work of your talents. I like asking for them because I know that is what God says.
This past week I got a remark that I get every-so-often. In regards to last weeks sermon they said, “You lost me”, “I couldn’t follow what you were trying to say”. I could have said to them, “Well, nobody else had that problem – so clean out your ears”, or something more biting. But maybe they were right. So, today, this is what I’m going to say over and over again, “Stewardship is everything I do after I say, ‘I believe’.” Those are the words of St. Francis of Assisi. Got it? Stewardship is everything I do after I say, ‘I believe’.
Everything. All day long. It is how you use what God has given you. It is what you do in your life. It is the attitude you have in living. It is everything you do after you say, “I believe.” St. Paul says this, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8) Everything.
Stewardship is everything I do after I say, ‘I believe.’ According to God’s word the thing that we must do is to live in love. We are called to love God and then to love others. John, in his epistle says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (I John 3:16-18)
You may know this already, but if not, this is important for me to say – The love the Bible speaks of isn’t primarily an emotion, as most of us are accustomed to think – it’s an action. So often we think that love is just some pitter patter in the heart. No. It is much more than a feeling. Love is an action – it does something
Last Sunday we had the wedding of Kathryn and Mark at Ascension. As is fairly common at weddings I Corinthians 13 was read. I Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter. Listen to it. It is all action. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13: 4-8a)
Our lives, lived according to the will of God, are lives of action. They are lives lived in love to God and also to others. Empty words don’t cut it. Kind thoughts don’t do it. Love must be an action.
But why would you do that? Why would you give money to this church or other charities, generously, making it the first thing you give out of what you earn? You have plenty of places that demand your money, you have bills to pay, right? Why would you volunteer your time here or at other places? You are already a busy person. Why would you give your talents, without charge, when others have to pay you for your skills? Why? It all has to do with the last part of St. Francis’ phrase, “Stewardship is everything I do after I say, “I believe.”
What do we believe? We believe that Jesus Christ came to this world to change our life. We believe that God cares about us deeply and that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. We believe that if we have faith in Jesus we will live eternally. We believe that God first loved us and then we love Him. We believe that if we love God we will serve Him and love others. In II Corinthians we hear this word from God, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (II Corinthians 5:14-15) Or how about Peter’s words, “Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 4:10-11)
I hope that everyone I get to speak to in-person, or on-line, through this sermon would take it to heart and apply it to their life. But this is much more than simply doing this yourself – it is all of us doing this together. One pastor wrote this, “God’s stewards recognize that their lives are not solo performances but are personal responses to God, lived out within the community of faith to benefit the whole world.” (Rev. Rexford E. Umbenhaur III)
As long as I have been the pastor of this congregation I believe that the need of gospel motivated stewardship is greater than in any other year that I have been here. Ascension Lutheran Church needs you. We need you to be involved in the good that is happening here, to be connected to each other and to serve as best you can to accomplish the mission of this place. Do you remember the picture that Paul gives in I Corinthians 12? He says that the church, even our local congregation, is like a body, where every part of the body needs the other parts. We are not separate or isolated but connected and united. “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.” “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” “ Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:15,21,27)
Every year we do the same thing around here. We ask you to fill out a commitment card asking for the pledge of your money which are given not from your left-overs, but a primary gift that you regularly set aside. Each year we ask you for your dedicated time, and the abilities you possess, so that God may do what He wants to do here. We need you. I need you. Together we are the body of Jesus Christ to our community.
Love, the fruit of faith, is an action. May the actions that we do separately, and also together, be most wonderful. Oh, if you forgot what this is all about, let me remind you – “Stewardship is everything I do after I say, ‘I believe.’” May everything we do reflect an appreciation for God’s immense action of love. May we be a gift of the action of love to others. Amen!!