The Rector’s sermon for November 5, 2017         

                                            All Saints’ Sunday - STEWARDSHIP 2018            



Living Each Day as a Steward! (1 of 3)

1:  The Steward’s Identity


We’re going to begin today with a lesson on definitions.  First of all, since today is All Saints’ Sunday, what is a saint?   Second, today we begin our 2018 Stewardship Program which this year is entitled Living Each Day as a Steward.  So, what is a steward?   And third, we completed our study of the Gifts of the Spirit a few months ago and I received 23 summary sheets.  But, before we look at the results, what is a gift?    Saint…steward…gift…what do those words really mean?


We’ll start with saint.   The formal definition is a person acknowledged as holy or virtuous, who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God, and typically regarded as being in heaven after death.   That would be a formal high church—Roman definition.  The biblical definition of ‘saint’ is somewhat broader.   Scripture tells us that we all are saints.  Because Jesus became sin for us, when the Father sees us, He sees us as having the righteousness of Jesus.  How can I say that?  Paul writes in second Corinthians (5:21):  “For our sake, he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  When we as believers are called and saved, we are sanctified or “set apart for holy use” which is what sanctified means.  In almost every every letter Paul wrote, he addresses his hearers: “to the saints in Ephesus…”;  “to the church in Corinth, sanctified in Christ, called to be saints together….”; “to the saints and faithful in Christ at Colossae…”  Are you getting the picture?  We have been sanctified by the death of Jesus on the cross.  We have been saved and set apart by accepting the Lordship of Jesus at our baptism.  Therefore, while this may be difficult to believe, if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are a saint of God on earth, along with all the saints of God in heaven.  Today is our day to be grateful for the blessing of salvation and sanctification in Jesus Christ.


The second word for today is steward.  Besides being All Saints’ Sunday, today we begin our 2018 Stewardship Program.  But what exactly is a steward?  The first definition that shows up for ‘steward’ is a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing servants; an employee who has charge of the table, the wine, the servants; a person who attends to the domestic concerns of persons on board a vessel who is responsible for the comfort of passengers.  Simply put…a steward is a manager of things not his or her own.


But before we can talk about living each day as a steward—which is the title of our program for 2018—, we must understand one very important thing.  The reason we are called stewards is because we own nothing!  Let me say that again:  Living each day as a steward should be obvious…because we are owners of nothing.  Therefore, we must learn how to be the best stewards we can be as we manage all that has been loaned to us in our lifetime. 


This concept of being a steward instead of an owner is probably why the idea of ‘stewardship’ makes people uncomfortable.  We think that everything we have, earned, bought, learned, saved, invested…all of it…is ours.  If we think that, we are totally wrong, and I’m here to tell you that putting your faith in that concept will bring you unnecessary stress and could very well send you to an early grave, worrying about life and material things that were not yours to begin with.


On the surface that might be a shock to some, but it shouldn’t be.  What a relief it should be to know that God’s plan is that everything is his—your time, your talents, your gifts, your money, your very life itself—and all you need to do is manage all those things for God.  We’re not meant to worry about that which is not ours.  We simply get to oversee everything that the Lord has blessed us with, which is everything that we are and everything that we have, remembering that what is intangible, like our time and our talents, is just as important as our treasure.  To God, all of it is treasure and necessary to accomplish his work here on earth.


So, with that in mind, what is the steward’s identity?   First, God has called us to be his stewards.  We must be stewards before we can do stewardship.  Who we are determines what we do.  Everything we do, everything we say, and everywhere we go comes from our sense of identity.  Understanding whose we are and our identity as God’s stewards, we will want to please him by faithfully doing His will.  We’re tasked to oversee, to manage all that the Lord has given us.  Remember the classic definition of stewardship:  All that I do with all that I have after I say ‘I believe’.  It’s the response of my entire life to Christ out of gratitude for an amazing love that meant death on a cross.   Second, Scripture teaches that stewards will cheerfully give toward the work of the church.  This is my 19th Stewardship program with you.  I have never told you what you should give financially, and I’m not going to start now.  Clergy are encouraged to use outside programs and preachers if they feel the coffers need a boost, but I’ve never done that.  I have left that in the capable hands of others, and I have always believed that if you are thankful to the Lord for what he’s given you to manage, you will trust him by giving back according to the riches of what he has given you.  And what Kim Retter always said is the absolutely truth:  you will never meet a former tither.  Once a person tithes, that is gives 10% of his or her income, that person is blessed beyond expectations.   How does that work?  I have no idea, but I can personally tell you that the day your tithe comes off the top instead of the bottom, the bills will still get paid, and there will be money left over.  It’s all about trusting in the promises of God.  And I will be happy to discuss this subject with anyone who has questions about it. 


Third, being identified as a Christian steward and recognizing God’s grace in our lives, we will want to extend God’s Church in any and every way we can.   It only makes sense when we are blessed we will want to share the blessings.  And the fourth trait of our identity as stewards is we believe the promises, the blessings that comes with surrender.  There are so many Scriptural references to give you, but I’ve only chosen one.  The prophet Malachi wrote of that blessing in the form of a challenge.  He said this:  “ ‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  And thereby put Me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need’ ” (Malachi 3:10).


We have one more word to identify today.  The word is gift.  The definition of gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment, or in the context of the Holy Spirit, a gift is a natural ability or a talent.   Several months ago we did a twelve-week study on the Gifts of the Spirit.  To date, twenty-three of you filled out the gift inventory sheet that was available in the Narthex.   Interestingly enough, the topic of my annual Clergy Conference last week was the Holy Spirit, Gifts, and his presence among us.  We had two speakers:  An Episcopal professor from Cambridge, England and a Pentecostal minister!  They worked together amazingly well. (The only complaint the Pentecostal had was that he kept pausing to hear an ‘Amen’!)  I learned many things but I came away with a shocking revelation that I should have thought of myself.  After talking about and discussing things such as taking a gifts inventory, the Pentecostal minister said this:  “After a gifts inventory is done, look around and ask yourself ‘What does my neighbor need?’  ‘What can I do to help someone else move in the Spirit?’  The Holy Spirit will bring things out of us that we might not expect… if we allow it.”   Does that not fit right into The Steward’s Identity?  


We are saints because we have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We have been made holy in his image, and we have that image to uphold.  We are stewardsbecause as saints we have the responsibility to manage all that has been entrusted to our care.   And we have gifts—many gifts—and, being thankful for those gifts, we must use those gifts in the service of others.


I have one last thing to share with you.  One of the gifts summaries that I received had every gift checked off—all 31 gifts!  At first I looked at the sheet thinking this was from someone who really didn’t pay much attention to the concept of the preaching series.  But as I looked farther down the page, in the comments section was written “you were worth it,” and it was signed… Jesus.  Now, as saints of God who have been blessed, it’s your turn to respond to his blessings. 

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |