Sunday’s sermon: Strengthening the Church

This is the first in a 3-part series on stewardship. There are a few different elements in our stewardship worship services this year that are explained in the beginning of this sermon. Those elements are included at the end of this post.

stewardship church

Text used: Acts 2:41-47

  • Well, ya’ll, it’s that time of year again – that time when shine a pointed light on how we contribute to the life and mission of this church as well as the Church universal. It’s time to think and talk and pray about stewardship.
    • Last year – talked about what we contribute
      • Resources – straight out monetary support as well as contributing things like food for the food shelf
        • Great e.g. – Pack the Pews Sunday that we participated in back in March (some food items, some monetary donations)
      • Time and talents – support through physical presence
        • Effort
        • Work
        • Using our various gifts to benefit the church
      • Heart/attention – support through being engaged and
        • Being emotionally/spiritually invested
        • Basically = caring what goes on here → making this church a top priority
    • This year, we’re going to talk about stewardship from a different standpoint. We’re going to hold those things that we contribute in our minds – our time, our talents, our resources, and our devotion – and we’re going to talk and think and pray about the ways in which we invest them in the life of the church.
      • FOCUS: How do we use all those elements of our own stewardship to actually strengthen the church? How do we move from an attitude of simply surviving to an attitude of dynamically thriving?
        • Not about half-heartedly committing these things
        • Not about simply keeping the doors open
        • Not about keeping the church limping along and just scraping by
      • 3 weeks
        • Today: talk about strengthening the church – this church
        • Next week: talk about strengthening mission
          • Mission that this church is engaged in
          • Mission that may be part of your personal lives – other groups/organizations you may support individually
        • Final week: talk about strengthening the future
          • Where is our passion taking us?
          • What are our hopes and dreams here? How can we invest in them?
        • And the best part of our stewardship series this year? You’re not just going to hear from me! Face it, you hear from me a lot. As part of this series, after each sermon, you’re going to hear from other people in the congregation – their testimonies about why they invest their time, talents, resources, and hearts into what we’re doing here and what they’re doing in their own lives. Because, friends, the whole point of being here is that we are the church together.
          • Today
            • Karen – heart for mission [explain Karen/Kim scheduling]
            • Bob – involvement and investment in the life and activity of this church
      • After the testimonies, we’re going to engage in a time of reflection.
        • Questions listed in bulletin – Think about them. Pray about them.
        • Blue post-it notes in bulletin – jot down anything that comes to you about how you can strengthen this church
          • Time, talents, resources, heart
        • Leave the post-it note on the notecard and put it in the offering plate as it passes. During the final hymn, I’ll put those post-its up on this board. As the weeks progress, we will continue to add to this picture of who we are and who we hope to be in stewardship together here in [Oronoco/Zumbrota].
  • So today, we’re diving into stewardship by talking about the ways in which we invest ourselves in the church – this church right here.
    • CONTEXT w/in the rest of the story: opening scene of Acts = Jesus’ last words to his disciples (“When the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”[1]) → disciples returning to Jerusalem and choosing Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot → descending flames of Pentecost → Peter’s first sermon – spur-of-the-moment thing in front of a large crowd (“Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away”[2]
    • Today’s text = crowd’s response to Peter’s exhortation: That day about three thousand took [Peter] at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers … All the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.[3] → I know that we read this today and think, “Oh my gosh, how could they do that?! At best, it sounds unattainably utopian – everyone living and sharing together in harmony, maybe a round or two of “Kumbayah” on the guitar at night. At worst, it sounds like an introvert’s worst nightmare: everyone living together and sharing everything all the time. GAH!
    • But friends, this is what we’re called to do and be as the church.
      • Live in common – translation into today
        • Common goals as a faith community
        • Common mission/purpose within our community of context
        • Common devotion to believing in and loving and serving and worshiping the Triune God
        • At our very core, this is who we are and what we do here. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a community of faith. We are made one in the Holy Spirit.
          • Celebrate this in our sacraments
            • Welcoming newcomers into the faith – into the body of Christ – through baptism
            • Celebrating our commonalities in communion: shared grace, shared forgiveness, shared relationship with Christ and with one another
      • Share in life together
        • Gr. “wonderful harmony” = hearts of simplicity, sincerity, humility
        • Genuineness of sharing
          • Sharing in trust, confidence, love
          • Share our successes and our struggles
          • Share our faith walks so that we can hold each other up, carry each other along, strengthen each other and challenge each other when need be
            • What we do in sharing prayer requests – joys, concerns, and everything in between
            • What we do during coffee hour after worship
            • Even what we do on our way out → Have you ever noticed that it takes people forever just to leave? I love that! We’re so involved in sharing our lives with each other that we don’t want to go.
        • Share in efforts
          • Early church from Acts “[held] everything in common … and pooled their resources” → Isn’t this what we do here, too?
            • We pool our resources for the work of this church – in the cleaning and the maintenance, in the opening and closing of the building, in the acts of administration and in the decision-making and in the crunching of the numbers.
            • We pool our resources for the budget of this church. 
        • Share in impression of this church – face we present to the world around us à When people ask us which church we belong to or when we identify ourselves as members of this congregation, we instantly become a face for this congregation in the community. We share in the way the community sees us. We share in the way the community reacts to us and the way the community sees us react.
          • E.g. laid out by Scripture: They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.[4] → “Every day their numbers grew!” Friends, whether we like it or not, our actions speak volumes about this congregation to the world around us. People need to see that we’re invested. People need to see that we care. People need to see that this church matters enough to us that our time, our talents, our resources, and our hearts are spent here. If we don’t make the work of this church a priority, why should anyone else? If we don’t find this a worthy enough place to invest of ourselves, why should anyone else?
            • Not about being perfect – not about perfect attendance, perfect faith, perfect anything
            • About being engaged – engaged in what we’re doing here, engaged in what we believe here (“engaged” not the same as “always in perfect agreement”)
  • Sue always does a stellar job of putting the bulletins together, but this week she really hit the nail on the head. Look at the front of your bulletin. There’s a quote on it: “Let us consider our callings, let us reflect on our responsibilities, and let us follow Jesus Christ.” (Thomas Monson) As we go forward thinking and talking and praying about stewardship, keep that in your minds and hearts. Consider your calling. Reflect on your responsibilities. Always with the goal and attitude of following Christ. Amen.

Testimonies

Time of Reflection
Why do I give to this church?
Why is my presence and effort in this church important?
What does my stewardship in this church mean?

[1] Acts 1:8.

[2] Acts 2:38-39.

[3] Acts 2:41-42, 44.

[4] Acts 2:46-47.

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