Sunday’s sermon: Strengthening Our Mission

This is the second 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 mission

Text used – Matthew 25:31-45

  • Stewardship sermon series → recap
    • Last year – talked about what we contribute
      • Resources
      • Time/talents
      • Attention/commitment
    • This year – talking about where we contribute → Where do we devote our strength – our time, talents, resources, and dedication?
      • Last week: giving to church
        • Being involved here
        • Being invested here
        • Contributing to the life and work of this church because you believe in who we are and what we do
      • This week: giving to mission
        • Missions in which this church is involved
        • Other missions that may be important to you
        • Importance of mission-giving
      • Next week: giving to our future → investing for the long run
      • FOCUS: How do we use all those elements of our own stewardship to actually strengthen the church?
        • 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 → How do we move from an attitude of simply surviving to an attitude of dynamically thriving?
    • And 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 the whole point is that we are the church together.
      • Today
        • Kim – involvement and investment in the life and activity of this church [explain Karen/Kim scheduling]
        • Parker – heart for mission
      • After the testimonies, we’re going to engage in a time of reflection.
        • Questions listed in bulletin – Think about them. Pray about them.
        • Pink 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].
          • Last week’s question: Why do I give to this church? Why is my presence and effort in this church important?
          • Read some of blue post-its
  • So today we’re talking about mission.
    • Basic definition = being sent out with a purpose
    • Christian understanding = adds element of helping those in need
    • And that’s where today’s Scripture comes in.: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me … Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.[1] → Here we find Jesus not only giving a brief mention to those in need but empathizing with them so fully and so intimately that he takes on their identity. Jesus says to his followers, “I was them and they were me.”
      • When it comes to call/purpose as Christians → importance of this verse
        • Very familiar passage → Seriously, how many times do you think you’ve heard this verse used or preached or quoted? 10 times? 15 times? More? As a preacher, my fear when we have this level of familiarity with a passage is that we stop hearing it.
          • Hear the first few words → “Oh, yeah … this passage. I know what this says.” → tune out
        • Really hear what Jesus is saying: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me → Jesus isn’t just talking about a passing hunger here – a little stomach twinge between meals. He isn’t just talking about that slight chill we get when we haven’t added enough layers this time of year. He isn’t talking about just being a little bit lonesome. Have you ever been really, painfully hungry? Multiply it by 10. Have you ever been really, painfully thirsty? Multiply it by 50. Have you ever felt truly, painfully alone? This is what Jesus is talking about.
          • Speaking of refugees who are fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their backs, sure of nothing but the danger and violence and instability that they’re leaving behind
          • Speaking of teenager bullied and ostracized into a dark place of utter loneliness and isolation
          • Speaking of single parent working multiple jobs and struggling to make ends meet – deciding whether to buy groceries or keep the heat on, whether to buy the necessary medication or pay the rent, choosing between a winter coat or shoes without holes for the kids
          • Speaking of the combat veteran who came home broken in body, mind, spirit who’s just trying to catch a freaking break somewhere but keeps hitting brick walls and coming up empty
    • These examples, these stories, could go on and on. Friends, just by picking up the newspaper and glancing at the headlines, we know that our world is in need. There are people struggling. There are people hurting. There are people out there who are desperate and unsure and afraid and alone. And in the face of all that need, Jesus turns to us in this passage and says, “And what are you gonna do about it?”
  • Our call … our mission … our mandate as the body of Christ – the one who gave literally everything he had for those who needed it most – our responsibility and one of the greatest expressions of our faith is to help those who need it
    • Without conditions
    • Without prejudice
    • Without judgment
    • Without hesitation
    • Beauty of the day and age in which we live = it’s so easy! → Really, in our techno-obsessed culture, we have the world at our fingertips. We can find anything. We can advocate for anything. We can create and transfer and share and Tweet and GoFund and give through texts and electronically donate with a few simple clicks/taps. It’s actually harder to stay uninformed and disconnected than it is to keep a finger on the pulse of our communities, local as well as global.
      • All have different passions – different causes that speak to our hearts/experiences → easy to find an organization that could use our time, our talents, our resources to help advocate for those causes
        • Personally: support child in Uganda through World Vision, support Voice of the Martyrs (serving and supporting persecuted Christians around the world), breast cancer research, Minnesota Public Radio, local schools, local congregations
        • Ways we do that here
          • [O: serving dinner at Dorothy Day House, hosting the food shelf, People of the Church – way we decide where to donate to and wide variety of donation places (some “regulars,” some different every time, Pine Haven birthday party, 2nd Sunday Spare Change Sunday for Revs. Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather in South Sudan]
          • [Z: current mission focus = hunger → giving to food shelves (Z and O), volunteering with Feed My Starving Children, yearly dinner at Towers, Back Bay Mission involvement, hosting/co-hosting arts groups like Songs of Hope children’s choir and His Neighbor Phil cast/crew]
  • But when we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t participate in mission – with our time, our talents, our resources, or our hearts – simple because we’re supposed to. “Mission” isn’t a head activity. “Mission” is a heart activity. We are moved. Something – a circumstance, a situation, a cause – grabs a hold of our hearts and hangs on so tightly that we feel ourselves being changed.
    • Both the danger and the power of mission = cannot engage in mission and not be change → Mission is transformative. If you let it, it will shape who you are and how you see the world. It will shake up your priorities and your whole perspective. It will mess you up … in the best way possible. And here, we have a mission: to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world – in the hard places, in the empty places, in the dirty places, in the frustrating places, in the places where God’s heart is breaking.
      • Christian missionary Robert Pierce in China in 1947 saw widespread hunger and overwhelming need – wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible: “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”[2]
        • Robert Pierce – inspired by need he saw in China → created World Vision 3 years later (1950) – organization that today promotes gender equality and child protection from things like human trafficking, exploitation, abuse and neglect as well as provides food, clean water, health services, education, disaster assistance, and economic and agricultural development for children and families and communities across the globe
        • Last year alone: served more than 4.6 million children worldwide
    • “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” When you let this happen, friends, the possibilities are endless. The hungry can be fed. The thirsty can be given a cup of cold water to drink. The homeless can be given shelter. The world can be changed. Amen.

Testimonies

Time of Reflection
Why is mission important to me?
What mission opportunities speak to my heart?
How can I greater support mission with my time, talents, resources, and/or devotion?

[1] Mt 25:35-36, 40.

[2] Rick Ezell. “Sermon: Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9.” http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-let-your-heart-be-broken-jeremiah-8-9, accessed 18 Oct. 2015.

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