Sunday after Pentecost
November 16, 2014
6:1-7, 2 Corinthians 2:12-17, Mark 1:14-20
Friends, greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus. Today
we're in the third (and final) week of our series on stewardship.
We've taken on the topics of our time, our money, and (today)
how we use our abilities. In the process, we've been holding
up the challenge (for each of us) to being praying about
where it is God is leading.
What does God want me to do with my time? How does God what
me to use (and manage) my money? And how do my abilities,
the gifts I've been given, play into what God wants me to
do with my life?
Those are the questions we've been asking. And we've been
asking them for four basic reasons. One, because beginning
here today and, then again, next week, we're being challenged
to make commitments in how we will use what we have been
given (in this coming year) for the sake of Christ and his
Church; in particular, in the areas of worship and how we're
planning to use our material blessings.
Two, because (beginning here today) we're also putting in
front of you a list of the opportunities there are (here
are at the church) for getting involved, as well as ways
you might be able and willing to serve. (We'll say more
about that in a few moments.)
Three, because beginning next week we'll be kicking off
a "40 Days of Prayer" challenge, where we'll be
seeking God's will not only for our own lives individually,
but also for our shared life together. Next week's message
will help shape what those 40 days are all about.
And four, we're doing this series on stewardship (and here's
the bottom line), because how we live as stewards of the
things God has given (and entrusted) to us has a direct
connection with and impact upon how faithful we are as disciples
That's what we're doing in these three weeks, what this
series is all about. And that's why (when it comes to stewardship),
how we use our time, our money, and our abilities, we need
to be in prayer. We need to be seeking God's will. Rather
than (sitting down) and telling God what we're going to
do, how we're going to serve him, we need to be (stepping
up) and asking God what he wants us to do, where and how
he wants us to serve¡and there's a big difference.
You see, stewardship, in its truest sense, and I think this
is where (so many) people get confused. They hear the word
"stewardship" and their minds immediately go either
to their wallets, or to the things the church does or is
(trying to do), or to whatever else they think the church
needs, and that's where it stops.
But that's not stewardship. That's not what this is all
about. In fact, I'd go so far as to say (here this morning)
that I honestly don't care (as far as St. Timothy's is concerned)
about what you do with your time, your money or your abilities.
(I really don't.) What you do (or choose not to do) is not
up to me to decide, to figure out. It's your life. What
happens in your life as a follower of Jesus is between you
and Jesus. That's not mine to decide. Nor is it the ultimate
What I do care about and what is the ultimate question,
and why we're spending the time we are (in these three weeks)
is because of the connection there is between your own personal
stewardship, the way you manage what you've been given,
and what God has saved you for and designed you (from the
very start) to be about. That's stewardship. And that's
why we're spending the time we are.
Today it's about our abilities, about our "Account
Ability", about the account we will all be (called
to give) to God, when it comes to the gifts God has given
Let's start today with a simple question. As you think about
your own stewardship, about what you think God wants in
your life more than anything else, what do you think he
wants, more than anything else? Is it your time? Is it your
money? Is it that you use the abilities he has given you
for his purposes?
That's what this series is about: Time Management, Money
Matters, and (today) Account Ability. Certainly there must
be something in those three that matters to God? What do
you think he wants more than anything else?
Now, before you answer that question, let's take a step
back (from this series) and think about the calling each
of us has been given. Before looking at our abilities and
how we're going to offer what we have (in this coming year)
to what God wants to do in us and through us, let's start
with our calling. What was it that we were called to do,
before we consider what we are called to do? What do you
think Jesus wants more than anything else?
Let's talk (for a moment) about what he said. Our gospel
reading today, from the gospel of Mark, it's a familiar
passage; one we've heard (many times) before. Perhaps so
often that we miss what it says. Do you remember what it
It's the story of the calling of the first disciples. Mark,
chapter one: "The time has come. The kingdom of God
is near. Repent (Jesus said) and believe the good news."
In other words, there's no tomorrow. The time to respond
is today. You can't put off what can't be put off. When
God is calling, it's time to respond.
And that's exactly what happens. Jesus calls; by the Sea
of Galilee, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting a net
into the lake. "Come, follow me (Jesus said) and I
will make you fishers of men." At once (it says) they
left their nets and followed him.
And then again, it happens. This time with James and John,
out in a boat. "Without delay" (it says) "they
left their father Zebedee in the boat and followed Jesus."
Now, let's go back to the question. As you think about your
own stewardship, about what you think God wants in your
life more than anything else, what do you think he wants,
more than anything else? Is it your time? Is it your money?
Is it that you use the abilities he has given you to use?
Or is it something else? Is it something more?
What did Jesus say? He said, "Come, follow me, and
I will make you fishers of men." He said, "Come,
follow me, and I'll teach you (and show you) what you are
Do you know what I think happens for (far too many people)
when it comes to stewardship, and why they get so confused
about what it's all about? It's because they've misunderstood
the calling. They've never (finally) understood what Jesus
They hear the word stewardship and immediately their minds
go to their wallets or to paying the pastor's salary, or
to teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir. Whatever
it is, that's where it goes. But it's not where it starts,
and it's certainly not what Jesus wants.
I'd be the first to tell you that those are good things.
Singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, paying the
pastor? Why would I argue with that? I wouldn't. I'd be
a fool. But that's not what Jesus wants. It's not what you've
been called to do.
What he wants, what you've been called to do, is to follow
him. That's what he wants. That's the calling he has placed
on your life. "Follow me (he said) and I will help
you catch people." Follow me (he said) and I'll show
you and teach you (and even empower you) to do what I want
you to do."
Do you know what I think happens, what so many good-intentioned
followers of Jesus do? I think what happens is that they
read those verses, they hear the calling, and then, instead
of responding to the calling, they jump straight ahead to
the task. And maybe not to the task of "catching people",
(it might not be their gift), but to whatever it is they
think God has gifted them to do.
(The rational goes something like this.) "I'm a Christian.
I belong to St. Timothy's. Here comes the offering plate.
I'll put in my fair share, maybe a bit more. The lights
are still on, pastors look happy. It's all good." (And
Or maybe something like this: "I'm a believer. I know
God wants some of my time. I go to church, some of the fellowship
events, once in a while to class. That about covers it."
Or how about this: "I'm a Christian. This place is
my home. We all do our part. I'll sing or I'll teach or
I'll serve as an usher (whatever it is); bring a turkey
or two next week. If not, at least sit next to one."
Now, I want to be careful here, because the approach I just
described was a bit flippant. I'm not (in any way) suggesting
(here this morning) that any one of us takes a less-than-serious
approach to what we're doing. Nor am I implying that the
things I mentioned aren't important. They are. Stewardship
involves everything we just said¡and more.
It's the more that I think gets so often missed, and that's
what I want you to hear. Our calling (as Christians) is
to Someone and not to something. Your calling (as a believer)
is to be a follower of Christ, and not to serve (in a ministry)
or to give (your money) or to offer (your time) for his
Church. That's not your calling. (It's not what you're called
to do.) Your calling is to follow Jesus. My calling is to
commit my life to Christ. To do everything I can (with everything
I have) to be as faithful as possible (in my life) to the
One who gave his life for me.
That's my calling. That's your calling. "Come, follow
me (Jesus said), and I will make you into what I want you
to be." And that leads to stewardship. That leads to
the wide variety of gifts (we've been given) and to the
wide range of ways there are to offer our lives to Christ.
But you need to square up the first before you tee up the
second. You need to make following Jesus your first (and
highest priority) and then (from there) pay attention to
whatever the specific calling might be in your life.
But if you haven't figured out the one, you'll never be
at peace with the other. Stewardship is a response to what
God has done for us. Stewardship is the result of a life
that's given to Christ.
Give your life to Christ and everything else falls into
place. It really does. When Jesus is first, it's not a question
how much time I'm going to give. My whole life is his. That's
not the question. It's more a question of how he wants me
to use it and to spend it.
When Jesus is first, I don't need to figure out how much
I think I can give. I look at what he says, start with a
tithe, and go from there. That's not a legalistic approach
to the Christian life. That's a life-giving approach in
response to his word. If he's my Lord, I trust what he tells
me. If he's my Lord, I do what he says.
And when Jesus is first in my life, it's not so much a matter
of looking at what the church needs, ways there are to serve,
as it is a matter of looking at what Jesus wants, how I've
been gifted, and using what I've been given for him.
Get the one right and the other is automatic. Put the first
first, and the second falls into place. And if it's hard,
you can't figure out (the task), what Jesus wants you to
do, then stop looking at what he wants you to do and go
back to what he first called you to do.
Just over a week ago, Pastor Judy and I, along with three
others, Joe Hill, Elizabeth Selbo, and Michael Stamos, we
attended an NALC Mission Festival in Columbus, Ohio. It
was an encouraging time. It was a fruitful time. There were
a number of things that reinforced how (as a congregation)
we're on the right track. This whole discipleship thing,
we need to keep it going.
One of the speakers was talking about our calling, what
Jesus ultimately wants. Do you know what he wants? (Do you
know what he said?) He said that Jesus wants us to be FAT.
Jesus wants us to be FAT.
I thought, "This is Cool! I'm in! What time's lunch.
Go Jesus!" That's not what he meant. What he meant
was that Jesus wants us to be FAT: (F-A-T) Faithful, Available,
Faithful: we're called to be faithful in our following.
Every day, every moment, whatever we're doing or saying,
all throughout life, our calling is to follow. And so we
follow. We go to church. We read our Bibles. We spend time
in prayer. We serve others. The goal isn't church or the
Bible or prayer or even serving. It's Jesus. It's following
him. We're called to be faithful.
Available: we're called to be available to Jesus. What do
you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? How do you
want me to live? And not just on Sundays, when we're here,
but all throughout the week when we're out there. We're
called to build and to schedule and approach (how it is)
we use our lives around what Jesus wants to do in us and
through us for the sake of those for whom he died. We're
called to be available.
And then we're to be teachable: we're called to be teachable.
That means that we can't sit back and think that we have
no talents or abilities, there's nothing we can offer. (It's
not true.) Every one of us has been gifted. Every one of
you is gifted. And even if you weren't (which isn't the
case), then Jesus promises to teach us what we need to know
(which is). We're called to be teachable.
That's what Jesus wants: FAT people. He wants people who
are faithful, available, and teachable. Make yourself faithful,
available, and teachable for Jesus, and you won't ever have
to worry about how and where you might serve.
So, here's what I want you to do. I want you to ask yourself
one simple question and, then, based upon how you answer
it, ask yourself a second, and then respond accordingly.
Here's the question. Is Jesus first in your life? Is Jesus
first in your life? Are you following him? Is he your first
priority? Is he number one in your life?
If he is, then ask yourself a second. Have you prayed about
what he wants? Have you spent time in prayer around the
commitments you are planning to make? If you have, then
make them. If you haven't (and even if you're ready today),
then take them home (your financial commitment, your worship
commitment, the insert that offers a number of ways to serve)
and pray first. If he's first, then first ask him what he
wants. And then move ahead.
If he's not first, if there's still something or someone
else ahead of him (in your life), then spend time praying
about what needs to change (in your life) to make that change
in your life.
This isn't about paying the bills, singing in the choir,
making sure the pastors get what they need. It's about Jesus.
It's about following him. It's about putting him first.
Because when he's first, and we follow, everything else
One final thought. As you consider your commitments for
the coming year, it doesn't matter: our time, our money,
and our abilities. It's all the same, with all three. Don't
spend your time worrying about what you don't have, but
focus (your attention) on what you do. Because what you
have, the world does not have. Don't ever forget who it
is we follow¡and why.
Let's pray. Gracious God, we give you thanks for the calling
we have in Jesus and for the many ways in which you have
gifted us. We ask for you to guide us and lead us and show
us what you want for us to do. Lord, more than anything,
we want to follow. Enable us to follow that we might also
be empowered and ready to serve. In your name we pray. Amen.