Oct 14, 2018

“Stewards Of The Gospel” - II Corinthians 5:14-21

“Stewards Of The Gospel” - II Corinthians 5:14-21

            A family sat down at the dinner table following church one Sunday.

            That’s when the teenage son piped up.  “The sermon was boring today.  There wasn’t even a funny joke or an interesting story.”

            “Yeah, could you believe how the pastor stumbled over the reading of the Scripture?  And how he forgot the words to The Lord’s Prayer?” his sister chimed in.

            “I’ve got to admit it was an uninspiring day,” said the mother.  “The choir was horrible.  They were absolutely horrendous.”

            Finally, the father, showing his leadership, said this.  “Hush, you guys.  Quit complaining.  Stop with the knit picking already.  I mean, what did you expect for a quarter?”

            Today is the first Sunday of our stewardship campaign.  And Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians has something to say to us on this very subject.  On what it means to be a steward.  To be a steward of the Gospel.  That’s right, a steward of the Good News.

            So, let’s fasten our seat belts and listen to Paul.  Let’s listen to what he has to say to the Corinthians.  And to us.  Perhaps we just might learn a thing or two about this challenging subject. 

            Let us pray.  Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

            Paul starts things off by letting us know that everything started because of a four-letter word.  And that four letter word is love.  God loved the world so much, loved us so much, that he gave us his only son.  And God’s beloved son Jesus demonstrated that four-letter word.  Yes, Jesus showed us how to love.  Showed us how to live.  Showed us how to care.  Showed us how to forgive.  Showed us how to put others first.  Showed us what giving it all looks like.  Truly, he lived that four-letter word all the way from a cattle-trough manger to the cross.

            Indeed, it was love that caused Jesus to give his life for all of us.  To give his life for the world.  To even spread his arms wide open in love on that cruel Roman cross.  Now, that’s what you call deep love.

            As followers of Christ, as Disciples of Christ, we are created to love.  Called to love.  Driven to love.  It is love that urges us on.  And like a magnet, it is love that pulls us closer to God and to our neighbor.  Love for God.  Love for Jesus.  Love for one another.  Love for our neighbors.  Love for the world.  Truly, that’s really what stewardship is all about.

            But in words that startle, Paul tells us that loving means dying.  But this kind of dying is a good thing.  Dying to our old selves.  Dying to the ways of the world.  Dying to hate.  Dying to fighting.  Dying to dog eat dog.  Dying to power and fame seeking.  Dying to money grubbing.  Dying to lying and cheating.  Dying to greed.  Dying to selfishness.

            In that kind of dying, something extraordinary happens.  We find ourselves free.  We find ourselves truly living life the way God our Creator meant for it to be.  Living for God.  Living for Jesus.  Living for his body, the church.  Living to love.  Living to care.  Living to work for peace and harmony.  Living to serve.  Living to give.  Living to share. 

            Paul lets us know that in living this kind of a life, we become something new.  A new creation.  No longer just human.  Something more.  Something spiritual.  Something heavenly.  We become part of God’s family.  It finally sinks in that God is truly our Father, our Mother.  That we are actually brothers and sisters of Jesus the Christ.  And each time we gather in his name, he lovingly invites us to his family table.  A table that’s big enough for everyone who accepts his gracious invitation.

            And Paul lets us know this is all possible because of God.  Yes, God is the reason for all of this.  Every bit of it’s from God.  Who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gives us the ministry of reconciliation.

            That’s right, we are invited.  We are called.  From the waters of baptism, we are called to minister.  To reconcile.  To restore.  To heal.  To forgive.  To make things right.  To point others to God.  To do what God has done and is doing in Christ and in Christ’s very body the church. 

            And according to Paul, our new job has a name.  We are given a new title.  We are called ambassadors.  And not just ambassadors to the United Nations.  No, we are called to be ambassadors for God.

            As ambassadors, we are God’s representatives here on earth.  And our job description is to point out the ways God is and has been active in our world.  Making the world a better place.  Making the world a kinder place.  Making the world a more hopeful place.  You see, what God is doing is actually bringing the kingdom to Earth.  Every day, that’s what God is up to.  And every day, we are called to notice and point it out.

            The way we go about this monumental task is with our prayers.  With our words.  With our actions.  And with the ways in which we live our lives.  Lives that serve along side Jesus.  Lives that point to God.

            But let’s face it, it’s a big job.  And thankfully we aren’t on our own.  No, we aren’t left to our own devices.  We have the Spirit of the living Christ with us.  Available to us 24/7.  Loving us.  Leading us.  Guiding us.  Walking with us every single step of the way.  And we have each other.

            A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.  As they headed for church, she gave her little girl a quarter and a dollar bill.  "Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told the girl.  When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.  "Well," said the little girl, "I was going to give the dollar.  But just before the collection, the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers.  I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter.  So, I did."

            Obviously, the little girl missed the point about what good stewardship is all about.  It’s about being part of something big.  Something way bigger than a quarter or a dollar or even a million dollars.  It’s about being part of God’s business.  The business of the Gospel.  The Good News business.  The business of giving.  The business of hope.  The business of love.  You just can’t put a price tag on that.

            And Paul doesn’t call us to give twenty-five percent.  He doesn’t call us to give half.  Or three quarters.  Paul calls and challenges us to go all in.  To give who we are.  To give what we’ve been blessed with.  To give it to Christ for the ministry of Christ’s body, the church.

            And Paul promises that when we do this, we will find ourselves blessed beyond our wildest dreams.  Getting far more than we expected or thought possible.  We find ourselves being made into a new creation.  Find ourselves a part of a new family.  And not just any family.  It’s God’s family.

            A family where we are called to be stewards.  To be ministers.  To be ambassadors.  To be Christ’s very representatives here on this Earth.  A people who points to God by loving.  By caring.  By healing.  By giving.  By forgiving.  By placing our hope and our trust in God. 

Yes, we are invited to do the very things that God has already done and continues to do for us.  For God still loves us.  Still cares for us.  Still heals us.  Still forgives us.  Still gives to us.  And shows us over and over again that God is more than worthy of our trust.  This should give us great reason to hope.  Great reason to be a hopeful people.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.