This sermon was preached celebrating Stewardship Sunday as we consecrated with prayer our commitment for the coming year. Commitment Cards are available in the church office should you like to add your commitment to the many already offered.
What an extraordinary month we’ve shared together! We have recognized the needs around us, been challenged to address those needs in new and fresh ways, and have celebrated the gifts we have received as a community of faith. We’ve listened to three of our members share their deepest hopes for our church and as a church, for our task in the world at large. As we listened to Eileen, Pete and Dave we could sense that within each of them is a call to share what God is strongly leading them, and this church, to do in response to God’s call on each one of us. We heard not only their faith in God but also their faith in us as a church community. We heard their challenge and the invitation each extended to us to be the church we have been called to be. And we heard their joy; their enthusiasm and eagerness to not only go where God leads but to invite each one of us to follow that leading too. I hope you heard their messages. But even more than this, I hope you heard the opportunities to serve, which each of our speakers extended to us.
Paul called his disciples together for a final word with them. In his message, he claimed a joy only God can give, assured them of a peace that passes all understanding, and reminded them to pray always and with gratitude. I’ve been a journal writer all my life. When I was younger, I wrote in a diary, which I locked with a small key and hid away from the prying eyes of my parents and my little brother. A bit later I put a scrapbook together and on each page I recorded the events of my life or put a thought or two that held some meaning for me. I posted a poem and gathered fall leaves and arranged them on a page with glue. It was a memory book but it was also a book filled with my deepest thanks for each day of my life. Still later, I wrote book after book of my thoughts, prayers, and poems, the lyrics of a favorite song and the moments that meant so much to me. I still write these books and on each page I find something I want to remember, something for which I want to give God thanks. I never really thought of my journals as a recording of my gratitude until about 3 years ago. Now I know that is what they are. Words of thanks…Rejoice in the Lord always!
In the last four weeks we have heard words of thanksgiving…a gratitude journal expressed in the ministry of three people but it doesn’t end there or even here. In fact, it begins here…today with the commitments of hand, heart and gift. It doesn’t end with some one else’s story of commitment…it begins with the response we make to God’s invitation to serve and give of ourselves. We are called to continue to write the story God is dictating to us, a story that isn’t completed, a story of serving others and doing so with, in Paul’s words, “a gentleness [that will] be known to everyone”. We are called to be Christ’s church in the world and to do so with rejoicing and the certainty of hope and peace that only God can offer.
So, I thank Geoff for his vision; for Eileen and her love for all God’s children; for Pete and his hope to be a church where a small kindness to another can bring joy and, perhaps, freedom from despair; and to David for his challenge to serve others with not just helpful hands and open wallets but with God’s love, a love that can and daily does, bring a second chance to those touched by God’s incredible presence and grace.
Now it’s our turn; it is our turn to offer our testimonies of faith and to make a difference. In a few minutes, we will collect the commitment cards received in the mail. And, we are going to celebrate. We are going to celebrate every gift God has given us…the prayers we share for one another and for world, our presence in the midst of this community of faith, our gifts of hand and heart, our talent and service offered within and beyond our church doors and our witness to the love we have received and what we hope we might record in the coming days in our own gratitude journals. And, without doubt, the peace of God, which does indeed surpass all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We give thanks! Rejoice in the Lord always! Amen.