Sermon: Come to the Table – “Stewardship”

November 18, 2018
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 24:1–2; Matthew 25:14-30
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Come to the Table – “Stewardship”

The Biblical Definition of Stewardship
Stewards are those who are employed to manage assets for their landlords. They receive full authority to run their landlords’ household in the absence and even presence of their landlords. However, it doesn’t mean that they own the property at all. It is the landlords who determine when and how long their stewards would serve their property.

If we read the Bible carefully, we will never miss the fact that God has full right of ownership of all things in the world. Genesis starts with the very first verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and God entrusted God’s world to the first human beings Adam and Eve and their offspring (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). Today’s Scripture from Psalms says that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For [God] has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1–2). Everything we have today comes from God. It is God’s. We are not the owner of the things in our life. We are merely the manager.

Let’s take a simple test to make sure we all understand. If you made $500 last week, and you have come to church on Sunday, how much of that $500 belongs to God? Someone might say, “Let me see, 10 percent of $500 – that’s $50!” No, the principle of tithing does not mean $50 is God’s, and the rest is yours. It all belongs to God.

If I believe that I am the owner, I may be in conflict with God over what I do with the things that I have. But when I understand that the Lord is the Owner, and I am only the manager, the conflict disappears, and freedom overtakes my life as I know how to use the possessions.

How to Manage God’s Possessions:
As I see God as my Owner, I must learn to think and work like God’s manager. “What should I do with all the possessions God has entrusted to me?” This morning I’d like to share three things about how we manage God’s possessions in terms of stewardship.

  1. The manager should know what the Owner (God) wants done with His possessions and then know how to carry out His will. Fundamentally, we should recognize that God is the giver and God gives abundantly, sacrificially and joyfully!

Here in our faith in Jesus Christ, we have the assurance of God’s blessing! None would be saved by the amount of money they give to God or works they do for God’s glory. In Christ’s sacrifice and redemption, we are privileged to inherit God’s kingdom and eternal life in it. Thanks be to God!

Yet, I still want you to think of how much Jesus Christ gave his life for us. Did he give up some parts of his body and blood? Did he give up some of his life? When he poured out his grace upon us, he did not hold anything back but put his entire life onto the cross to pay for our sins and give us eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ own life of giving challenges us this morning as we think of our life of giving; “Am I really willing to give my whole life to God just like Jesus Christ who is my Master?” Not part of it… God the Owner of our life is not interested in part of our life, but he wants it all. Abundant, sacrificial and joyful giving can only come from a heart set on our strong faith in Jesus Christ: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

  1. The stewards should show good job skills for their owner God! Honestly speaking, no one likes to do a stewardship campaign because we think it is only about money, but it is actually about Christian life. When we think about stewardship and generosity in general, specifically regarding money, I want you to think about these guiding principles (from our sister Judie’s inspirational stewardship letter):
  • Prayers—we promise to pray for people of all ages involved in our church.
  • Presence—we promise to come to the activities of our church that interest us.
  • Gifts—we promise to give a portion of what we earn to our church.
  • Service—we promise to serve those who need help.
  • Witness—we promise to say good things about our church and our faith.

Please think about the commitment or recommitment we are asking of you:

  • Will you volunteer to greet, usher, do coffee hour, or bring someone to church?
  • Will you pray for others in need of our prayers by receiving a phone call?
  • Will you take part in the Sunday morning service?
  • Will you work on the church building; i.e., the Grumpy Old Men? (GOMs)
  • Will you make a pledge or raise your pledge?
  • Are you able to pledge more to help our mission projects at home and overseas?
  1. God (Owner) will hold us (stewards) accountable for what we have done with the things God has entrusted to us. The Owner has complete right to examine what we have done with His property. Each will give a personal account to God. Here are a few areas of inspection:

A) Ourselves
God will check how devoted we have been to God. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Paul says a proper and spiritual act of worship is to give ourselves fully to our Owner to be used as God’s servant.

B) Our time
Look at Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We will be held accountable for how we used each day that the Lord has made and given to us. 

C) Our treasures
God will also hold us accountable for what we have done with the things God has entrusted to us. One of the final parables Jesus gave concerned a master who entrusted his possessions to three servants while he was away. The master, after returning, held each servant responsible for how he had used or invested what had been entrusted to him.

D) Our talents
God will examine what we have done with the gifts and talents God has granted us.  God, our Owner, expects us to take the spiritual gifts and abilities He has handed us and use them for His glory. (read from Matthew 25:14-30).

God has entrusted to our management treasures, time, talents, and even our very being. All we have are to be used for God’s honor. As stewards, we must be accountable for all these things and how we used them. God has high expectations that we will serve God and grow to think and care and love like God does.

Be Faithful in Our Stewardship
If the Owner called us to give an accounting this evening, what would the record say about our giving? Would it reflect a humble belief that we are only managing what God owns? Would joy mark our life as one who gives generously because we have been faithful in our stewardship? We need to rethink how we are spending our resources for Christ and his kingdom.

Once again brothers and sisters, all that we call “ours” is actually God’s. My prayer is that we will properly manage what God has entrusted to us. Amen.

Sermon: Come to the Table – “Dedication”

November 04, 2018
Twenty Fourth Sunday After Pentecost/ All Saints Day
Luke 6:20-31
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Come to the Table – “Dedication”

Who Are Saints?
Today is “All Saints Sunday.” It is a day when we remember all those who have gone on before us to their eternal homes in heaven. It is also a day when we gather to give thanks for the life and ministry of the saints who have blessed our lives, our communities, and our world in the name of Jesus Christ.

What makes a person a saint? Who deserves to be called a saint? When we think of a saint, there comes to mind a picture of people in ancient costumes with halos around their heads, which make them look “holy.” Is that really right that people called “saints” in the Bible are holy and good enough before God and people?

Today’s prayer for the Holy Communion gives us the list of saints: “God of Abraham and Sarah, God of Miriam and Moses, God of Joshua and Deborah, God of Ruth and David, God of the priests and the prophets, God of Mary and Joseph, God of the apostles and the martyrs…” One of them is King David. As a poet, he wrote many wonderful Psalms that still give us inspiration today. As a king, he protected Israel and led his people to keep the covenant of God. But we also know his sinful life.  He committed adultery with Bathsheba, and to hide his crime David murdered her husband Uzziah.

If we concentrate on the idea that saints are very holy and good people, nearly perfect like Jesus Christ, then we miss the point in Jesus’ teachings and ministry. However positive we may feel about ourselves, who can really say, “I am holy and good enough to be a saint.” The saints I know never show me a halo around their heads but show me their faith in Jesus Christ. The life of saints is not about good enough but about dedicated enough!

Dedication means that you have a special focus on something. It is the sort of emphasis you want to put on your hobbies, your favorite sports, your business, or even perhaps on your personal relationship with someone. You dedicate all your lives to those you love. Likewise, if we really love Jesus Christ, then we will be dedicated enough to serving his teachings and ministry.  That ministry can take many forms, such as our Leap of Faith Concert, Grove Street Music Project, and the Trunk or Treat we open to the children in the community.

Saints in Jesus’ Teaching and Ministry
The ultimate goal of Jesus’ ministry is bringing God’s kingdom on earth. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” This prayer reminds us that God’s kingdom is not only a special place in heaven where we enter after we die but it is also a present reality that we can experience here in our world. Who can lead us and work for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world?

The primary people we can think of might be political leaders of the world. By election, we choose them to lead our country. We give them a right to make all kinds of major decisions and even declare wars and peace in the world. According to their leadership, the world history has been changed. So we tend to think that our national leaders are the movers of our country and the world history.

But this is not true to Jesus’ political viewpoint. In today’s Gospel lesson, he speaks about who deserves and brings God’s kingdom on earth: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (vv. 20-23).

Poverty, hunger, sorrow, hatred, exclusion, and persecution – we don’t want to say these are blessings! Listening to Jesus’ sermon, some people may raise their hands in objection and say, “We don’t want to entrust our country to a bunch of those losers. They don’t know the first thing about business, politics, military or what it takes to run a government.”

But Jesus maintains that those innocent folks are the sorts of people to whom the Kingdom of God is entrusted. How and why? They can endure all those sufferings and persecutions because they are dedicated to Jesus Christ. As they are dedicated to him, they can be also dedicated to Jesus’ teachings: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (vv. 27-30).

As I am also concerned about how to establish God’s kingdom here in our world, I really support and agree with Jesus’ sermon today. Think about this; if we really can love our enemies, is there anyone we don’t want to love and forgive? If we really have hearts to love our enemies and even bless them in prayer, I am sure that we will be passionate enough to bring peace and reconciliation to this broken and violent world, so that we can make our world better and better and better.

Dedicated to Jesus Christ
So today, on this “All Saints Day,” let us recognize again that we are privileged to be called saints not because we are holy and good enough but because we have Jesus Christ who is dedicated enough for the sake of our forgiveness and salvation. The life of saints begins when we are also dedicated to Jesus Christ and his teachings of God’s Kingdom.

“Dedication” is our first step to make our life more saintly.  Afterwards, we may receive a power to work for God’s kingdom in a way that we forgive and even love our enemies. We can start and fulfill this holy life of saints when we are dedicated to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Sermon: Who, What and How Much?

“Who, What, and How Much?”
Matthew 22:15-22
RUMC 29 October 2017
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

Once there was a little boy who needed $100 to upgrade and buy accessories for his phone, so he prayed to God for a whole week, but nothing happened. Then he decided to write to God and request the $100 in a more formal way. When the Post Office received the letter addressed to God, they forwarded it to the White House. The President of the United States was told of the letter; he was amused and instructed his aide to send the boy $5.00. The President figured that would make the boy happy. When the boy got the letter, he sat down and wrote a thank you note. “Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason, you had to send it through Washington where they kept most of it.”

Let me just say, people who lived in Biblical times didn’t like the government taking their money any more than we do today. Today’s scripture is a story of how the Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus. His message is to give government what is theirs and to God what is His.

My text is Matthew 22:15-22.

5 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
This is the Word of God.

Today’s gospel text begins with how the Jewish leaders had looked for a way to finally rid themselves of Jesus; they had come up with a question that appeared to be foolproof. Had Jesus said it was “wrong” to pay taxes that would prove that he was against Rome, and he would have been arrested for treason. If he had said it was “okay” to pay taxes with this particular coin, the Jewish people would reject him for blasphemy.

The issue at hand was the Roman Denarius. On one side of the coin was a picture of the emperor. On the reverse side was the inscription, Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, high priest which meant the emperor was the son of a divine being or God. To the Jews that was idolatry and the coin was not to be used in the temple.

Now I suppose in this day and age, if we had a coin that had a picture of any of our recent presidents with an inscription that read, “President of the United States of America, the most powerful person on the planet” or the “greatest American,” such a coin would cause an uproar and people would refuse to use it.

But Jesus left us with this challenge that rings down through the centuries: “Give to government the things that is due to government and to God the things that are God’s.”

1 Corinthians 4:1 tells us that we are the “Stewards of the things of God.” Now all of us own things. The proof of who we are or what we own would be a birth certificate, social security card, a driver’s license, passport, a purchase agreement, a deed or any other legal document. However, things of God do not have his obvious stamp of ownership or mark on it. For example, the forest, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans or the desert does not have a sign that says, “This belongs to God.” It is kind of understood that all belongs to Him.

Now consider this illustration. On a ship or an airplane there is a position that is called steward. This individual does not own the ship or aircraft or any of its cargo, but the steward is entrusted with everything that is on board.  It is the same thing in God’s kingdom when we are given responsibility over the things God has entrusted to us. In a sense God has made us His partner or steward.

Stewardship is similar to the Stradivari Society of Chicago. This society entrusts its expensive violins to world class violin players who could never afford them on their own. These musicians are encouraged to play and care for these million dollar instruments. There is one other stipulation that each musician give the patron at least two musical performances per year. And just like the Stradivari Society, God entrusts us with many things, but he wants to hear back from us for a “progress report.”

God’s stewardship reminds me of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, two major bodies of water in Israel, both fed by the same stream of water. But they are as different as day and night. The Sea of Galilee in the north is alive and fresh with an abundance of fish and green vegetation. The Dead Sea, which lies in a sunken valley, has water so salty that there is no fish life in it; it is a lifeless, watery waste. These two bodies of water illustrate the difference between those who receive and give back, and those who receive and do not give back.

Evangelist Billy Graham said, “God has given us two hands-one to receive and the other to give.” We are not cisterns made for hoarding; but channels for sharing. Here at Rockville UMC, many give of their prayers, presence, and service for the Kingdom of God.

If there is an area that is problematic for many Methodist, it is what to put in the offering plate. Recently I was at a stewardship conference and we were given some statistics on giving. (Using a bell curve, 0-10%, the biblical standard) The average Methodist gives 1.6%. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Congregationist 2-3%. Again, all these churches struggle with finances and must hold a lot of fund raisers. Now Evangelicals, Latter Day Saints, Apostolic Christian Churches give 10%, and they have more than enough to meet their needs. So in this area, I would encourage you to examine your giving in terms of percentage.

Let me close with Jesus’ message to all: Give to government what is theirs and to God what is His.

 

Sermon: Who Was Melchizedek?

Who Was Melchizedek?
Genesis 14:14-20
RUMC June 25, 2017

Two men were shipwrecked on a deserted island and suddenly found themselves all alone, in desperate straits. One of the men stood to his feet and said in an excitable manner, “We are going to die.  There is no food.  There is no water.  We will never be found.”  The second man finally said, “We will be just fine.  My church pledge is due next week and I know the finance committee will find me.”

This morning, we will continue our theme of looking at Old Testament stories. My focus for today will be an incident that involved the Patriarch Abraham.  At a pivotal point in Abraham’s life a war broke out, and he ended up being the hero.  When Abraham divided up the spoils of war, he gave to God out of his abundance, and that is what we will look at today.

My text is Genesis 14:14-20.
When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people. 17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.

This is the Word of God.

Here is some background information. At the time Abraham lived in the desert with his family.  On this one occasion, there was a regional war between the local kings, and, in the course of the battle that raged around him, Lot and his family had been taken captive and were now prisoners of war.  When Abraham heard that news, he immediately enlisted and armed 318 of his men with spears, bows and sling shots and went to find Lot and his family.

From what we can read of today’s scripture, it seems that Abraham was the first Army Ranger. Using today’s military terminology, Abraham divided his men into two light infantry companies.  They went on a forced road march under the cover of darkness, and then, with the element of surprise, raided the enemy’s command and control to rescue Lot and his family.

Maybe you have heard the old saying-“To the victor come the spoils;” that is what Abraham’s men did. They recovered people and a substantial amount of captured supplies, goods, food, drink, animals, clothing, gold and silver.  Then something else happened.  A distinguished looking man came out to meet Abraham.  He was dressed as both king and a priest of God.  His name was Melchizedek.  In this mysterious man’s hands were bread and wine.

Melchizedek offered Abraham a drink from the cup and some bread. With outstretched arms, Melchizedek blessed the patriarch with these words:

Blessed Be Abram by
God Most High Maker of Heaven
And Blessed be God Most High
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.

This blessing was to remind Abraham that his recent military victory was not his doing, but God’s. Abraham, already in an act of worship when he ate the bread and drank from the cup, went a step further and gave the priest king a tenth of the goods recovered.  This is where our tradition of Christian giving or stewardship began.

A number of years later Abraham’s grandson Jacob was traveling alone to start a new life with his uncle Laban. Jacob fell asleep under the stars.  That night he had a dream of a stairway ascending into heaven.  When Jacob woke up he made a vow that if God would watch over him, he would give God a tenth of his income.

Let me share the story of my faith and giving with you. As a child, I attended a Roman Catholic Church and we had children’s offering envelopes.  Every Sunday, my parents would give me a dime or quarter to put in the envelope.  During the church service, when the ushers would come by with the offering basket that was attached to a long pole, I would put my envelope in it.  I had done this for years and years.

When I asked Jesus to come into my heart as a teenager, everything in my life had changed. Christ had become real and I started to read my Bible with great interest.  It was in these early days of my faith journey that I decided to give 10% of whatever I earned to the Lord, and I have done it ever since.

I think it is important to learn to give 10% to God when we are young; the behaviors we learn as a child stay with us through adulthood.

Here is an inspirational story along these lines. Colgate-Palmolive is one of the oldest companies in the United States.  It was started by a young man named William Colgate who left home at age sixteen to seek his fortune.  At that time, everything that he owned in this world was tied in a little bundle attached to a long stick.

As he walked to New York City, he was met by an old neighbor who was a retired captain of a canal boat. This was their conversation.  “Well William, where are you going?  The young lad replied, “Father is too poor to keep me at home any longer, and says I must make a living for myself now.” William also admitted he had no skills except he knew how to make soap and candles.  The old neighbor said, “Let me pray with you and give you a little advice.

Right there on the road to New York, a teenager and a retired ship captain knelt down and prayed. After the prayer, the old man said, “Someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. It can be you as well as anyone.  I hope it may.  Be a good man.  Give your heart to Christ.  Give the Lord what belongs to him of every dollar you earn.  Make an honest soap and I am certain you will yet be a prosperous and rich man.”

When William arrived in New York, he followed the old man’s advice and dedicated himself to Christ. He joined a church and the first thing he did with the first dollar that he earned was to give 10% to the Lord’s work.  From that point on, he considered ten cents of every dollar as sacred.  And today, this company is still going strong; I am sure most of us have used its products.

Giving to the Lord can be demonstrated by the story of a grandfather giving each of his two grandsons a box of chocolate chip cookies. The first boy took the package, went into his bedroom, tore into the box and started to eat the cookies.  The other boy unwrapped his package right in front of his grandfather and said, “Thank you for giving me these cookies. Here, help yourself.  Be the first one to take some.”  That is the correct attitude in giving to God.  Give to God first, instead of last from what is left over, or not even at all.

Think of what Abraham did. He helped win the war.  In worship he partook of the bread and wine, and with his abundance he gave back to God.  May we be as faithful in our worship and stewardship.