Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
5Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,
7who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah
8Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
9who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
10For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. (Psalm 66:1-10, NRSV)
Let us pray: God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and worship you in spirit and in truth; this we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Well it is that time again, Stewardship! This year the Stewardship season will end with Commitment Sunday on October 26. Over the next several Sundays you will hear from your fellow church members about why they give and what the church means to them.
It is fundraising time. It is all around us. You hear it on the radio, with WXVU and NPR just wrapping up their Pledge drive. I have gotten phones calls and letters from the schools I attended all wanting me to remember them again this year, and I bet you have too. And then you come to church and we are asking for you to give.
We often think of Stewardship Season as the time when the preacher gives his or her best “fundraising” sermons to raise the money for the next year’s church budget. The preacher, if he or she is good at it, is supposed to preach these fundraising sermons like a good dentist. The dentist first gently puts in the right amount of Novocain to numb the pain and then he or she goes on and does the tough stuff in your mouth and on your teeth and hopefully you never feel it. Well it is now time to lie back, relax and breathe deep, because this won’t hurt a bit…But no pain pill today, no hiding behind Novocain. We putting it out in the open. It is Stewardship time here at Indian Hill Church. And that is actually an exciting, joy filled time.
Stewardship is not about raising money. It is a response. It is our response to God for all that God has done for all the world and more specifically for each of us in our lives. Stewardship is our response to God for what God has first given to us. Our response is to thank God and enjoy those gifts and blessings and share them with others.
This is something the Psalmist knew and expressed in our text for today. The Psalmist invites the people of God to come and see what God has done and how God has blessed them in so many ways.
The Psalmist invitation is to see the blessings of God and the first blessing is the gift of life itself. Yes, life has its ups and downs, most of the time we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to be alive. There is so much in life to enjoy – beautiful sunrises, good food, friendships and the joy of human love. God gives us everything in life. Best of all, God gives us the promise of love, God’s presence and the gift of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.
God’s life-giving and life-sustaining power that sustained the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land is precisely what the psalmist wants the whole world to Come and see. The psalmist declares, “Come now and see the works of God, how awesome are God’s deeds toward all people.” The psalmist recalls God’s “awesome deeds” of transforming the Red Sea into dry land and permitting God’s people to cross the river into the Promised Land without getting their feet wet.
The Psalmist is so excited and grateful, he wants to shout it from the rooftops. “Come and See” how great God is. Come and See what is going on in life with God. Come and See what abundant life feels like and looks like. Stewardship season is a time to take stock, to look at our lives, our faith, and our church. It is time to look at what is important to us and what we want to do and where we want to go.
We have so much. So many gifts, so much to be thankful for. And we can do more. We can help more, reach more, and love more. We can give more.
Look at this incredibly beautiful sanctuary, as you leave today notice the glorious grounds around us which still amaze me when I walk around and see the grass and trees and flowers and hear calmness of nature around us. Notice the exciting things going on with our children and youth, listen to these spectacular voices, join with your fellow church members who are giving their time and talents with MEAC, 20/20, IHN, IPM, etc. See we have so much to be thankful for. We can be like the psalmist and stand on the rooftops shouting, “Come and See…what God has done and is doing.”
I hope that we can all see that stewardship, tithing, and giving has a strong spiritual benefit: when we give with joy and generosity, we do so in response to God who gave it all for us. When we give with joy filled hearts we begin to think and live more faithfully.
We don’t give out of guilt because that is not what life or faith is all about. And we don’t give out of obligation, but instead we give out of gratitude and thankfulness for all that God has done for us and to us. It is a mindset, a way to live, and a way to live out our faith. It is a fact that generous people actually are happier than less generous ones, so generous people tend to focus on the spiritual rewards of giving.
You are people with a whole lot of choices to make. You are starting your family, paying your mortgage, putting children through college, caring for parents, and saving for retirement, providing for your family. You have bills to pay and obligations to meet.
Each of us has many worthy opportunities asking us to give: our beloved college, the American Heart Association and Cancer Society, the Hospice that cared for a dying parent, or the art museum, symphony or the Reds and many other things that have touched our hearts and moved our souls.
So, God, his mission and the Church, are in a long list of organizations and things that are competing for our time, talents and money. But I would challenge you that giving to God is the core of our faith. Come and See, Come and See and GIVE and be grateful, grateful to the God who gave you everything you have and provides for all your needs.
People give to vision, not to budgets. So here is step one of our vision: we are invited to open our eyes and see how God has blessed us and how God has provided for us.
As children of God we do count our blessings. When we realize just how we have been blessed then we give thanks to God. The way we give thanks to God is to share the gifts we have. Putting your offering envelope in the plate is one way of saying, “Thanks to God.”
Let us pray: Dear God, open our eyes and hearts to the signs of your activity in our lives that we might live in hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.