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Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
Romans 8:31-39
Matthew 22:34-46

 

8: 31”What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: Lord of life, we worry about the things we do not understand and cannot control. Remind us today to look to your Word for peace. So, that we may be reminded of the great joy in Paul’s words, that you will not let anything come between you and us. As we wait for that glorious day when you call us home, may we wait with joy filled hearts. This we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Today is Stewardship Commitment Sunday.  And I had a sermon all prepared for today but then life happened….I was going to talk about how great it is that we have surpassed our budget and that we are overflowing with money, so much so that we have given our abundance to the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the sick. And that out of our abundance we have ended homelessness in Cincinnati, we have fed every hungry child in Hamilton County, Butler, Clermont and Warren Counties, and that all the hospitals in our region are empty because illness and disease are no more.  But you know I can’t preach that fantasy because we all know reality, and we know that life happens…

 

So this week, life happened and as you have all heard the Bishop has announced that we are ready for the next step in our life as a congregation and that Reverend Anne Wrider who has served us well. First as our Interim Episcopal Priest and for the last four years as our Episcopal priest—in—charge. We learn this news with mixed emotions; excited that we are healthy and prepared for the next step in our life as a congregation to embark on the process of seeking our next rector.  We are grateful for Anne’s service and leadership.  So life has happened, while this news is a shock to the system, it is something we must deal with.

 

Change happens all the time, some change we celebrate and other change we resist. It happens in every aspect of life and it happens to all of us, so what is important is how we respond.  How we get up and dust ourselves off and move on with the plan, the mission, and life.

 

So, my first I thought oh no, not today!  This isn’t the best day for stewardship…but then I realized it is an ideal day for Commitment Sunday.  It is about our response to God for all that God has done for all the world and more specifically for each of us in our lives.  By extension Stewardship is our response to life when it happens…The Bishop sees what is good and healthy here at Indian Hill Church and he witnessed that first hand on his visit October 7. So there is something good, strong and healthy going on here, it is a time to respond by be thankful. Thanking God for our health and strength.

 

I want you to know that our response to this change begins with the incredible staff we have in place and have the pleasure of working with. Karen, our church secretary, offers her warm and caring presence to visitors and others doing business here at the church.  Her calm and caring voice offers support to people who call the church looking for help or support.  We are blessed to have Brenda, such a talented and gifted musician as she serves us as our Music Director and Organist. Music is so important to worship and we are blessed to have Brenda to lead us and direct the choir in our worship and praise of God.  Barb, keeps our financial records and books and she faithfully monitors our financial situation. She pays the churches bills and keeps our pledges and giving straight each and every week.

 

The enthusiasm and energy around our children and youth ministry is so much fun to witness.  We are so blessed to have Michelle and Jennifer. Last week we held our first re{Discover} where parents joined with their children in Confirmation Class to dig deeper into matters of faith. Our children’s ministry is exploding with children and were are so blessed to have Jennifer coordinating and leading this vital ministry for the life and well-being our Church.

 

So, our response to change is to keep on doing the mission and ministry that God has called us to do and be the hospitable and caring congregation God has called us to be and to give thanks for the ways in which we see God at work in our world.

 

The word steward comes from the Greek word, “oikos”, which means house.   The concept of stewardship is to take care of the house, the things of household, whether it is money, worship, the building and grounds, the music, our people, the people of our community, the people of the world, the health and well-being of the earth.  God has entrusted all of these to us.

 

As God’s people, we are called to take care for these gifts are from God.  We are called to support God’s church and its ministry.  In the Old Testament scriptures, Israel was to give a tenth (“tithe”) of their income to support the ministry. This practice still continues within the church today as a baseline for giving.

 

Giving to the church is a commitment. Commitment is an investment of oneself.

 

Commitment is what this text from Romans 8 is all about. The Apostle Paul tells us how committed God is in this relationship: If God is for us, who is against us?  It may be the most comforting passage in the bible.  It is the one I turn to whenever life happens and change comes. It is the one I turn to in good times and bad.  It is the one I hang my faith on.  Nothing, nothing in all of life or death can separate us from the love of God.

 

Now that is commitment. God is committed to us no matter how sinful and broken we are.  He will not let anything in life or death come between us and him through the love of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Not our commitment but God’s commitment to creation, to you and me.  Commitment is another word for a pledge or promise; engagement; and involvement.

 

The Bible is full of God’s promises.  First, God promises to be there for us in times of trouble.  We can count on God being there to strengthen us and carry us through difficult times.  God doesn’t promise to keep us from difficult times, but God gives us the strength to endure, to triumph, to be more than a conqueror over those things which would otherwise defeat us.

 

The second promise of God is that God is with us. In the midst of all the troubles, we can be sure that God is with us. We live in that hope and that expectation that no matter how dark it may seem, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that God will bring something wonderful to pass.

 

The third thing that God promises, in addition to being there in times of trouble, God promises this: he promises that he will never stop loving you.  No matter what you’ve done, no matter what mess you’ve gotten into, God will not stop loving you.

 

Paul has been giving us different examples of God’s commitment to his people through relationship with us. Paul lifts up Christ as the ultimate example of God’s commitment.  God sent his only begotten son, Jesus, to save the world.  Christ humbled himself even to the point of death, death on a cross, so we might have life.  Now that is commitment!

 

How will we respond to God who keeps his promises, who is fully committed to us? God who promises, “I will be with you. I will be your refuge and your strength.” Even in the midst of all the terrible things of our lives, all the heartbreak, all the suffering, God is with us and God will bring something good out of the tragedies, out of the pain, out of the sufferings, out of the darkness.

 

What will you give in gratitude to God?

 

Let us pray: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us. We thank you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.  And, we pray, that you will give us an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may respond with praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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