It Begins With Gratitude

October 21, 2018

(Proper 24/ 22nd Sunday after Pentecost / the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

Service for the Lord’s Day

Indian Hill Church

Cincinnati, OH

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

Mark 10:35-45

Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine

 

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: O God, in your Son Jesus Christ you richly bless us with all that we need, bread from the earth and the bread of heaven, which gives life to the world. Grant us one thing more: grateful hearts to sing your praise. Amen.

 

This is a stewardship sermon.  However, I will not include any charts or graphs or statistics or percentiles.  I will focus on gratitude and yes, I will mention money and finances, but my focus today is our rationale for giving.  Numbers may tell the story, but they are not our inspiration for giving, people rarely give to a budget or numbers.   Likewise, I’m not going to talk about the 2019 budget or how well our church has used your money to accomplish God’s purposes during this year.  I believe with all my heart that money is not the heart of stewardship.  Stewardship is not fundraising. Stewardship draws from a much different and a much deeper well. “Stewardship is about the joyous discipline of giving thanks.”[1]

 

The kind of stewardship I am talking about is about giving something far greater than money.  It is giving of our lives, and by that, I mean what we do with our time, our talents, our support and ultimately our money.    If we give of ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our prayers, our money will follow.  The type of giving I am talking about is driven by gratitude.  Benedictine monk, Br. David Steindl-Rast, suggests that two qualities belong in our basic definition of gratitude. The first is appreciation: You recognize that something is valuable to you, which has nothing to do with its monetary worth. The second quality of gratitude is that it is freely given to you.  Gratitude is about what you value that was freely given, without any strings attached.

 

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s greatest authority on the science of gratitude explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”  As Christians we affirm that it is God who has given us those gifts and the goodness in our lives.  A few questions to ponder: Do you think you did anything to be born into the family you were born into?  Did you work hard and were you rewarded by being blessed with a healthy, driven, successful family?  Did you fail and were you cursed by being born into a family of discord and brokenness?  Did you warrant to be adopted into a family that you were blessed to have?  Did you produce the body, brain, emotional make-up you have?  I know that many of you studied very hard to build your intellect, you go to the gym and run, lift weights watch what you eat to have the healthy body you have but I hope that you see my larger point, what exactly did you do to get the opportunities you were uniquely blessed with?   Sure, some of us work very hard, put in long hours in the office, the gym, the classroom whatever…We work.  But we have been blessed with gifts, talents and opportunities that come from outside of our control.   As Christians, we know that nothing we have is ultimately ours.  What we have is purely and essentially God’s and given to us on loan.  Our response to these blessings is what we give and how we respond is our gratitude.

 

Gratitude is inspired by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  We give because our hearts have been stirred by God. We give because we have been forgiven.  We give because God is faithful.  We give because Jesus first gave, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  A sense of gratitude grows from the recognition of giving our time, talent and treasure because “God wants all of me.”[2]

 

You will be asked to turn in your pledge next Sunday morning. You will be asked to commit your money, your time and your talents to God.  Why would you do that?

 

Because ultimately it is God’s.  And our calling and our purpose in life is to use our gifts and our talents and yes, our money to glorify God.   To give it back or to pay it forward…

 

I suppose pledging could be counted among other social obligations; you know, like a gift to The United Way or to your college’s annual fund drive or perhaps like a gift to the Symphony or the Cancer Society or some other “worthy cause.”  How do you rank your church pledge?  Is it a social obligation like other social obligation?  It is certainly voluntary.  Unlike paying taxes, you won’t go to jail or pay a fine if you don’t pledge to the church.  You don’t have to give.  You won’t be turned away at the door for not giving.  It is purely voluntary.  So why do it?  Why give your money to God through the church?

 

Here is the theological basis for stewardship.  We give because Jesus, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Stewardship is best understood as what we decide to do with our lives: how will we use what God has given us – skills and talents, energy and intelligence, opportunities and resources – in order to serve one another as God in Jesus Christ has served us.   If Jesus is our pattern, then the shape of our life will be service.

 

Gratitude is the very heart of stewardship. You’re being asked to make a pledge to the church and return it next Sunday morning. You’re being asked to give your money to God.  Why would you do that?

 

We give because Jesus, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

 

Let us pray:

[1] Reverend Robert Hay, Presbyterian Foundation

[2] Ibid.