Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Shall I Render Unto the Lord?

S‑1080 11/23/2008 LSIC/3A Hymns: (O) #15; (S) #441; L.S. #39; #457; #315; (C) #442

Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: “What Shall I Render Unto the Lord” (Psalm 116:2-14).


Question: “What happens to you when you hear the word “Stewardship”?

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Stewardship Sunday is from Psalm 116 “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people” (Ps. 116:12-14).

Saints in Christ, what I am about to say I sometimes don’t like to hear. But it needs to be said, because it is God’s Word. And it is ONLY the Word of God that will guide us on our journey to eternity.

Today, we are dealing with a subject that many people begin to squirm about as soon as the word is mentioned. Mention “Stewardship” and people begin to think, here he goes again! He is talking about money. Yes! Stewardship is about money. But it is much more than just money. It is the whole life of the redeemed child of God as a way of thanking God.

The Psalmist in this prayer of thanksgiving challenges us with these thoughts: “How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?” (v. 12). It is a rhetorical question that demands an answer. It reminds me of Christina Rosetti’s “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man, I’d do my part. What can I give Him? Give Him my heart!”

It also reminds me of the little girl who was in the doctor’s office for a check-up. Shining light in the girl’s eyes, the doctor asked “Am I going to see Big Bird in there?” No response. Putting the scope in her ears, he said “Am I going to hear Elmo in here?” No response. Placing the depressor on her tongue “Am I going to see Cookie Monster?” Still, no response. Putting the stethoscope on her heart, he asked “Am I going to hear Barney?” Finally responding, the little girl said “No! Barney’s on my underpants. Jesus is in my heart!” The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

The word for “goodness” can actually be translated “graces.” I like that! It’s all grace—everything we have. When we stop to count ALL of God’s goodness|benefits|graces to us—even if only the blessing of Christ our LORD—we don’t have enough time to count the things we consider less than blessed; and even in those things God works together for good

“How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?” Its payback time—in the most positive sense! We give God everything from our hearts. We do so as the Psalmist answered this rhetorical question. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

Four cups of wine are consumed at the Passover Seder meal. All of them indicate salvation of sorts--in Abraham's time and beyond, salvation from idolatry; at the Exodus, salvation from the Egyptians and slavery; later, salvation from Babylonia and The Exile; and, lastly, salvation to come at the end of the age.

We believe in God for salvation. We believe that His salvation cup is not half empty. We believe that His salvation cup is not half full. Instead, it’s overflowing!—like Niagara Falls.  As Psalm 23 reminds, our cups overflow. Lift them up! A toast to God! Cheers for all the years! Cheers for no more fears! Cheers for no more tears!

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people.   This morning you will fulfill this verse when you open your wallets, purses, hands and hearts and give to the Lord that which you told Him you would. It is not a mandatory thing, but a joyful thing. Stewardship is not just the giving of money, but all of you into the service of the King, Jesus Christ.

Some people will say, I can’t give much! Fine, give what you can. Serve where you can. Share what you can. Honor God with what you have. Think of the woman who gave two mites—she gave it to her Lord from her heart. She gave all as a way of thanking Her God for all of His goodness to her.

How did you do this past year financial offering wise? Did you fulfill your pledge? Did you give as much as you were able to or should have? If not, the good news is that now that’s past history. Today we begin anew. Today, I pray that the Lord will open your eyes and hearts to see His desires for YOUR life—a whole life of stewardship.

It was Thursday afternoon Mrs. Silbaugh and her first graders were coming out of the Church just as I was coming in. I asked what they were doing. “Warming up” was the response. I asked Mrs. Silbaugh if I could give them something? “Yes.” I went to my office, and brought the candy dish. Gave each a candy including Mrs. Silbaugh. Then she reminded them of two special words to say—Thank You.

The Psalmist reminds us of our Thank you to God is living for Him and doing what we said we would do. The problem is not that my neighbor doesn’t give enough, serve enough, share enough or love enough. But the problem is the guy I look at in the mirror every day.

The Christian life of stewardship is not a spectator’s sport; but rather an active life of giving, sharing, serving and witnessing. That is how we live out our faith. But who do we live it for? Does God need our good works? NO! Does God need our faithful stewardship of time? NO! Does God need our faithful sharing of the Gospel? NO! Is God dependent on you being faithful with your tithes and offerings to the Lord’s House? NO! God needs none of these. But your neighbor does. The child that hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a result of Redeemer’s ministry needs your good works that flow from your faith in Christ. That neighbor that is open to you telling your faith story because you made sure they had food to eat or clothes to wear needs your good works flowing from your faith in Christ. The person on the other side of the world who hears the Gospel from a Lutheran missionary supported by Redeemer’s offerings to district and synod needs the good works of your faithful financial stewardship. PAUSE.

Christians don’t look for praise when they serve the Lord. They serve the Lord as a response to all of the goodness His has given them. We do it because we know Christ’s love and share in the hope of eternal life. But God does indeed notice the good things we do. And one way God has of encouraging His discouraged people is to prompt our fellow believers to take notice of the fruits of our faith.

We don’t keep records of the offering to see who gives more, or to praise the person. No, we do it to praise the Lord. Our world loves to bring attention to what sinful humans do. We, His beloved children do it all for the glory of God alone. After all, God produces those good works. The Bible says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

God is glorified when His people speak about the financial gifts others have brought to the Lord, whether those gifts are regular first-fruit offerings or large, onetime gifts. God is glorified when a congregation or a synod publicly calls attention to people who are serving Jesus in some way. God is glorified when a congregation celebrates a pastor’s 25 years in the ministry or a teacher’s 40 years teaching or an organist’s 50 years of leading services. Nor do we keep track only of big works of service or important milestones. In how we talk, we praise God for every act of service, whether big or small. We do it ALL for the Glory of God Alone.

Why do we live a life of stewardship? Because it is a response of giving back to God for all the good He has given me—a sinner. Why give? First, Christ died for us, gave His life for us, suffered hell for us and rose for us defeating death for us. His love from Calvary constrains us.

Why give? Second, because on top of this, He gives to us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, incorporates us into His body in Baptism, and sends His Holy Spirit to us even now to dwell within us, pray for us, and comfort us with precious promises.

Why give? Third, the great unfathomable gifts yet to come: forever young bodies, reconciliation with loved ones in heaven, new heaven and new earth, seeing Jesus face to face, and so much more. Other reasons one can gather...we are planting seeds in time for a rich harvest in eternity.

So what is our response to the goodness of the Lord? I shall fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Not selfish living, but selfless living. Not selfish giving, but selfless giving. God grant us the joy, privilege and blessings to live as faithful stewards, sharing, serving, caring, loving and giving ALL for the glory of God. Amen.

Now the peace…

No comments: