Our New Testament reading follows the story of Pentecost. Their Lord is no longer on earth, the Holy Spirit has arrived, and the disciples are discovering what it means to be a community of faith.
A church was gathered one Sunday for communion and the minister was beginning the familiar words of the communion service. She explained that this is the Lord’s Table and that Christ invites all faithful people to come and share with Him in the meal which He has made.
Suddenly a young child who was sitting next to her mother rushed out of the pews and ran up towards the communion table. Her mother, horrified and embarrassed beyond words, came running after her and caught the child just before she reached the table. As she carried her squirming daughter back to her seat, the little girl cried out for everyone to hear, “But I want to eat with Jesus! I want to eat with Jesus!” (Erskine White, Sermons.com)
Young or old we all want to eat with Jesus, to be at table with our Savior and Lord. We gather around Christ’s table to be spiritually fed, to join in community and to be the body of Christ in the world. That is why the table is the central theme for our stewardship this year. I want you to visualize a dining table all decked out for Christmas. Can you see it? Can you see the attention to detail, the abundance of food, the joy of being gathered with loved ones. Table and hearth represent the abundance of what we have. As you can see we have a beautiful place setting here on the communion table, representing your family table, the blessings of your life, the richness you have received from God. On the other side of the table, we have the communion plate and chalice, the “place setting” if you will when we come and communion with our Lord. We are reminded of not only the gift of love, but also Christ’s sacrifice for our joy and salvation. You have the fullness of life because you live in the grace of Jesus Christ.
This week I went to lunch with a good friend’s friend from out of town. I never met her before and I soon discovered that she was a professional fund raiser. I shared with her I was working on this stewardship sermon. She asked me what stewardship means to you, and I said it is the way we show our gratitude for the love we have from God. I feel so richly blessed and giving to God, supporting the church, is a concrete way that I show my love, my joy, for God in return. Sitting over lunch it felt so easy to express this truth of faith, the way our giving is truly an act of faith, an expression of gratitude for the many blessings I have received. What I give to God is the first financial decision I make for the year, because God is my priority and saying thank you is my privilege.
As you know we are focusing on table, God’s table and our table. On one side is spiritual and holy and the other is the human, the personal. In Acts we hear of the new Christians breaking bread together in their homes. They are moving worship from the temple to the home community. Breaking bread together is a way they, and we, form community. There are two sides to the table, but only one table, only God’s table. Everything belongs to God. There is a connection between the gifts we receive from God, both spiritual and material, and the gifts we have in our homes.
The disciples shared all that they had, because they knew everything they had comes from God. They did not think well I will hold back this part, and give a little to God on the side. No, they were so committed to Christ that they gave all that they had. I am certainly not asking you to give all that you have, but their actions help to understand that all that you have, your home, your car, your belongings, your investments they all come from God. God is the source, God is the provider, God is the Creator.
Exodus tells us of people giving from all of their resources, starting with gold and silver. But it goes on to talk about giving of their talents to make cloth, their caring for their goats, and growing herbs. These are the talents they shared. We share our talents when we attend worship, when we sing in the choir, volunteer to feed the homeless or Walk4Water. We share our talents when we serve on a committee or share an idea that then becomes a mission of the church. We share our talents and time when we devote time to scripture and prayer strengthening the body of Christ. Stewardship is fully giving of our time, talents and treasures.
This week I was at a retirement seminar, and we got to ask questions. The one I wrote on my little sticky note was central and basic. “Will I have enough money to retire?” We did many exercises, learned lots and applied it to our own circumstance. I think I will be OK. But that time could have been all about money. But it wasn’t. We talked about what we want in our golden years, where we might live, where will we find value, purpose for our lives. That is a lot like stewardship. It could be all about money. And the money part is important, it is how we fund our family of faith. But stewardship is also about how we feel when we share our gifts. How we benefit from sharing our talents, the meaning we find in helping other people. Because when we look at the whole picture it is the giving of our time, our talents and our treasures that make up stewardship, that creates the tapestry of our gifts.
A colleague of mine shared with me an experience she recently had. She was at a retreat and they had a long piece of treated canvas, that covered three 8 foot table. It was about 25 feet long. Each person was given a little dixie cup of paint each with a different color. All the primary colors. Now there were several shades of each color so maybe 9 shades in total. Each person had their own color, my friend had the palest yellow color. She thought how do I express myself with such a light color. She saw all the varied sized paint brushes. But she waited and listened to the directions. Each person was to paint in the space directly in front of them. They played soft music while each person had 30 seconds to add color to their space; dots, lines, shapes, not necessarily a scene. Then they were invited to move to the right and paint with their same color on the new space. A space already with color. Then in 30 seconds everyone moved again. Until each person had a chance to add their color to every part of the canvas. Some sort of mumbled, I don’t have any artistic talent, others were not sure what they were doing, but all came together and trusted the process, and painted. They were encouraged to fill the space completely. Soon they had a beautiful mural that each one had contributed to, that was only possible if everyone did their part. What you painted was never the same as what another person painted. When they held up the finished art, my colleague saw the places that her color collaborated with others and the places she made a mark all her own.
I hope you are already seeing where this is going. Each one of us has a specific gift to share, a color that only we can provide. We are to share our gift as often as possible and we will be wonderfully surprised by the tapestry of color the demonstration of faith we can have as we all work together. We share our color by giving of our time, our talents and our treasures. Together we create a moral of gifts and resources that shape and create the work we do for Christ at St. Andrew Church. Each person has something to bring to the table.
It all comes down to what stirs your heart to give, what is the thing that gets you excited about your faith, the work Christ is doing through this community, our family of faith. So I ask you what stirs your heart? What excites you about your church and consider that as you pray about your gifts to give. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Will you meet the committee’s goal to increase your pledge commitment by 3%? Will you be the person who decides this is the time I want to make a first time commitment to this church. Will you see one of your purposes in life to be a steward of God in your willingness to share the gifts that God has given to you with the community of faith you call home. The place where you are spiritually fed, where God reaches out and touches your heart and claims you as God’s own. Amen.