Reformation Sunday, Fearless Generosity Series • October 30, 2016
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Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
This is an incredible weekend in the life of the church. And I’m not talking about the universal, church everywhere kind of church. I’m talking very specifically about this church – Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
I’m hopeful that you sense the Holy Spirit in this sacred place this weekend and every time you enter it, every time you gather for worship or serve one another in Christ’s loving embrace, every time you step foot on this property. I’m also hopeful that you sense just how incredible this weekend is and what a blessing this weekend is for those of us who call this holy place our church home. Finally, I’m hopeful that the Holy Spirit’s breathe in you today will cause you to be fearless in how you live this week and every day of your life in Christ as you share God’s love in all that you say and do.
So…this weekend is the beginning of our annual fall worship series that focuses our attention for a few weeks on stewardship. And when I say the word stewardship, I speak not only of the money that God has entrusted to your care. I’m also talking about every other aspect of your life that God has entrusted to your care. How you are a steward to the trees and birds and soil and water flowers and fish. How you are a steward to the people you know and love and the people who you can’t stand the sight of and even the people you will never meet. As our worship theme today invites us to focus our attention around – to be a steward is a call from God into a life of Fearless Living.
This weekend is also confirmation for 46 young people in our congregation who make public affirmation of their baptism in the Rite of Confirmation. It is a time of great blessing that calls these brothers and sisters in Christ to live fearlessly because they are loved unconditionally by God through their savior Jesus.
And this is also a weekend in which millions of Lutheran Christians around the world reflect upon events that happened 499 years ago on October 31st in a little church in Wittenberg, Germany. Events that began something called the Reformation – a movement within the universal catholic church that continues to shape the church and God’s work through the church today.
I hope and pray that you join me in rejoicing for all that this week brings, calling us into Fearless Generosity in more ways than any of us can comprehend. After all, as God’s children we see generosity as part of God’s nature from the very beginning of creation. Don’t believe me – open your bible to page one and read the two creation accounts that make up the first two chapters of Holy Scripture.
And if we believe that we are in fact created in God’s image as these early verses of scripture claim that we are – then we are also called to join with God and live generously.
It is actually against everything that we are created to be to behave in ways that cause us to be stingy or grumpy or withhold God’s gifts to us and try to keep them all to ourselves. Keeping everything God gives to us has nothing to do with how God created us or intended us to live!
The Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Ephesus will guide our time together in worship over the next four weeks. “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
These words stood in stark contrast to the secular world view of Paul’s day. I think they still stand in stark contrast to the secular world view. Reporters, politicians, leaders of business and industry, and others in the communities in which we live often have an approach of negativity and scarcity – things that are far removed from God’s generosity and abundance. Negativity and scarcity that are often fueled by fear.
The Apostle’s encouraging words to us call us to live without fear. Believing that God is able to do abundantly far more than anything we are able to ask for or even think about asking for. And, even more amazingly, God chooses to work through us – through you – through me – to accomplish more than we can imagine!
Mark Kirchoff, author of an “Overview of the Book of Ephesians” believes that “The church is an organism in which power and authority are exercised after the pattern of Christ himself and as stewardship, a means of service.” [Mark Kirchoff, “Fearless Generosity,” Giving, volume 16 (2014), p.4.]
One of the great theologians and teachers of the last century in the church is Professor Marcus Borg. Dr. Borg taught at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and for several decades at Oregon State University.
In his book “The God We Never Knew” Dr. Borg wrote that, “The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process:” Borg wrote, “the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.”
As you think about the events of the past week in your life or in our community or across the United States or in other corners of the world, how open are hearts to this God who is already here? What might God be placing on your heart today that will change you in order to allow you to live differently tomorrow? Are you and I open to that kind of fearless generosity?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we allow our hearts to be opened by the God who is already here and the ways in which we are being called into a life of fearless generosity, may the Apostle Paul’s blessing to the Ephesian church also be a blessing to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Using us as willing vessels, God through the Holy Spirit – which is the power of God at work within us – will accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask for or imagine.
Please join me in prayer…
Good and gracious God, who hovers over the waters of creation, reignite our imaginations as we think about the many possibilities for this world that you so love. May we be found faithful in caring for the earth and all that is in it. May we be found grateful in celebrating all that you so generously offer. Fill us with a sense of reverence and awe as we seek to give witness to your creative activity in the world. As we leave this time of worship today, may we sow seeds of justice, of hopefulness, of generosity, and of peace. In the name of our savior Jesus, we offer our prayer this day and in all the days to come. Amen.