Tag: money

Hopelessly Confused – Pastor Noel Due

Sunday 29th September, 2019

Pastor Noel Due – audio and transcript of sermon preached at St Petri.

We’ve got  three readings before us this morning.  As you’ll see from the bulletin notes on the front page, these are centuries apart.

One is the story of Jeremiah buying a plot of land. He is buying that plot of land immediately before the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem. So when everything is torn up and destroyed, he does the most nonsensical and counter-intuitive thing. He is commanded by the Lord to buy a piece of real estate that everyone else would regard as utterly worthless. But of course the issue is not piece of real estate itself. The issue is what does this purchase say and the purchase says that God is going to do something beyond the destruction.  In other words if your hope has been in all the things that you’ve spent your life building and that is destroyed, is your hope is destroyed. And for Jeremiah his hope was not destroyed because the word of the Lord came to him, and there was a promise of resurrection beyond the death and destruction of the invasion that was about to happen.

Then of course there’s the reading from Luke chapter 16, which is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Again it’s a story of misplaced hope that the rich man felt because he was rich because he had so much, because his life was so defined by his well that he was impervious to suffering, and of course death comes to us all – death reverses things and so those who had nothing in this life typified by Lazarus are the ones finally who inherit the kingdom. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Then you have the account of Paul giving some advice to a young Pastor called Timothy and his telling him about the danger of wealth and the necessity for generosity. and how it is that he, as a young Pastor, must;

a)    He himself must keep himself freely from the love of money which is the root of all evil

b)    To also instruct his congregation, his people, not to be trapped in the love of money which is the root of all evil.

It is significant I think that if you go through the entire scriptures from beginning to end, you will find at some point either the prophets, or the law, or Jesus himself or all of the new testament writers in one way or another – bring a warning about misplaced trust. And that warning about misplaced trust is very commonly expressed in that trust being misplaced because of our wealth, our riches, our money.

So how does a Pastor preach to a congregation about money, and wealth, and misplaced trust apart from wearing a suit of armour. so you don’t get stoned.

If you were here last week and listen to the Lectionary readings. In Luke chapter 16, the last verse of the Lectionary reading was this. Jesus said to them that you cannot serve God and – money. Some translations say you cannot serve God and wealth but actually it says you cannot serve God and Mammon (not marron, they are crayfish!). You cannot serve God and mammon.

Mammon can be understood as wealth, and it can be understood as money, but it’s not just that. Mammon stands for that whole system where you are at the centre of everything. It’s all about you accumulating things and stuff. It’s about you defining yourself by what you accumulate and how you accumulate it.  You providing a display to the world of your worth by what you accumulate and how you express that accumulation. Mammon is all about that activity which money can express, which is an expression of your own selfish ego. That’s what Mammon means it’s not just wealth and not just money. Don’t misquote what Paul says in Timothy. It’s not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Mammon is really not wealth or money but the love of money – that attachment to this stuff which is the expression of your hope.

Now you’ve heard another verse, not in the recent series of lectionary readings, but it comes from 1 Corinthians 13:13 and I bet if I started you’ll be able to finish this:  Now abide these three; faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

If you think about Faith Hope and love, I think you will discover that the whole world needs them. Indeed the whole world seeks to express faith, hope, and love in some way. In other words, there is not a Christian world in which there is faith hope and love and another Christian world in where there is not faith, hope and love. Actually there is the kingdom of heaven where faith hope and love are properly centred. And then there’s everything else where faith hope and love are all scrambled.

So you think about the Jeremiah reading, faith hope and love all scrambled. Loving the wrong things, in the wrong way. So faith is misplaced and hope disappears when the destruction comes.

Think about Faith Hope to love and the rich man. Faith hope and love all scrambled. Loving the wrong things, Mammon in the wrong way for the wrong reason putting his hope in the wrong place. So his Faith is not in God, and when the destruction comes, he has no hope. He is, to quote Timothy, trapped! That is a very strong word in Timothy.

He is trapped by his love of money.  He uses the word trapped and also talked about people destroying themselves.  He talks about are making shipwreck of the faith and that’s because faith, hope and love are all scrambled. It’s not that they don’t have faith, hope and love – but it’s faith in the wrong thing. It’s love, loving the wrong thing and therefore putting your hope in the wrong place. So you and me and every other person that you ever need is a person who runs by faith, hope and love. The only question is;

a)    In whom is your faith placed?

b)    What therefore do you love?

c)    Therefore, where is your hope?  Does that make sense to you?

We live in a society in which faith, hope and love are all scrambled. Everyone in Australia is looking for faith, hope and love or even expressing faith, hope and love in a certain sort of way – but it is faith trust and confidence in the wrong things. It’s loving the wrong things and so, hope in the wrong place. And when, someone drops a brick on your glasshouse, how do you cope? Or, if someone called “God” dropped a big brick on the glasshouse of Jerusalem, by means of an invading army called “Babylonians”. Jeremiah says “Hope comes, not from our security, nor from our ability to defend our borders – but from God, who promised that there would be resurrection beyond the destruction.

Both Pastor Robert and I, in our respective ministries, move around the church a lot. I think that what we are seeing, if I may say bluntly, in the Lutheran Church is that God is bringing us face to face with the fact that we put Faith Hope and love in the wrong baskets. We put faith hope and love in our structures, and our institutions, and our theological formulations. In our liturgies, in our patterns of worship, and if we touch any of those we get all scrambled. We are, as far as congregations go, falling off a cliff.

Within 10 years on current trends, the number of people worshipping in a Lutheran congregation anywhere in Australia and New Zealand will be half of what is now. Within 10 years!

So if faith hope and love are scrambled – Where is the gospel in that? I read the Gospel reading this morning. There’s a bloke cooking in Hades, and there is a gap fixed between him and Abraham’s side and there is no crossing over. There is no redemption. Like there’s no second chance. That’s it, you are done. At the end of the reading I said, “This is the gospel of the Lord” and you said, “Praise be to you, O Christ”. Praise be to you, O Christ for what? What a hopeless picture where there is no second chances. Is that gospel? This is the gospel of the Lord. What that parable does, what that picture does, is actually to press the urgency of what happens when faith, hope and love get scrambled.

Remembering 1Timothy they become trapped! The gospel of the Lord, in that gospel reading, is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Not to the rich man, not for you and me. It doesn’t have to be that way – but you have to work it out now. Not then.

There is an urgency to this beloved, a real urgency and I believe the Lord is asking through the circumstances that he is bringing, where the church is collapsing institutionally. Where all the things that we put our trust in can no longer sustain and buoy us up.  I think the Lord is saying “Listen, there is a resurrection”!

If that thing goes, like Jerusalem, and in its entirety, there is still hope. It’s just that if you’ve got everything in that basket you won’t see this one. If you’ve got all your hope here you won’t understand the true hope.

When I was sometimes teaching students in the theological College, I talked about the difference between hopes with a small “h” and an “s” on the end, like hope that greater Western Sydney might win. I hope this time, this week, that I win the x-lotto. I hope that no my coffee is nice this afternoon. Short-term hopes. If that’s all you’ve got and they taken away, you are trapped and you’ve got nothing compared to hope with a capital “H”, whose name is Jesus.

The gospel is that God is doing everything to realign the faith, hope and love that is being misplaced and scrambled in us and has left us hopelessly confused. God is doing everything to undo that, so that our hope, faith and our love may be in Christ. Does that makes sense?

So even if those things seem to be falling apart it’s only because God loves us so much that there is a greater thing that he wants us to belong to. The question is simply “Do we trust him”?  Not even a question of “will we let him” because he is going to do it anyway. It is “Do we trust Him’?

As we come to the end of the sermon and turn shortly to the Lord’s supper. you have an absolute, sure, guaranteed token of God’s love, in which Christ gives himself and says “No matter what else happens, no matter what else collapses no matter what we have to do to unscramble your faith, hope and love when it’s misplaced, here is true love. “Here, take and eat”.It is where faith is, “Here, take and drink” that’s where our hope lies.

In Jesus name, Amen.

GIVING thanks: The Money thing

Sermon:  Thanksgiving SundayGive Thanks- the money thing
Sunday April 27, 2014. St Petri
Luke 17:11-19, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

GIVING BACK TO GOD?

I suspect most of us might have heard this deep thought at least once in our life. We know it is “Important to give back to God”. I know that many folks around St Petri practice this very thing – giving back the God – with time, skills, money, effort, serving – and we are a thriving local church as a result!.

On the other hand, I also suspect that lots of folks, particularly of my generation and under, might sometimes struggle with giving back to God – not in terms of helping out, serving and giving of time and skills so much, but in terms of money. My generation and those later then mine do struggle with the Christian practice of giving the first fruits of our income – little or large, back to God. I reckon it may just be because we are not sure why this is important or how to do it. And this generation is always interested in why more than anything else.

It seems appropriate on thanksgiving day to talk about GIVING thanks, and to be quite specific about that much feared topic of money! – the Christian way to handle in giving back to God.

DUTY DEVOID OF HEART

“Deep thoughts from a shallow Christian” says that giving of money and time and talents is only about giving enough to avoid God’s wrath. Giving is a matter of merely following some tradition or family or church culture tradition out of sense of duty devoid of any real heart and commitment to the Lord.

If that is all giving is then we are merely being called to give of ourselves in some bare minimum way and for the reason of staying in the good books of church culture, family expectation or even God.

THE BARE MINIMUM

So with this depleted belief about giving, the idea is that we all actually giving something (the barest minimum) because you know it is “important” for some reason, but you don’t know or care why it is important.

RE-TUNE US

Would we ask the Spirit of God to re-tune us not to only the duty of giving but our love and commitment to our Saviour and each other, and our common mission of sharing the love and hope Jesus with people around here?

To do that, let’s de-bunk a couple of myths to begin with…

THE CHURCH IS ALWAYS AFTER YOUR MONEY!

People say that the church is always after your money. Well, yes we are. Mission costs money. We as a local Christian community here are responsible for sharing and living the gospel here. Yes we do want and need money at St Petri because we are a community of Christ participating in his mission to bring his kingdom of the good news to bear on this community and takes more than just money – it takes heart, people’s heart and mind and talents and resources and love. And from the heart comes giving.

THE CHURCH IS JUST KINGDOM BUILDING

People say that the church is just “kingdom building” and so conclude that the local church that is their own home is not worth giving to.

People now often say we will only give to a good cause. They want a cause. “If the cause is worthy enough, then I will give”… In this belief the mission and ministry of the local church is not as important or worthy as other more immediate, more advertised and more easily seen things. Well to that I would ask…

Are you comfortable this morning? comfortable enough to engage your heart and mind in the Word of God as you sit here in this building? Could you see the song words this morning? Are things done in good order here? Can you hear things easily? Is there someone leading this morning? Is there a sermon proclaiming God’s Word this morning? Where did you park? What event have you been to recently? What was Easter like? Who contributes to make all this happen and should that also be part of my spiritual life for my spiritual home?
But all of these are very secondary to the main thing. Did you hear of Jesus this morning? Did you hear of the grace of the God of all creation loving sinners and welcoming them into his holy presence to be with them and make us a community of grace and life reaching into this local community with that good news? Now we are talking THE motivation and the WHY of giving time, money and skills.

So, yes, we are. We are “kingdom building” at St Petri. Yes we do have buildings to maintain and staff to pay… but what for? Just for the sake of maintain a few buildings and giving a few people a job? No!

We do all we do for one high calling, one centre, one faith, on goal, one ongoing task – to share the love and the hope of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God with as many people as the Lord allows us to where we live. We are all about gospel kingdom building.

MAKE ETERNAL INVESTMENTS?

Why wouldn’t you want to make eternal investments in this gospel work right here? Why wouldn’t you want to be a Christian who puts your money where your mouth is and practise the biblical and spiritual discipline of giving your first fruits back to the Lord for the work of proclaiming Jesus to everyone in your home spiritual community? After all we are never giving OUR money – it is a gift from the Lord in the first place. And we are never only giving to “St Petri”, we are giving to the Lord and for each other.

Surely that is what the one single leper knew to his very core the day he came back to Jesus and worshipped him. Nine others did not get it. One did. Jesus healed that man and in doing so gave him a new life beyond his wildest dreams.

The man was free. The man was re-connected with his community, with his family, no longer resigned to a life of illness, segregation, alienation from friends, poverty and a living hell. He does what is the entirely appropriate response to this healing Jesus. He gives his heart, his soul, his life to Jesus. He worships this gracious God who loves and heals and gives life out of sheer grace and compassion for diseased, broken and lifeless human beings.

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE AND COMMITTMENT

That is why we give. Not to just keep in God’s good books or fulfil some family tradition but to show our love and commitment and loyalty to our Saviour.

BUT HOW?

This is where we have arrived as a family on the whole thing of giving our money.

We have has the “three money box” way.

1. Saving,
2. Giving
3. Spending.

If you want to give of yourself in this ongoing mission journey we are now a part of in this local church then this is how to do it.

Practice the discipline of saving a portion of your income. I believe this is the first priority because I do not believe the Lord would ask you to give what you have not got or that he has not first given.

To be a person who has gives as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (1 Corinthians 9:7) the first priority is to put some income in the ‘Saving money box’.

The second thing is to then put a portion of your income into the “Giving Money Box”. Here you give a portion of you income to the work of the gospel in your home community.

The Old Testament tradition was around 10% of your income. Some suggest somewhere around 7-10% is a good thing. This will vary on where you and your family are at as your life journey continues, but even a young child can put that “dime” in the offering bowl from the whole dollar he or she receives in pocket money.

Then lastly, there is the spending money box for all the daily/weekly needs of life for yourself and those around you. Eve in this money box there is a practice of giving to the Lord as you shout someone a meal or give to other very worthy causes and needs.

1. Saving,
2. Giving
3. Spending.
The biblical way; the spiritual discipline of giving for the work of the gospel mission we all share as families, individuals and church…

LOCAL CHURCH – GOOD CAUSE

Friends, St Petri is a local mission post of the Saviour. It is a Christian community in the long standing stream of God’s ongoing work to draw all people to Jesus – to heal the lepers, call the blind and weak, baptise and nurture the sinner into God’s amazing grace and love for all of life – the grace that the one leper responded to and St Paul lived and Jesus gave continually.

This is your responsibility and mine. That is the way of it in the church. We are not here to maintain some club or keep all of our buildings and property in tip-top shape for no purpose but pride. We are here to share the love and the hope of the Risen Saviour with those the Spirit brings into our sphere of speaking.

For me any family, we would not find a better place and purpose in which or for which to give our time, talent and treasure to than the local mission outpost of the gospel – especially if it is a local church community who are seeking the Lord’s direction, willing to change, setting the priority of self-giving and engagement with the community in whatever ways. I can tell you that the Leaders of this community of Christ are doing that and he is speaking and we are doing our best to listen and respond.

Would you re-evaluate your giving practice and re-commit to it today? Would you commit your finances and your approach to giving of your money, your time, your skills that the Lord has already given to you for use in this very noble and needed cause of bring the kingdom of the God to bear in this place in ways we can’t even see….. yet…but that are becoming clearer all the time.

As you engage in giving of your heart to the Lord and his work in this community here, and then everything that follows, what St Paul says will be for you…

“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God” among many here and beyond…(1 Corinthians 9:11)

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read both the gospel text and then the 1 Corinthians text noting things that stand out and sharing those together.

What questions do you have and what interests you in this whole area of “giving”? Share your thoughts….

How did you learn that “giving back to God” was important in the Christian life? Were you taught specifically by someone or learn it as you watched adults in worship giving or other means? Share your stories…

I suggested that people of the current middle aged generation and younger might know that it is important to give back the God in some way but they are not sure WHY or how? What do you think about that?

I suggested that the one leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks and worship Jesus did the entirely natural and appropriate thing for a saved sinner to do – give thanks not with a sense of duty only, but with the heart. What do you think about that?

Is giving from a sense of duty also valid? I believe both duty and heart are important. Duty is the discipline of it and heart is the motivation of it. What do you think?

I suggested that people often charge the church with “always wanting you money” and agreed with that – with one difference. The money is not mine to keep anyway! All good gifts come from the Lord in the first place. In giving we simply acknowledge that and give a portion back to the Lord for the wok of the gospel and the help of people in need. What do you think about this teaching on giving?

I suggested that the reason we give is to simply show our thanks, honour for and loyalty to Jesus, concern for each other and to ensure we take up our calling and responsibility to participate with him in his ongoing “kingdom building. Do you see this as valid as a Christian person and member of this local church community?

I encouraged people to ask the Holy Spirit to re-tune our hearts on this matter of giving and suggested that St Petri is a church that is indeed “kingdom building” – not to keep our buildings and other things looking nice to keep up with the Jones’s or look good in the public view – but essentially to fulfil God’s mission with him – the share the love and hope of Jesus with people around here. How does this sit with you and your journey of faith at the moment?

PRAY
Spirit of the Risen Jesus, help me give generously and fulfil your calling on my life. Help us a a congregation to participate fully with you in your ongoing gospel kingdom mission to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone. Amen.