We’ve come to that time when we’re asking for your pledges for the coming year so that your Vestry knows how to budget for next year. So, this is my opportunity to talk about my favorite topic and yours! I say that it’s my favorite topic and yours with tongue in cheek, for after talking about stewardship for the 41 years I’ve been a priest, I know fully well how a sermon on stewardship is viewed by the average person in the pew.
I’ve had people say to me things like this: “I invited my friend to come to church with me today, but if I had known you were going to talk about money, I wouldn’t have done that.” My answer to that is, “That’s why I didn’t tell you I was going to talk about money. I wouldn’t want you not to bring your friend to church.”
Or there’s this one: “All the church ever talks about is money!” My answer to that is, “Not so!”
Or this: “You shouldn’t ask people to pledge. You should live on what people put in the plate and let it go at that.” My answer to that is, “How would they know what they should put in the plate if you never talk about it?”
And then there’s this one: “When I come to church, I want to hear about Jesus, not about money.”
Well, I’m glad you said that. Jesus talked a great deal about money. He used it to teach about the kingdom of God, as in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price and the Parable of the Lost Coin. In fact, 16 of the 38 parables deal with money and stewardship. He warned us that money could be a barrier to our salvation. For example, he taught us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. He actually told one rich young man that for the good of his soul he needed to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Jesus realized that young man couldn’t love God and his neighbor with all of his heart, mind, and soul because he loved money too much. And Jesus lifted up as a virtuous example the widow who gave all that she had to the temple treasury.
Jesus talked a lot about money. Why? Because money is one of the most powerful forces in life. We all know it’s power. We know the stress produced when there isn’t enough of it, and for some persons there’s never enough. It can ruin friendships and marriages; it can destroy trust; it can become more important than anything else in a person’s life. It’s so crucial to life that three of the 10 Commandments deal with it, including the first and the last.
While there’s much negative power in money, it’s also a powerful force for good. It builds churches, hospitals, and schools; it enables the creation of great works of art and music. Linda and I watched the Ohio State /Wisconsin football game last night. Go Buckeyes! What would college football be without a strong financial foundation?
Money helps those who are called to spread the good news of salvation; and, not to be overlooked, it has enabled the ministry that goes on in and through Emmanuel Memorial for over 145 years, where the sacraments have been administered, the Word of God taught and proclaimed, the sick and shut-in visited, and the poor given relief.
It’s this work that makes it necessary to have a pledge drive, but if we didn’t need to have a pledge drive, if all of our financial needs were met, we still should talk about money, because how we deal with this powerful force in life affects our relationship with God. If we don’t deal with it properly it can be a barrier to our relationship with God and, therefore, to our salvation.
Our stewardship theme this year is “Take the Next Faithful Step.” I love that slogan because it speaks to us no matter where we are in our spiritual journey. We’re not told what the “next step” is, because the next step is different for every individual. It depends upon the place from which you’re starting. “Take the next step” challenges each of us to progress in his or her stewardship of the gifts God has given us.
Only you can decide what that next step is in terms of your pledge. Is it to work closer to a tithe of your income? Is it to exceed a tithe? Perhaps it’s simply to make a pledge for the first time. Prayerfully consider what the next step is for you, and may it truly be a step that brings you closer to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We’re here today to receive what our Lord Jesus wants to give us, and that is himself, in his Body and Blood. Yet, he wants to give us himself so that we, in turn, may give ourselves to others, through the giving of our time, talent, and treasure. As one of our hymns puts it beautifully: “To give and give, and give again, what God hath given thee; to spend thyself nor count the cost; to serve right gloriously the God who gave all worlds that are, and all that are to be.” Take the next faithful step.
Sermon preached by the Rev’d Dr. Fredrick A. Robinson
Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
29 October 2023