What Does Your God Look Like?

 Inspired by Isaiah 42:14-16 & Matthew 23:37-39 on Majesty of Christ Sunday

This passage from Isaiah made me wonder, and please forgive me ladies if I’m overstepping here as a man because what do I know about childbirth, right? But this passage made me wonder if part of the reason why childbirth, is so difficult and painful, is to ensure that the mother is so invested in this child that she will do anything for it. Stay with me now, as I either enlighten you or dig myself into a hole I can’t get out of! Think of it this way, in any relationship, there is a threshold of when you can just leave and cut your losses, right? That point where the investment that you have put into this relationship is too high to give up now, and so you just keep putting in the work. In childbirth, the mother meets that threshold on day one! 

From the moment she takes that first look into her baby's eyes, she thinks, “We’ve already been through hell and back together, there ain’t noth’n that’s gonna take me away from you now!” This is the beautiful analogy that the author of Isaiah uses to describe God’s devotion to us. It’s an analogy that we wouldn’t understand without our shared experience of childbirth, either as participants or supporters, and it’s a devotion that we wouldn’t understand without a willingness to see God with female attributes and experiences like the pain of childbirth, the struggle of carrying a baby for nine months as your body is contorted to fit the baby, and of course, the devotion between mother and child, that is simply a devotion like no other. I’m sorry but I really don’t think dads can even touch it. 

However, believe it or not, this sermon is not about childbirth, or motherhood, or even parenthood. It’s more about, seeing God in all of God’s splendor, and exploring what gets in the way of us being able to not only do that for ourselves, but share it with others. So, here’s probably the biggest hurdle that keeps us from seeing God for who God really is, and that’s our bad habit of referring to God solely with male pronouns. For millennia, God has been seen as a man, specifically, a white, old, straight man at that. Now, is there anything inherently wrong with that? Absolutely not! What limits our view of God is when that’s our only image of God! Think of it this way, you know me, I’m a sci-fi geek so just bear with me. 

If an alien sent you a private message. A message only to you, and wanted to know more about Earth but was too scared to come down and see for themselves. Their first question to you is, “What does a human look like?” What would you send them? A picture of a man? Well, that’s only part of the human experience, isn’t it? That would not provide the full story. So, how about a picture of a man and a woman? Hmmm, that’s still only part of the experience! Ok, how about a picture of a man, a woman, an infant, a toddler, a grade-schooler, a middle schooler, a high schooler, a middle-aged person, and an elderly person. How about now? Is that the complete picture of what humans look like? Of course not! 

I’d bet my firstborn that the images going through your mind are mostly white people. And there’s nothing wrong with that, those are the images that our society has placed as our default. The challenge is to step outside your default position, and not stay there! So, back to our alien. Black and brown people would see those pictures and think, well, what about us? Aren’t we what humans look like too? Of course! So, you find black and brown versions of all those pictures, as well as East Asian and West Asian, and native peoples. Ok, surely we have enough pictures to show this alien what humans look like now, right? That’s when a transgendered and a non-binary person taps you on the should and says, “I don’t see us in any of those pictures.” Holy cow! 

How many pictures would you have to send this alien! Do you see where I’m going with this? Just being human, is endlessly multifaceted, and there are endless combinations of what it means to be a human. Now, imagine that same question, about God. What if the alien asked, “What does your God look like? A hundred years ago, this is the image that would immediately have been sent. But as we just explored, this image, of a white, old, straight God doesn’t even begin to encapsulate who God is. So, what images, and language even, would we send that alien to show them who our God is? That sounds like an overwhelming assignment, doesn’t it! Where would you even begin? Well, let’s begin with scripture on this Majesty of Christ Sunday, and see just how majestic God is described there. 

We already covered God as a woman in childbirth, so we would send them that lovely picture, but the Bible also imagines God as a midwife and a mother comforting her child. We would send them this one as well, the Bible is chock full of male images for God, like King, Lord, Groom, Husband, and Father. The Bible also describes God as human attributes, like breath, a face, ears, eyes, a finger, a hand, a mouth, a voice. So we’d have to send them all those images as well. And so far, these are just the human images and attributes that the Bible uses to describe God. And there are even more non-human descriptions! Let’s start with animals. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” 

So, we’d have to send those aliens a picture of a hen gathering her chicks. As well as a mama bear being robbed of her cubs, from Hosea. A dove from the Gospel of Mark. An eagle, from Deuteronomy. A lamb, from the Gospel of John. A leopard, from Hosea. Hosea must have liked wild forest animals. And let’s not forget a serpent, no not the one from Genesis, the one from Exodus that Moses lifted up, that John compared to Jesus. But the Bible doesn’t end there! It continues to imagine God as inanimate objects! So, we’d have to send those aliens pictures of: bread, a cornerstone, a cup, a drink, a fortress, a fountain, a gate, a hiding place, a horn, a lamp, a shield, a temple, a tower, a bush on fire, a cloud, a tree, dew, light, a morning star, like on our bulletin cover, rain, a root, the sun, a vine! 

But wait, there’s more. The Bible includes things you can’t even see to describe God! So, we’d have to send those aliens descriptions of things like: silence, the way, the feeling of shade or quenched thirst, thunder, wind, as well as hope, strength, truth. All these and more are how the biblical authors imagined God. And yet, this became our default. Now, I’m not going to get into why that happened. For now, it only matters that it did, and more importantly, how willing are we to step outside that defaulted position. Not do away with it! No one is saying to discard this image. But what are we willing to add to it, in the same way that our biblical authors added to this? 

Next week, we will be starting a new lectionary, a new one-year collection of assigned readings for Sunday. And this lectionary, not only comes with a selection of Bible passages to read, but the author, the Rev. Dr. Wilda Gafney, has also included her own translations of every passage. Why do I mention this, because she uses all kinds of descriptors and titles for God. Some are fascinating and unique like Sinai’s Fire, and Too Holy to be Pronounced. I love that one! Too Holy to be Pronounced! And you will also hear many feminine descriptors and titles for God like She Who Speaks Life, Mother of Mountains, and Womb of Creation. Some of these you will immediately fall in love with, and some will inevitably rub you the wrong way, or sound so unrelatable and foreign to you. 

When that happens, don’t give up, stick with it, be brave! For that is often a signal that God wants to take you somewhere new. And even if that’s not the case, know that whatever descriptor or title that you don’t care for, is probably bringing new life to someone else in this room. And if that’s not enough for you to stick with it, I don’t know what to tell you. Truth is, our God is so big! So much bigger than this. So much bigger than any one image, or adjective, or title. Our God is so much more majestic than that, and we owe it to the world to show God for who God really is, in all of God’s glory. Thanks be to God! Amen.


Barnfulls of Self

 Sermon inspired by Luke 12:13-21

3rd in three-week series on stewardship

Press play  ▷ directly above to watch video first.

Time, talent, and treasure, or as the genius of George Carlin would put it, time, talent, and “stuff.” Well, we’ve come to that point in our three-week exploration of stewardship, we’ve put it off long enough, we’ve explored time, we’ve explored talent, now we turn our attention to treasure, to stuff, to money. It’s a topic that many pastors avoid like the plague, and for good reason. It’s a sensitive subject in our society. And we certainly don’t want to stand up here and be just another voice, in a chorus of voices, asking for your money. At the same time, it is an absolute dereliction of duty for a pastor to not speak, teach, and preach, about money. For two reasons, one, because Jesus talked about money a lot! Some have said that Jesus taught about money more than any other topic. 

That’s not exactly true, but even when he wasn’t teaching about money, he was using money and wealth as an illustration to teach about something else. Either way, money and wealth were clearly on his mind all the time! And not that we pastors have savior complexes, or at least, we shouldn’t, but if money was an important topic for Jesus, the savior of the cosmos, shouldn’t it be an important topic for us, especially the spiritual leaders that Christ has called? The answer to that is clear, yes! The other reason why pastors shouldn’t avoid this topic is because everything we do has a spiritual element. I serve on our synod’s candidacy committee, that’s the committee that approves people to become pastors and deacons. We had a meeting last week and we got to have lunch with some of our seminarians. 

One of them was worried that they would not be prepared for the administrative side of the job. After assuring them that they were absolutely right about that, hey, I’m not gonna lie to them, I also gave them some advice. I told them to attend some meetings of every committee in your future church, even the most mundane, boring ones! Especially them! Like the finance and budget committees. Why? I told them, because our spirituality, our faith, our trust, is woven through everything we do, and don’t do, whether we like it or not, and money is no different. And as the spiritual leader of your congregation, you need to be there, to give a perspective on things that otherwise be overlooked. And I also told them to be prepared to invite themselves to such meetings because not every congregation is used to or comfortable with a pastor at meetings concerning money. 

Hmmmm, wonder why that is? I’ll tell you why, because we often operate under the illusion that we can direct which parts of our lives that God can be a part of! Which sounds pretty stupid when we say it out loud, doesn’t it! But we do it all the time with certain topics! Our money? Oh, we got this, God, no need to worry about us! Sex? Ewwww, what does God have to do with that anyway? Politics? Heh, heh, no, we like our politics sans religion, don’t we! Or at least that’s what we’ve tried to convince ourselves. Who are we kidding? God? Let me tell you something, and you can file this one under “things my pastor warned me about.” You are walking on shaky ground when you begin to tell God where God can and cannot be in your life. And “shaky ground” is putting it lightly. 

Which brings us to today’s Bible story. At this point in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ popularity has skyrocketed. People in the thousands are following him around as he travels from city to city throughout the region. On top of that, he has already made enemies of the religious leadership. Why? One guess, because he challenged them on their greed! Now apparently, he’s taking questions from the crowd, and someone asks him to intervene between him and his brother's dispute over their inheritance. Jesus says, “Who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?” In other words, who are you to tell me what to do? But Jesus gets over it and decided to tell them a story. A story about a landowner who had a very good year. The crops on his land greatly overproduce! 

So, what does he do, now that he has more stuff than he knows what to do with? He tears down his barns and builds bigger ones! What else would a rich landowner do? What else indeed. Some might say, well, maybe he’s just saving some for a rainy day, so that he doesn’t go hungry during a famine. But remember, he’s introduced to us as a rich landowner. He’s already saved for a rainy day. This is above and beyond that. Yet, he still wants to keep it all for himself. And he’s well within his rights to do just that! There’s nothing illegal about that! But that’s not what is concerning for Jesus here. It's deeper than that, and more troubling. And there are two clues that lead us there. The first one is kinda hidden. The Greek word that Luke uses for land here, is unusual. 

It’s not the typical word that one would use to refer to farmland or property. It’s a word that refers to something much bigger than that. It literally means district or region or even country! In other words, this guy owns half the county! Meaning, the success or failure of this guy's land, affects a lot of people, from the servants and slaves to the employed and unemployed. And that’s where the other clue comes in. The rich landowner plans to build bigger barns and says confidently, “That’s where I’ll store…all my…grain!” Did you hear those two words that tell us so much about this guy? All and my. He’s operating under the illusion, that what he has is all his, in its entirety! And no matter what we are talking about, that is never, ever, true. 

He may not have been violating a secular law, but there was a religious law concerning gleaning. Gleaning was a way to care for the poor that was built into the system. It worked like this, when the crops were harvested, there were lots of it that fell on the ground. Rather than having your workers go back over the land and pick it up, it was intentionally left for the poor to come and glean from the land as a way to survive. Therefore, no Godfearing landowner would ever say that it was all theirs. It never was, by law. Now, keep in mind, this guy owned half the county. This negatively affected a lot of people. All because he couldn’t realize, or refused to acknowledge, his responsibility to take care of those around him, after he was given more than he needed. 

And this can be applied to everything. Anything that God had given you more of than what you need: time, talent, food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, clothing, stuff! And then there’s the intangible things that we have an abundance of like love, care, freedom, fun, safety, peace, joy, just to name a few. What has God given you an abundance of, and how can you share it? It’s not just a responsibility, it can also be an adventure, trying to find creative ways to share from your abundance, especially when it comes to things like freedom and joy. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, is it! We’re here to talk about money. And specifically, as it concerns Bethlehem, right? I mean, this is a sermon, and we are here. So, let’s finish Jesus’ story. 

The foolish rich man dies that very night. And so all his hoarding for himself was for nothing. And who knows how many years he had done this, how many years he had caused those around him to suffer. And who knows if the next landowner will be any better! What Jesus was trying to teach those two brothers, was that this preoccupation with money and wealth and stuff, was a futile endeavor. You can’t bring any of it to heaven anyway. But their fault goes even deeper than that. Jesus says, “This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.” I had a hard time wrapping my head around what it means to be “rich toward God.” It’s an odd phrase, with questionable grammatical syntax, but I really liked the way The Message translation put it. 

That version puts it this way, “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” I love that. So, how do we put this into practice here at Bethlehem? First, we have to admit that we are the foolish rich landowner from this story. Compared with so many around us, both near and across the globe, we are rich, and we don’t give nearly enough of the excess away. Until we can admit that, nothing I say in this sermon will amount to a hill of beans. Next, is to ask yourself, if I’m not gonna keep it all for myself, then who do I want to gift it to? Now, before I die. As a pastor, I’ve seen too many families fight over money and possessions after a loved one dies. My advice, start giving some of it away, now, so that you can decide who gets it. 

And as far as Bethlehem goes, ask yourself this, what has God given you in abundance here at Bethlehem, and how can you share that abundance with others so that more people can experience what you have here. That’s the difference between survival and ministry. God has not called you here to survive. Let me repeat that, God has not called you here to survive. God has called you here to be nourished for service. And if you want others to experience what you have experienced here, then you need to do what you can to ensure that happens as effectively and efficiently as possible. With your time, with your talent, and with your treasure. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ministry is not for the faint of heart. It will ask you to take risks, to step out of your comfort zone, even with, especially with, your wallet. And as you do, know most assuredly that you do not reach into that wallet for your own benefit. Remember, God cannot love more than God already does. But you do it for the benefit of others, both here and out there, both now and for the benefit of future Bethlehemites you haven’t even met yet, ensuring that they have a place when they walk through those doors someday, hoping for the same nourishment and call to service that you have received here, in abundance. Thanks be to God. Amen.


The Extraordinary Ordinary Talents of the Visible and Invisible Kinds

 Sermon inspired by Luke 10:38-42

 2nd of three-week series on Stewardship

This is week two of our three-week series on stewardship. I’ve divided this series up using that good ol’ stewardship mantra: time, talent, and treasure. Last week we covered how we are called to be good stewards of our time, and this week we will explore how we are called to be good stewards of our talents, with the overriding principle continuing to be, we are called by God to be good caretakers of all that God has entrusted to us, and that includes our talents. So, let’s start with a working definition of talent, because I think we have a habit of inflating that word more than is helpful. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word talent is a talent show. And for me, being in a talent show sounds like a nightmare! 

If Hell turns out to be a real place and the way I find that out is by going there, I imagine it could very well be an endless talent show that I am in! Because I think what comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word talent are these amazing skills and performing arts that leave us in awe when we see them. But the reality is, God isn’t thinking about America’s Got Talent when God calls us to be good stewards! What God is really talking about is anything that you know how to do, and are pretty good at. Oh sure, for some people that might be something pretty extraordinary, like juggling sticks of dynamite while breathing fire but for most of us, they are talents of the more ordinary kind. 

And it also depends on how each person defines extraordinary, because for me, I am in complete awe of musicians. The fact that I can give Laura Ann a book with a bunch of lines and dots in it and she can sit at that big box of wood and wires and make beautiful music, just blows my mind! To me that is extraordinary. But again, let’s try to move away from the extraordinary, and closer to the ordinary. This congregation is full of talent, but how we define talent makes that hard to see sometimes. However, if we define talent as anything we know how to do and are good at, well that opens up all kinds of possibilities! That opens up all kinds of opportunities! 

That opens up all kinds of responsibilities in how we use them. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because first, we have to name them. And this is a big hurdle for a lot of us! We can be so self-denigrating. I hear people say all the time that they have no talent. Not only is that not true, it’s also kinda disrespectful if you think about it. I imagine God hearing that and thinking, “Really? I gave you no talents, no skills, no abilities, no passion for anything? Really?” We all have them. And the first step in using them is naming them, and, and this is the really hard part, admitting that you’re good at them! Oh, the pains people will go to in order to not have to admit that they are good at something! What is that? Where does that come from? I’ll tell you what it’s not, it’s not humility. 

How many of you remember that old Sunday school song, This Little Light of Mine? We should have sung that today! Many of us have been singing that song since before we started walking. And according to that song, what are we not supposed to do with our light? Hide it! Correct! But then we become adults, and the lyrics somehow change to, this little light of mine, I’m gonna not tell anyone about it because I don’t want to be accused of bragging. What’s that about! We’ve got to get over that silliness! So, I’ll go first, just to prove to you that God will not strike you down for admitting you have a talent and that you’re actually good at it. One of my talents is public speaking. Now, I could have done lots of things with that talent. I didn’t have to use it in the pulpit. 

I could have been a teacher, a politician, gag, or I don’t know, a self-help guru. Any of those would be worthy and equal, equal, uses of that talent. Yes, even being a politician. Now, do I think I’m any good at it? Well, of course I do! Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it! What kind of a narcissist would I be if I stood up here, took your money, week in and week out, and made you sit through bad preaching! I’ll tell you this, that’d be a surefire way to test if Hell is a real place or not! I’m kidding, I’m kidding! So, what are your talents? We mentioned musical talents, there’s a lot of that in this room. How about Lefse making? How about woodworking? How about working with children? Storytelling? Money counting? And I don’t mean in the miserly way. 

Our talents come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t always come in tangible ways either, which brings us to our short little Bible story that we just read. The first Bible passage that came to mind was this story of Martha and Mary—which had to have been a God thing because I’ve never connected this story to stewardship before. So, Jesus is invited by Martha into her home and she goes and does what any good host would do. She goes and gets a meal ready for their guest. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, Mary is sitting over there on her…floor, and just listening to Jesus! 

Martha gets upset, pleads for Jesus to intervene, and Jesus tells her that she is actually the one in the wrong here. That must have hurt. So, what did Martha do that was so wrong? Clearly, her talent was hosting, cooking, making people feel comfortable. On top of that, she was using those talents on the savior of the world? Where did she go wrong? Before we answer that, Mary is no slouch either. Remember, talents come in all shapes and sizes and tangibilties. And yes, I think I made up a new word there, but you know what I mean. I don’t know what other talents Mary has but I do know she has the talent of listening. And maybe even deeper than that, she knows when to use which talent at any given moment, which is a talent all on its own! 

And here’s another less obvious talent that Mary had, good instincts. She saw something in Jesus that told her that this was someone that she needed to spend time with, to take seriously, to listen to, even at the expense of social expectations. In this story alone, she had just as many talents as her sister Martha, they just weren’t that visible. So, I ask you again, what talents do you have? The talents of listening, like Mary? How about comforting? Welcoming? Empathy? Patience? Organizing? Just to name a few of the many talents that I’ve seen in this place. They just aren’t always that visible. Like the many people who we are remembering on this day. People who have gone before us, people who we miss dearly, who have left such an impression on our lives. 

This week, as you continue to explore your own talents and who you feel God calling you to use them, I encourage you to be mindful of the many talents that have been passed on to you by loved ones who are no longer with you, both the visible talents and the less visible ones. And while you’re at it, consider saying thank you to the people who are still with you in this life, who have also passed on talents to you. We leave too many things unsaid over the course of our lives, and All Saints Sunday not only comforts us in our grief over loss, but can also be that gentle reminder of who we still have in our lives, generating within us, hearts of gratitude. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Time Bandits

 Sermon inspired by Matthew 6:19-34

 1st in three-part series on Stewardship

Today we start a three-week series on the topic of stewardship. Stewardship is another one of those very churchy words. You don’t hear it much outside of the church world. It’s not as churchy as a word like, sanctification, but it’s still a pretty churchy word. So, what is stewardship? I think when most of us hear that word we think of money. No matter how much we are told that it’s more than just about money, money is still the first thing we think of when we hear the word stewardship. In addition to what we think, we probably all have very different reactions to the word. Some of us might cringe, others might get a shiver down their spine, others might clutch their wallets tighter. I think that’s why there’s such a push to convince people that stewardship is more than just about money. 

And it certainly is, which is why we won’t get to the topic of money until the third and final Sunday of this series. However, with today’s mainline churches struggling with their finances, shrinking attendance, budgets that feel heavier than they’ve ever felt before, I’m not gonna lie, it took a lot of convincing, to myself, to wait until week three to talk about money. Because truth be told, it’s not prayers or thoughts or well-wishes or getting more volunteers, that’s gonna lift churches out of this financial funk that we find ourselves in. At least, not by themselves. It’s gonna be cold hard cash, is what our brains keep telling us! And it’s hard to argue with that. But my brain also tells me that nothing is that simple. Maybe this topic needs some nuance. So, let’s see what we can do. 

By definition, stewardship is the job of being a steward, and a steward is someone who takes care of, manages, is responsible for, someone or something. In the church world, we believe that we are called to be stewards of all that God has entrusted us with. From the world around us, to her creatures, to the elements, to our fellow humans, to ourselves, and yes, our money and wealth. The underlying premise for this entire series is that we are called to be caretakers of all that we believe we have been given by God. Quick side note, just to keep us grounded, we are not the only ones called by God to be stewards. Who takes care of our air? Trees are the ones that have been called by God to be stewards of the air. 

Who takes care of our digestive system? Bacteria are the ones that have been called by God to be stewards of our digestive system. And don’t get me started on dogs, and all they do for us. In the past, the church has elevated humans above all other creatures and living things. This is not only an arrogant stance, but a harmful one as well. Because if we believe we rule over someone or something, the odds of us abusing that power is pretty darn good. But let’s get back on track. The catchphrase that caught on about a hundred years ago to teach people what stewardship entailed was: time, talents, and treasure. We still use this today, cuz it’s a great little catchphrase, and pretty accurate too. So I figured, why not separate this series with those! That’ll be easy, right! 

Wrong! That idea did not turn out as easy as I thought but I like a challenge so here we go. Time, time is something that is on our minds a lot, especially compared to centuries past. Imagine living a life when the only times that you needed to know were when the sun came up, when the sun was at its highest, and when the sun went down. That’s it! I don’t know about you but that sounds like total bliss. Today though, everything seems to revolve around time, doctor visits, store hours, going to the gym, coffee with your pastor, school schedules, when to take your pills, when to give your dog her pills, there’s just no escaping that clock. Did you know that there’s 56 days til Christmas? I know, that was cruel, but did you feel that as soon as I said it? 

For most of us, that either felt like a dagger to the heart or a punch to the gut! Rarely do adults hear that and get excited! That clock just feels like it’s always breathing down our necks though. And even worse, it’s always whispering in our ear, “Do you have enough time? Are you sure you have enough time?” And the answer to that question is almost always, “Yes.” I know it doesn’t feel that way, and I also know that you’re not gonna wanna hear this, keep your rotten tomatoes down, for now! I have a feeling this series is gonna be full of cold hard facts that make us uncomfortable, or hit a little too close to home. Don’t kill the messenger! Here’s the first one: We have time for things that are important to us. We make time for things that are important to us. 

Think about it, we complain all the time that there aren’t enough hours in the day but when something arises that is important to us, all of a sudden, we find a way to fit it in. And sometimes it’s for wholesome things like family time, and sometimes it’s for self-care things like walks or reading or grabbing a beer with a friend who doesn’t mind listening to you complain. And sometimes it’s for selfish things that we find the time for. No matter what it is, if it’s important to us, we find the time for it. Which is why, and here’s cold hard fact number two for today, get your tomatoes ready. I’m gonna let you in on a secret from a pastor’s brain! They’ll never tell you this, unless they’re a fool like me. But this is why, whenever someone tells a pastor all their excuses for not attending this or not participating in that, it just falls flat. 

Not because we pastors don’t care about your time, but because we pastors have all the same life stresses and frustrations and family garbage and busyness as everyone else. And yet, we’re expected to show up at everything! And do you really think we do that for the money? Do you really wanna go there? No, we show up because these things are important to us. And we want them to be important to you. And of course, we don’t expect you to show up to everything. But I at least wanted to give you another perspective before you tell your pastor, and I hope to God it’s still me after this sermon, about why you didn’t come to this or that. The point of this is not to make you feel guilty although I may be past that point already. My point is to give you perspective and guidance, as you ask yourselves either, “What is important to me?” or “Why isn’t that important to me?” 

Let’s end by turning our attention to our Bible reading, which was from Matthew. The word treasure is used several times and so you’d think this would have been perfect for the Sunday we go over money and wealth. But I noticed something else that I hadn’t before. Time is ever present throughout this reading, but you have to read between the lines. In this reading, Jesus is trying to give perspective and guidance on how we see our wealth but he uses a very interesting tactic. Almost all of the metaphors that he used, take up a lot of time in people’s lives. Let’s go through them real quick. Collecting treasures. Have you ever collected anything? Baseball cards, spoons, bells, Star Wars figures, whatever it is, it is a time-consuming hobby. Next one, Jesus talked about worrying. 

How many of you spend too much time worrying? It’s awful, isn’t it! If I spent half the time I worry on something more positive, who knows what I could accomplish! Next is food and drink. Now, for a big guy like me, Jesus almost lost me at, “Isn’t life more than food?” It took everything not to just check out at that moment! But also, as someone with an unhealthy relationship with food, I can totally relate to why he said that! And don’t get me started on the whiskey collection I started during the worst of the pandemic! Next one Jesus mentions is our appearance. This is a tough one to talk about, especially in these times, because it’s so easy to be labeled as vain if you spend too much time on your appearance, and if you don’t spend enough time on it, people start to worry about your mental well-being. 

Either way, we are a culture that is obsessed with appearance. When we meet someone who looks very different than us, maybe it’s a bunch of facial piercings or tattoos, or curly hair, or red hair, or someone’s weight loss or weight gain, our brains start short-circuiting or something! We get tongue-tied, we put our foot in our mouth, and we can’t think of anything else to talk about other than their appearance! What I wish Jesus would have said here is, “Why do you worry about what other people look like so much?” If I was his editor I would have had him add that. Point is, we spend an unhealthy amount of time on our own appearance, as well as others. And since this is a stewardship sermon, this begs the question, are we being good stewards of our time? 

If so, just let me know and I’ll put an extra star on your chart. If not, then it might be time to take inventory of your time and start asking some tough questions. How much time do I spend on everything? And since this is a sermon, the questions should include things like: How much time do I set aside, from the top mind you, not the leftover time at the end of the week, on things like—my relationship with God, my relationship with my church family, the growth of my church family? What is important to me? What is apparently not important to me? And why?! What I don’t think gets said enough, is that time, talents, and treasure, wasn’t meant to be a multiple-choice test. The truth is that God calls to respond to each of those in some way. 

Maybe not equally, but as you’ll see over these three Sundays, we’re called to respond to each. Not because God will love you more, and certainly not so you can stay in “good standing” with the church, but because the world needs our time, so badly. This world is never gonna heal without our time that we are called to generously give. So, as you take inventory of your time this week, that’s your homework, and if you want extra credit, and if you’re brave enough, do it with someone else who knows you well. You might be shocked at how they see your time versus how you see it! Either way, as you do this, know most assuredly my friends, that God always has time for you, never tires of your joys and sorrows and whining, and looks at each and every one of you as if you were the most important thing in the cosmos, even though you’re not. Thanks be to God. Amen.