Happy Thanksgiving to my Dear Friends through Christ Jesus:
Last month I wrote about all the good work stemming from the
faith filled people at Peace. I wrote about how we have
accomplish these ministries with limited funds and wise
stewardship. Toward the end of the letter, I asked the question,
“With all that the Lord does through this Lampstand called
Peace Lutheran, for as shrewd and frugal as we can be in
carrying out Christ’s ministry, with all the saints and sinners we
currently have, how can we not have enough, when we all know we have plenty?”
I finished the letter oddly by claiming, “I do not have the time or desire to worry about financial matters, I’ll leave that one up to you.” You see, if I have money, I’ll either spend it or give it away. If I don’t have it, I don’t spend it and give away less. I’m
definitely not the person to give financial advice, nor do I have even a remote say so,
in how another person spends their hard-earned dollars. That my friends, is up to
you, giving is between you and God. However, being a minister of Word and
Sacrament I can/must/will teach you about what the Bible says regarding the giving
of your time, talent and treasure. You might be a little surprised at the conclusions.
We need to go way back in time, to the beginnings, Genesis, where Adam and Eve
are given the world on a silver platter and commanded to be “Fruitful!” Do
something, anything with the life God has given, take care of this world and the
people around you.” Wow! What a gift. Granted, human beings make this task
harder than it should be, but still, what a gift.
Anyway, the very first people born on this good green earth are given the names of
Cain and Able. Both of them are doing the will of the Creator. Cain is growing crops
and Able is raising sheep. And get this, the two of them bring to God the first fruits
of their labor. Think about that… Are there any commands from God to do this?
No. No one forced or even asked Cain or Able to make a sacrifice. Giving back,
giving to God is built right into our human nature. It is just one more thing that
makes us unique within glorious creation. You and I have been created to be a
giving people, just like God is a giving God. Why? Because giving is the only way
to take care of the world we have been put in charge of. God gives. We give.
When we come the formation of the Jewish faith, laws were put into place, detailing
tithes and sacrifices as a ritual, but when Jesus enters the picture, all the legalistic
requirements of giving are criticized quite harshly. To Jesus, it all comes from the
heart. Once a person sees Jesus and all that God has done, a human being will
give from the heart. Yes, Jesus talks about giving quite often, more than he talks
about love, faith and prayer, combined. But from Jesus, we learn that giving is
always a matter of the heart and always out of gratefulness. It is the nature of God
to give. Everything you have, everything you do, everything you are, is a gift from
God. Therefore, it is your nature to give.
In all the churches I have served, six to be exact, and probably most all churches in the country have a certain time of the year when they reach out to their flock, trying to determine how many donations it will take to keep their doors open and continue doing ministry for the next year. Sometimes they call it “A Stewardship Drive.” However, I can’t “drive” a single person to be a good steward. A good steward only comes when God touches your heart, and the work of Christ becomes a priority. Jesus teaches plainly in Matthew’s gospel, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” All I can do is proclaim the message of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament and pray that the Holy Spirit touches your heart with God’s rich treasures. I can only pray that more and more will begin to embrace our human nature of being a giving people.
That is why I do something quite different for our “Stewardship Drive.” I inherited this practice from Rev. Floyd Columbus Trexler, my father, a saint and sinner that died twenty-four years ago. I have used it ever since. Through a combined sixty years of ministry, between the two of us, every church has continued to do the Lord’s work and grow stronger in their faith. It is a process that shows “what you give” is between you and God—it is about growing closer to your Creator—and growing closer to God brings Peace.
Later this month, you will receive a “Love Letter to God,” actually you will receive two of them. Pray about what you truly want to leave behind when this blessed life comes to a close, and how you can be that giving person, just like your Father created you to be. Write that promise down. Just like Zacchaeus made those promises to Jesus, write it down, just like God’s promises to us are written down.
During the season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior, there will be two decorated boxes by the altar. Simply place one of those promises in the envelope provided, seal it tightly and drop the promise into the box, as a Christmas present to Jesus. These Christmas gifts will remain unopened and returned to you about the same time next year. Simple as that. No one sees it, but you and God.
Remember I mentioned two Love Letters? Write that same promise down on the second letter and keep it as your reminder. Afterall, we are not omnipotent like God.
We sometimes can’t remember from one day to the next. Now your Heavenly Father has one and you have one. At the end of next year, when you receive your unopened letter back in the mail, reflect if God has kept the promises made to you and have you kept yours?
Like I said earlier, I am not the person one should seek out for financial advice, because
using a “Love Letter to God,” to set a budget for the following year may not make the best financial sense to some, but you got admit folks, it makes for a wonderful spiritual journey. Hope you come along.
Pastor David Trexler