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Fall - Change Stewardship Sermon 2017
Matthew 24:32-35;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,
Hebrews 6:13-20
October 15, 2017

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

As the joke goes, do you know the most important thing in comedy? Timing! (said way too fast to be timed well) We have heard scripture today which speaks about timing and the importance of being able to discern the signs around us to know when it is time for things to happen. In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the lesson of the fig tree; you know that summertime is coming when the branch becomes tender and puts forth leaves. Solomon, in the words from Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time for every matter under heaven, no matter how good or bad it may seem. Not only is there a time for laughing, building up and for peace, but there is a time for mourning, hating and war. The challenge that Solomon does not address is knowing when it is time for one and when it is time for the other.

It is rather easy to know when it is time for some things to happen. It is time to take the chicken off the grill when the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Now, how to you know when chicken has reached this temperature? Well, you can either use an internal thermometer, or you can cut it open and make sure there is no red flesh to be seen … but the first way is far more reliable!
Other questions on timing usually take more thought and conversation: When is it time to ask that person for a date? When is it time to tell that person that you love them? When is it time to break up with that person? When is it time to ask that person to marry you? When is it time to have children? When is it time to move, to change jobs, to ask for a raise, to retire? When is it time to treat that disease aggressively, and when is it time to enter into hospice care?

Sometimes we get stymied or paralyzed by the uncertainty of things to the point where we find it easier to reside in the current state of our being rather than take a risk and try something new. When Martin Luther said the words, “Sin Boldly,” he didn’t say it in order to give us free license to do whatever we want in life, knowing that God will forgive us. He followed those words, “Sin boldly,” with this, “but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death and the world.” In other words, sometimes you just have to take a chance in the face of changes, trusting God to be with you.

There will always be change happening in the world and in our lives. As we see the dry leaves falling off the trees, we know that the growing season is coming to an end in our part of the world. Soon the trees will be bare, the grass brown and the crops empty; the ground covered in snow and the air much colder. This is the reality that we call the changes of the seasons. Those who are able will escape it by going south, but most of us will stay here and endure a different kind of life for the next 5-6 months. The grass withers and the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. This much is true. We cannot deny it.

But in the midst of that truth, we have the promise of a faithful God that even though the grass withers and the flower fades, the word of the Lord will stand forever. We have the promised gift of the unchangeable character of Gods purpose. As the author to the Hebrews said in our second lesson, that unchangeable character of God’s purpose is our hope; that is the steadfast anchor of the soul. Life is full of change; God’s love and presence is unchangeable. Change requires decisions, and decisions require us to discern what time it is, whether it is a time to throw away stones or to gather stones together. And inherent in that discernment process is the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us. And when the process is unpleasant, the Holy Spirit promises to comfort and encourage us. And when we mistakenly make decisions which are selfish or hurtful, the Holy Spirit is there to knock us down, pick us up, and set us on a new course. That is the promise that anchors our soul!
So, what is it time for? Can you point to the presence of the faithful, generous God in your life? Can you remember how the Holy Spirit has been with you during those difficult times of discernment to help you get through? How have you been able to make it through the changes in life that you may at one time been dreading? Is it time for you to give a little more of your time or offerings to God’s mission here or in your community? As we consider our future as a Christian community, we know that it is time for something, something that will definitely involve change; something that the unchangeable character of God’s purpose will certainly bless.

Lutherans’ resistance toward change is well documented and joked about. How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? None – we don’t like change! But it is inevitable that change will happen in our lives. The only way we can face it is to discern together what God is calling us to do – how God is calling us to be part of the future of God’s mission here. To that end, I want to end my message with a good Lutheran prayer for courage in the face of an unknown future. In this prayer, we confess our hope, based in the faithfulness of God’s promises, for our future. Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.