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Edward F. Markquart

Walking in the way of the Lord

Stewardship   II Corinthians 8:1-15

(For the pastor:  this sermon can use either PowerPoint or overheads.  The sermon is showing six overheads/pages from PowerPoint. I used overheads because that is what was available in those days, but visuals such as overheads or PowerPoint are fine teaching tools for a sermon.  In fact, the sermon will feel much like a classroom and that is good.  As with all sermons, this one needs to be adapted to your congregation, but the concepts are still valid. The overheads are printed at the end of this sermon.)

Today’s sermon has a title:  Walking in the way of the Lord concerning money, and the essence of the sermon for today will be showing you six overheads which illustrate what is being taught. 

On the top of the first overhead, you see the title of the sermon and the thesis for today:  in bold print, WALK IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD CONCERNING $ OR MONEY. That is our theme. Underneath the title is a drawing of a dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and from the beak of the dove, you will notice that the dove is holding onto a heart (drawing) and inside that heart are words:  “Deep Feelings of thanksgiving, compassion, charitable love, and wanting to help others.”  That is what the Holy Spirit always brings to our hearts:  deep feelings of thanksgiving, compassion, charitable love, and wanting to help others in need; and these feelings propel us to walk in the way of the Lord.  That is why there is a drawing of a path or road coming from the heart.  These deep feelings energize us to walk in the way (a path or road) concerning money.  What are words written on this path or way?  “First and Best.”  When you walk in the way of the Lord concerning money, you realize that all money is a gift from God and that we give the first portion and best portion of our income and that reveals what are hearts feel.  When you give the first and best, that tells what is happening in your heart.  … The next set on words on the overhead are:  “Danger: dollars = God = idolatry.”  There is a danger on this road, on this path, that for all people, including Christians, that money will become our god and the Bible calls this idolatry.  … The next set of words on the way of God concerning money are:  “Widow, Zacheus and Barnabus.” The Bible gives us many stories, but especially three stories which are positive and helpful about those who walk in the way of the Lord concerning money.  The widow in the temple gave all she had.  Short, little Zacheus who climbed a tree to see Jesus repaid his debts fourfold and gave fourfold of what he needed to for the poor.  Barnabus of the Book of Acts sold his property to help a widow.  Here are three positive stories about Christians walking in the way of the Lord concerning money.  The next phrase on your overhead is “generosity to the poor.”  Of course, the whole Bible, Old and New Testament, talk about caring for the poor.  The book of James says clearly:  “Now this is pure religion:  to take care of widows in their suffering and remain unstained from the world.”  The target of much giving in the Bible is a widow because they were poor.  … The next phrase on this overhead is “Macedonia and Corinth.”  Here were not individuals but two congregations who were positive examples of what it meant to walk in the way of the Lord concerning money.  Here were two poor congregations, eager to give, giving of their own free will, generously and joyfully, first to God and then to others in need.  … The next phrase is “Christian $ for Christians.”  In the Old and New Testament, the offerings seem to be designated for other Jews and Christians.  The targets of their offerings seem to be “in house.”  But nowadays, our Christian offerings are for all people.  … The next line on the way of the Lord is “tithe = 10% = no rules”  What that tells us is that the guide in the Old Testament was the tithe, or 10%, but a tithe is not mentioned for Christians in the Christian community. The tithe is not meant to be a legalistic burden for the New Testament community. The tithe is not the rule for Christians, but it was the rule in the Old Testament.  As Paul says in II Corinthians, “we do not have any rules” concerning money as we walk in the Christian way of the Lord.  The next line on the way is “proportionate giving.”  There were no rules for Christians to follow, but the Apostle Paul encouraged early Christians to give proportionately. Give a percentage, and that is what we encourage within our congregation.  Figure out a percentage and give that to charity.  The next line:  “exceedingly generous.”  Christians are to be exceedingly generous in our giving.  The last line of the first overhead is:  “Good givers: no boasting.”  Jesus says regarding giving, that we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing; we are to be private about this and not let our giving be an occasion for showing what a good Christian we are.  … Now, on the left of the page, outside the road, is the word, “guilt.”  Guilt does nothing.  You notice that guilt cannot penetrate the road; guilt is not part of the way of the Lord.  You can make Christians feel guilty about what they do not give; but guilt will not result in generous hearts but guilty, negative hearts. On the right of the overhead, outside the way, is the phrase, “do this.”  Commandments to give have neither power nor effect.  The only power that works is at the top of the diagram, the Holy Spirit, who creates in our hearts, deep feelings of thanksgiving, compassion, charitable love, and wanting to help.  These spiritual qualities help us to walk in the way of the Lord.  This first overhead is the key teachings that guide the principles of Christian stewardship within our congregation.

The second overhead is entitled:  GOOD NEWS, GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH with a big smile on the top of the page.  This is what is happening in our congregation and setting.  The next line is:  “Des Moines, Kent, Federal Way.”  These are the communities we serve. The next line is:  “$24,000 - $28,000.”  This is the average household income for the households living in these three communities.  The next line is:  “3% = $330,000” which means our average household gives 3% of its income to this parish, perhaps more to other benevolent charities, and this amounts to $330,000, the size of our budget and expenses.  Underneath those figures, we see three columns:  The left column is entitled “Benevolences” and under that is “$103,000 or 32%.” Under benevolences, you notice that we give $47,000 to world hunger, $21,000 to missions in our community, $9,000 to the synod office, and $20,000 to other Luther missions in the USA.  On the second or middle column, you notice the word, ‘Staff,” and underneath that, the figure “$122,000 or 37%.”  Underneath this column for staff, I have listed some of the more prominent things the paid staff do at Grace, “70 sermons, 27,820 people at worship, 1,000 hours of counseling, 13 adult baptisms, 42 adult affirmations of faith, 24 transfers, care for 500 families, 21 weddings, 240,000 pieces of paper printed, 220 worship services.”  The third column on the left is our “Program.”  Underneath that is “$96,000 or 30%.”  That includes $24,000 for heat and light, $40,000 for office expenditures, $28,000 for program supplies and people.  And so this overhead gives you a feeling for our budget and our giving.

The third overhead is entitled, in bold print:  BAD NEWS, GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, and then an image of a frown.  Beneath the title, in bold words, we hear that “only 3% is sinful!!!”  We are the richest nation in the world. We are the richest Christians in the world.  We do not live in villages of Africa or the barrios of Latin America.  We live in the breadbasket of the world, and we alive in the richest section of that breadbasket, the Pacific Northwest and Seattle, where employment and wages are high, compared to the rest of the nation, and astronomically high compared to the rest of the world.  I know, so are the expenses of living here.  Then below that you see that we have 450 households on our membership roster and below that another 80 households who do not belong but visit us and are under our care.  The next items on the overhead list our giving numbers:  120 households give $00; 148 households give $1 – 300; 42 households give $300 – 500; 60 households give $500 – 1000; 80 households give $1000 +.  In other words, as you look at the next statement on the overhead, you notice that “Many households are not giving in the way of the Lord.”  That is the reason for this sermon; there is a lot of room for improvement.  The next statement on the overhead is very important:  “Some are.”  I don’t know who is walking in the way of the Lord from this chart; I don’t know any of the giving patterns in our church; I never read any one’s financial giving.  I did once, some years ago, and I was so depressed I vowed to never read those numbers again, and I haven’t.  But I know that some are giving in the way of the Lord concerning money, and I am grateful for that.  The next line is:  “Poor = elderly = single parents.”  Yes, there are many poorer households in our congregation who we don’t expect to give as high as percentage. On the other hand, some of our greatest givers are the poorest people in our midst.  The next lines I feel are fairly profound:  “Affair, pastor comes and talks with you; alcohol, pastor comes and talks with you; violence, pastor comes and talks with you; few $, no one talks with you.” So if you are having problems with marriage, alcohol or family violence, we talk with you right away, as soon as we find out, in order to help.  But when Christians are irresponsible in walking the ways of the Lord concerning money, no one says anything.  I mean, no one!!!

The fourth overhead, in bold print, says:  GOOD NEWS:  OUR POTENTIAL and then another smiley face.  This page is a list of the benevolences of our congregation if we gave to the church at 3%, 4%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%, 9%, 10%.  On this page, we are looking at our level of benevolence, how much we, as a congregation, give to charities.  Notice that the top line shows “330 households X  $10,000,000 (income of 330 families) X 3% = $300,000 minus fixed expenses of $200,000 = $100,000 for charities.  The following then are columns of each percent of our incomes given to our church and the second column is how much we would give away.  4% = $400,000 – 200,000 (expenses) = $200,000 for charity.  5% = $300,000.  6% =  $400,000.  7% = $500,000.  8% = $600,000.  9% = $700,000.  10% = $800,000.  … The next line is in bold print:  INCREDIBLE!  We, as a congregation, can do incredible things together if more of us walk in the way of the Lord regarding money.  The next bold line is “Many can afford to give in the way of the Lord.” As you remember from the first overhead, the key is the dove that is the Holy Spirit that is carrying a compassionate heart in its beak.  Many of you can afford to do this. The next line says simply:  “Needed:  positive changes.”  And the last line on the overhead says:  “Back to the basics.”  That means for us to go back to page one and reacquaint ourselves with the basics of Christian giving.

The fifth overhead has a title in bold print:  SMALL VISIONS AT 4%; the next line says in bold print:  AN EXTRA $100,000.  What could we do with an extra hundred thousand dollars per year to give away compassionately and intelligently?  So I telephoned four people who are well known mission people in the Lutheran church and asked them what they would do if we gave them an extra hundred grand this coming year.  Reading the overhead, they said:  “1)  John Halvorson, World Hunger, $35,000 for Ethiopia and Indians in the western Guatemala.  $35,000 for 180 wells in west Africa.  $35,000 to educate American Christians about development and advocacy.  2) Mark Thomsen, World Missions, $30,000 for a doctor in Namibia, $30,000 for 30 schools in the Central Africa Republic, $40,000 for the Upper Volta, Fulani tribe, Muslims 3) Jim Berquist, American Missions, $30,000 to help establish a new congregation, $30,000 for inner city churches and new roofs and furnaces, $30,000 for a salary for an inner city pastor.  4)  Jim Fergin, Lutheran Compass Center, downtown Seattle, “Split three ways One third for alcoholic treatment center; one third to get men out of the downtown center, new jobs, and one third to fund our homeless shelter.”  When you look at this overhead, it is amazing what we can and could do with an extra hundred thousand for missions. The possibilities are endless.  And 4% is a reasonable goal; an extra $100,000 would be an increase of 30% in our congregation and that would only happen with a miracle of extraordinary proportions.  But then, we are the richest Christians in the universe.

The sixth overhead is a review of the first page but expands the basic concepts.  The title of the page is THE WAY SALVATION WORKS.  This is a flow chart of the way things work with God and the Holy Spirit.  Below is a picture of a Bible and the words printed by the Bible are “The Word is preached and the Spirit is present.”  Salvation begins with the Word.  The next picture below is a drawing of an ear and near the drawing of an ear are the words, “Hear and understand; hear and reject/not understand.”  So all of us are hearing these words; some understand and others don’t.  The next drawing below is of a cross with four words, “Faith in Jesus Christ.”  The primary work that the Spirit-filled Word does to us and for us is to create faith in Jesus Christ.  And below the cross of faith in Jesus Christ, is a drawing of the dove with the Holy Spirit inside of it. And below the beak of the dove, Holy Spirit, with a heart hanging in its mouth, and inside of our heart, are “deep feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, understanding, strength, thanksgiving, charitable love.” And at the bottom of the heart, it opens up into a path, the way, which says, “The Way:  We walk in the ways of Christ.” On the far left of the page, outside of the way, are the negatives: “guilt, naughty, be good” which do nothing to help us walk in the way. On the right, outside of the way, are “The ten commandments, law, obey” and these also do not create a heart full of love.  Not one of the Ten Commandments ever asks us to love God or our neighbor.

So this is the way salvation works.  May God work the miracle in us so that we hear the word of God, believe in Jesus Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, are given a heart full of wisdom and other spiritual qualities; in order than, we all may walk in the ways of the Lord in our daily lives.”  Amen.

(For the preacher, the next pages are the overheads. The overheads are useful to follow the train of thought but cannot be used in your congregation or time in history.  A preacher would need to created new overheads or Power Point after digging out the necessary materials for the sermon.)

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