September 25, 2022
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· Masks are required by those not vaccinated as well as social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson's Family as they Mourn the Passing of Gary this Week , Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston has been moved into a Hospice unit, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur and family as they mourn the loss of Thomas Mulholland was a postman since 1963, Judy Welcher, Dr Dyke, Harlan Marx, Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, Kay Werner, Ukraine, Arlene Pawlik, Angela and Tristan, Bonnie Pillers and family her brother’s dementia has taken a turn for the worse , Deb Weller.
*CALL TO WORSHI
L: Come, Lord Jesus, the joy of your kingdom calls to us.
P: We seek your call in the quiet of our heart, and in the movement of our being.
L: May we push away all competing masters,
P: That you alone we might serve with thanksgiving and joyful praise. Amen.
From a world where pain abounds, we come, O Lord. We come with broken hearts, broken promises, broken lives and relationships. Hold us close this day, and allow us to glimpse your holiness and healing. Help us to be a part of your love poured out onto our world. Amen.
*HYMN Come Christians Join to Sing #150
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
With the Psalmist we come before our Lord asking, “Help us, O God of our salvation for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins.”
We trust in a God who bends low to hear our confessions, to touch our hearts. Let us lay bare our failings that we might be made new in the blood of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
All around us, Gracious Lord, we see the problems of our world. Like Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead”--or in Washington DC or in our hometown? We have been so busy with work and family, with managing things for our well-being. We’ve lost sight of your call to share the gifts you have given with those who are hurting. We have hoarded. We’ve turned away from the pain around us. We’ve assumed that your call to generosity was for others. Forgive our self-centered view of faith. Help us to open our hearts to find the joy of sharing and living into your grace. Amen
WORDS OF ASSURANCE adapted from 1Timothy 2: 4-6
“God desires that everyone might be saved, for there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind. Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself for the forgiveness of our sins.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
(Please greet those around you as we all say these words in unison.)
May the peace of Christ be with you. And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
“Let us find ourselves in the words we hear this day, Gracious Lord. Let us discover that one small truth that convicts us, while also offering us new life and new possibilities in your glorious name. Amen.
Jeremiah 8:18,Jeremiah 9:1
18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. 19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: ‘Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?’(‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images with their foreign idols?’) 20 ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.’21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? 9 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!
Luke 16: 1-13
16 Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”3 Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” 6 He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” 7 Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.10 ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
SERMON It’s Just Money!
Several years ago, when my youngest daughter was newly out of nursing school and finally earning a nice pay check, I was moaning to her about an unexpected bill that was going to wipe out my savings. She listened to me for a time before saying “Mom It’s just money. They’ll give you more in two weeks!” --Out of the mouth of babes! Or in this case 20 somethings! (By the way, I often remind her of these words of wisdom now that she has a family and those same unexpected bills arrive!)
How we think about our money and manage our finances is an important task of adult life. We’ve learned to ask ourselves, “Do I NEED this thing that has caught my attention, or do I just want it?” We ask, “If I say yes to this now, will I regret it tomorrow when the mortgage bill or the rent is due?”
It can be worrisome. Experts tell us we should have at least 2 months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Today some are saying we need up to 6 months to feel secure. And then there are other things to consider too. How much will we need to retire, and will we have enough? Will we be able to send our children to college? Can we afford to buy that house that we like? What will be the expenses if we do? What happens if we need to go into a nursing home? And even, how will we plan our estate so that we leave the unused portion of God’s blessings to offer life and wellness into our world?
It can make us anxious. It can push us to grab a calculator in the middle of the night when we suddenly remember that a bill is due. So much is tied to our checkbook, to our 401K plan and to our investment portfolio.
Our scriptures for today even hint that how we use our resources can be tied to the Kingdom of God. It’s not like buying a ticket into heaven, but how we use the gifts and resources that have been put into our hands—well, it matters.
Our Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah deals with this in a more remote way. It’s definitely NOT the passage to read when we are feeling down in the dumps. Lament is the name of the game here. Jeremiah is heart sick for the people of God. Their worst fear has come to pass and they don’t know what to make of it. You see, Jerusalem was the setting for God’s holy temple. They thought of it as God’s residence, the place where God literally lived. There were two kingdoms of God’s people. Israel to the north and Judah to the south. 135 years earlier the northern kingdom of Israel had been overrun by the Assyrians and then wiped off the face of the earth. At that time it looked like the Assyrians were going to continue moving south and take Judah with its capital city of Jerusalem, as well. It was close, but it didn’t happen. “Why?” They asked. “Well,” others responded, “It’s because God would never allow his temple to be desecrated and destroyed.” They had become a bit complacent under that assumption. They had come to rely upon the belief that God would always protect Jerusalem. They were safe from all enemies!”
And then the Babylonians rolled into town! At first they just demanded tribute to be paid and they put a puppet king on the throne. But then….then they did what the good people of Jerusalem thought could never be done. The Babylonian Army completely took over the city, wiping out the meager force of Judah’s protection, destroying the temple and even rounding up any who had leadership capacity and marching that group across the wilderness to be prisoners of war in Babylon. HOW COULD GOD HAVE ALLOWED THIS?
Jeremiah offers the answer earlier in chapter 8. There God is accusing the people of perpetual backsliding, holding fast to deceit. “From the least to the greatest, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying peace, peace when there is no peace.” Jeremiah tells them that God had gotten fed up with their greed and abuse of the poor, the way they ignored his commands to gather more wealth. God was allowing Babylon to be his instrument of punishment.
In today’s reading Jeremiah says, “My joy is gone. Grief is upon me. For the hurt of my poor people, I am hurt. I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Even the healing ointment that famously comes from Gilead, a mountainous region that has long been the place where the fleeing faithful can run and hide is of no use. It can’t make a dent in the suffering of God’s people.
So what is a servant of God to do? How are we called to be, to manage our finances, to be faithful in today’s world? What does it look like?
Let’s bring Jesus into the conversation. (That’s always a good idea, right?) He offers a parable that feels pretty confusing to us, and maybe even a bit offensive to our modern ear. But we need to sort this out because when Jesus tells a parable, it is designed to teach us something about how we are to live as people of faith.
This is a story about a manager who’s about to be fired. The boss wants to see the books, and then the manager is out. Oh NO! How will he survive? He’s not strong enough to do manual labor, and it’s too humiliating to beg. But this manager was smart. He decided to feather his nest with what he did have—the debts of his boss. So he went to those who owed the rich man, and he worked with them to recalculate those debts in such a way that they owed much less. Now they were obliged to the manager. Now they could give him a place to stay, offer him a cushy job, make referrals to other positions. He would be able to start over again.
Was it ethical? NO, but surprisingly it did earn him the respect and admiration of the boss. This guy knew how to take care of himself. Jesus ends the parable with these words, “Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into eternal homes.” Another way we might say this is “Use earthly things to participate in the Kingdom of God, to create that kingdom in our midst—in our homes and neighborhoods, in our communities and in our world.” Use what we have to lift up others in order to bring hope to the hopeless, to offer healing to our world, and in the process we, too, are blessed.
I think of my daughter’s words of wisdom. “It’s just money, Mom. They’ll give you more in 2 weeks.” When we use our money in ways that bless the world, are we not buying our way into the Kingdom of God? Doesn’t God put resources into our hands so that we can use them well, not just for ourselves but for our hurting world?
God has given us the means to do our jobs. He gave us aptitudes and talents. He exposed us to experiences that formed us. He gave us the opportunity to study in college or as apprentices or in other ways.
God gives us our possessions—homes, cars, our toys and tools, even our garden produce and that dented popcorn popper at the back of your pantry. Didn’t God have a hand in giving you all of this?
God gives us our finances. The cash in our wallet and checking account, our insurance policies, our investments, 401Ks, pension plans, Social Security payments. How easy it is to assume that all of these things are MINE, and MINE ALONE. I worked hard for these things. I earned it. I shouldn’t be asked to throw away my effort and hard work for others who might not deserve it.
In our society we celebrate people who have made it—Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg. But have you noticed the stories about these titans of wealth signing the Giving Pledge? It’s a promise to give away at least half of their wealth in their life-time or upon their death. They are divesting themselves of wealth in order to make a dent in the real human problems of our world.
A couple weeks ago there was also a story on the news that Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, the very successful outdoor clothing company, had transferred his company into a trust when all the profits would go to battling climate change. That’s pretty remarkable.
Maybe we should celebrate these folks, not because they got rich, but because they are giving so much away to make our world a better place. Several of them, like Warren Buffet, planning to give it ALL away—Billions of dollars to invest in the well-being of our world.
And if they can do it on such a grand scale, and if God invites us to do it on our more modest scale, maybe we should consider how we can use what God has given to ease our way into the kingdom. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It’s not buying our way into heaven. What we are talking about is to act in ways that change our perception of what is important. It allows us to see the bigger picture, to feel a connection to something that is beyond ourselves. It lights up a corner of our heart with joy because we know that we’ve participated with God for the healing and hope of our world.
And life will give us more money in just a couple weeks! Our needs WILL be met and in the process of giving, we will feel that all important connection with our God.
I don’t believe that God is in the punishment business. I don’t think God was smiting the folks in Jerusalem. But I do believe that we often live the consequences of our behaviors or of other people’s bad choices. Sometimes bad things just happen, and we can’t discern a cause at all. I also believe that in the grace of Jesus Christ we are invited and enabled to share our lives and our resources in ways that bring joy and life to all—including ourselves. That might not be heaven in the traditional way that people think of it as a destination for when we die, but it is definitely life eternal which begins right now.
Maybe the balm from Gilead in this context is our life that is led forward by God taking our hand and leading us into new ways of being. Let’s all live the kingdom of God and walk with our Lord.
“It’s just money, Mom. They’ll give you more in a couple weeks.”
Praise be to Christ our Lord. Amen
*HYMN We Give Thee But Thine Own #428
(You may be seated.)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from The Confession of 1967.. 9.46)
Our reconciliation through Jesus Christ makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation…..
The Church calls us to use our abilities, possessions, and the fruits of technology as gifts entrusted to us by God for the maintenance of God’s family and the advancement of the common welfare….
A church that is indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic affairs…makes a mockery of reconciliation and offers no acceptable worship to God.
*CLOSING HYMN There Is a Balm in Gilead #394
*CHARGE & BLESSING