I stand up here today exhausted, and yet filled with joy and satisfaction.
The past two days, I have been at Ankeny First with a few others from here at the church learning about how to be a better church for our members and our neighbors struggling with addiction, incarceration, mental illness, racism, life in general.
See highlights here: https://storify.com/RightNextDoor/right-next-door-5623dc20f44af4f567e61ee9
But this was not only a conference I attended, it was something I invested my time and energy in for the last nine months as part of the planning team.
And that investment grew and was added to over the past few months until it matured this weekend in 215 people, from 16 states, gathered in a sanctuary to pray, sing, learn, and be changed.
This month, we are exploring John Wesley’s advice to earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.
In The Message last week, I briefly touched on how John Wesley encourages us to truly make all the money we can with our work… as long as it is good for our souls and good for our neighbors.
And today, we are going to talk about what to do with that money… how to make your money do some work for God’s kingdom…. About how we invest our resources, how we save them instead of wasting or hoarding them.
Will you pray with me?
Our gospel reading this morning tells the story of a man going on a trip who delegates some responsibilities. He gives each of his servants some money to take care of while he’s gone. Two of them get started immediately and put that money to work… and it grows and doubles and multiplies. But the third, buries the money and sits on it. He is afraid to lose it and so he hides it. He hoards it and in doing so, he wastes it.
James Harnish tells two stories in his book, Earn. Save. Give. about children of the Great Depression. One is about Ivy League-educated brothers, Homer and Langley who withdrew from society. In 1947, police were called to their home because someone noticed a smell. They found both brothers dead in the house… one died in his chair, the other had been crushed by a booby trap he’d set for potential robbers. As the house was cleaned out, “the authorities found 130 tons of stuff, mostly junk… fourteen pianos… thousands of books… a dressmaker’s dummy, and part of a Model T Ford.”
The other story he tells is about a woman named Dorothy. She loved flying and served as a pilot during WWII. She worked as a nurse the rest of her career. She gave generously to her church. And when she died, she left $4.7 million to the school where she was trained and left a large gift to her church’s endowment.
One family hoarded their money and possessions out of fear… much like the third servant. The other family saved their money and gave it a purpose.
For our time of confession this morning, think about something in your life that you hoard… that you hold onto out of fear or compulsion. Share what that might be with your neighbor.
Are you hoarding God’s gifts? Or are you saving them?
Are you wasting the resources you have been blessed with? Or are you investing them?
This is the question presented to us today as we think about what it means to SAVE all we can.
And Wesley doesn’t go around spouting off this advice because he feels like it… no, he lived it.
He figured out early on, when he was a young pastor and not making much money, that he could live on 28 pounds a year in England. When he got a raise with his work, and as he gradually began to make more money from publishing and speaking, his income grew drastically. He truly was earning all he could and eventually his income reached 1,400 pounds annually – 50x what he had first made.
Yet, he continued to live on 28 pounds a year.
He didn’t see an increase in his salary as an opportunity to buy more stuff or wear nicer clothes – he saw it as an opportunity to save more and give more.
Wesley encourages us to see our income – all of the gifts and resources we have – as something that has a considerable role to play in God’s kingdom.
Yes, we are supposed to take care of ourselves and our family. We need to be well-rested and healthy and safe if we are going to be out there on the front lines working for Jesus.
But we aren’t meant to spend all of God’s gifts on ourselves.
“Do not throw the precious talent into the sea… Do not throw it away in idle expenses, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea. Expend no part of it merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life.”
Wesley wanted his people to invest their resources in the Kingdom of God.
Wesley wants us to put our resources to work.
- Sometimes, we act like the last servant, who dug a hole and buried the gifts.
This servant thought about the high standards of his master and didn’t want to disappoint by not doing something perfectly. So the servant did nothing at all.
This is the attitude that infects our minds whenever we see a sign-up sheet for some project at church and we think: Oh, I could never do that…
It’s the hesitation that creeps in when an opportunity to serve comes along and we think: There are so many people better suited for that… they are so much better at it than I might be.
It is also the compulsion that we have to be the best and have the best and look the best. It is the compulsion that causes us to work too much or get involved in too many things or spend all of our time and energy and resources to become the best at our job or at school or a sport so that we aren’t left behind in the dust… so we can be the best.
I understand that, and I find myself there more often that I want to admit.
Fear keeps us from investing in the lives of other people and the Kingdom because we aren’t sure about them, and because we aren’t confident that we are taken care of.
And fear is a powerful thing. There is no denying it.
But the truth is, all of these fears and compulsions keep us keep us from digging deep into relationships that really and truly will save our lives and further the kingdom of God.
- So maybe we should be like the first two servants in our gospel lesson from Matthew.
They received (earned) sizeable gifts, talents, resources, and thought… Aha! I know just what to do with this. They got to work and the investment grew and grew and grew until it doubled in size.
They didn’t spend their talents and they didn’t hoard them… they saved them and invested them.
We can save our resources and talents… maybe by not buying that Starbucks, or staying home and eating in more often. We can live a little bit more simply so that we have a little bit more to invest.
Right here at Immanuel, there are tons of opportunities for you to invest your resources in the kingdom of God.
Before we dismiss/As we got started today, Erin McGargill shared with us about one way we can invest time and money to change a child’s story. By reading to children, by placing books in their hands, we are making an investment in their future… and investment that will multiply many times over as their head start allows them to break generational cycles of poverty.
We can also invest in the health of a community by helping to put wells in South Sudan. Our investment of resources means bringing clean water to families, the time saved allows women and children to learn more, it works to combat diseases and creates the conditions for life and life abundant.
Every week there are opportunities to think a little bit less about ourselves and a little bit more about the people God has called us to care for… whether it is teaching Sunday School, or serving meals with CFUM, or sleeping outside in a cardboard box to raise money for homeless youth.
When we live more like the first two servants, we discover that our resources can be used to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, right here, and right now. We discover that our money and our time and our talents have a purpose.
Lives changed, disciples made, the world transformed.
Amen. And Amen.