11/14/04, Stewardship Sunday

“Opportunity”
“The summer is past, the harvest is ended
and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8: 20, KJV)

n our text we hear the Prophet Jeremiah crying because of the continual sins of the people of Israel . The worse part about it was that an opportunity for a cure was available, but they would not accept it. In the town of Gilead there were famous physicians who had a medicine, a balm, which was considered a cure all. However, as with all physical remedies we have to take the medicine.

In our New Testament, New Covenant, arrangement with God, He had made a way for us to have inward spiritual healing. Yet some continue to refuse the opportunity.

As a child I used to go to Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. No other children would be there, and few adults, and finally it disappeared because of the small turn out; but I went because my Daddy was there. I recall one older man who used to complain how he had missed out on life. Mainly, he did not take the opportunity for the “G.I. Bill” free college education offered to veterans. Thus, he had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, as he graphically put it.

The most often heard lament of old age is not so much for sins committed, but for missed opportunities. You always intended to complete your degree but somehow you never did. You perhaps wanted to cash in your retirement savings and open a much needed restaurant near your neighborhood, but you have waited too long, you missed your window of opportunity.

Lost opportunities are especially haunting for the follower of Jesus because one has typically turned one's direction away from the calling of the Holy Spirit. God calls all of us but it is easy to get diverted and wind up in Kalamazoo .

One old boy went to the Atlanta Airport to fly to New York City but ended up in Kansas City : He got on the wrong plane. But the good news was that the friendly ticket salesperson was able to get him on another flight to New York City .

God will do that for us. We might be at the wrong place in our life; perhaps we are lost and the opportunities have passed; well, you can still change planes.

Another old fellow said that he had always planned to become a thither but he had waited too late: Now he made too much money to tithe. My answer came right from a story I had heard, I smiled and said, I will pray that God will decrease your income so that you can get your salary back down low enough that you can afford to tithe. He got the point.

Today is “Stewardship Sunday” in our United Methodist Churches. This is a day to examine our trusteeship of the blessings and opportunities that God has given us. It comes on the heels of the time of year when most local churches are attempting to Pledge their Budgets for the New Year.

My famous predecessor at Atlanta First Church , Pierce Harris, used to repeat that, “he loved to preach on money in order to see the stingy squirm and the liberal smile.”

One of the most wonderful ways that God ministers to us is through the joy of giving, sharing, as we become His Instrument of extending salvation to all the people of the world. “How can they hear without a preacher and how can they go unless they are sent?” We become the means of “sending forth,” shouting out the clarion call of the Good News that every human being should have the opportunity to respond to the Gospel of salvation. And ours is the joy be being a part of the essential process whether we are the one who does the proclamation, or the ones who are helping to pay the bills.

Indeed, God gives us a sense of “ownership” as we as we take advantage of the opportunity that He gives us to share in His ministry. Is it not still an extraordinary thing that our Awesome God who flung the stars into place has given us the joy of shouldering the burden of funding His work in the world? He could have done it on His own by some miracle but He seems to have wanted for us to share in the joy and fulfillment.

We can feel a sense of ownership, of belonging, to this great church because we are physically helping to shoulder the load, writing checks and experiencing the excitement of victories being won as God blesses us through “our church.” There are probably folks who have been on our membership roll for years, some all of their lives, but still do not feel like they really belong because they have never accepted the opportunity to be a part of God's call to become proper stewards.

One of the best things about the giving of the tithe to God's Storehouse, the local church, is that it allows every person, every family, to become equal givers. Certainly, some people's tithe is much more than others in the amount of dollars, but it is ten-percent it is the same as any other percentage given.

When I was a boy about nine or ten years old my Dad took me with him to hear LeTourneau speak at First Baptist Church in Lexington . LaTourneau, who had made billions of selling his Caterpillars traveled around the world speaking for free on the subject of tithing. One of the things that he said that stuck with me was that, “If you are tithing to your church you are giving just as much as I am!” He also said, and my Dad quoted him for the remainder of his ministry, “It is my joy and privilege to have been given by God the opportunity to be a tither.”

Each of us has that same opportunity.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
11/14/04, Stewardship Sunday