Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Sunday Sermon: Hands full with Blessings

Our Old Testament reading for today reminds us of the LORD's promise to turn all the nations upside down . . . and shake all the silver and gold out of their pockets. I think that's a welcome image for stewardship season, right?

As we continue our discernment about what we can offer as gifts to the church and the world, there is a most basic and perhaps troubling question we ought first to be asking: What do we give to God? And the answer is: everything.

Sorry. I wish I could say that tithing a tenth of your income would get you off the hook. Or serving as an acolyte or an usher or a Chapter member or in the choir or in the pulpit. But God requires everything from us. And we give everything to God:

We give our time, as we chase kids around the house with a toothbrush trying to get them ready for school; as we settle deeper into our chairs for a long Monday night of church financial statements as a Finance Committee member; as we care for our clients with dignity and respect and fairness and compassion; as we call our mom to see how her day went; as we cook dinner for a tired partner. . . . our time is given to us by God as life, metered out precious moment by precious moment.

We give our skills and passions to God, as a skill for listening helps a neighbor struggling through a rough marriage feel heard; as a skill for administration organizes meals for a family who has just brought a new baby home; as a passion for friendly conversation welcomes guests to church; as a passion for singing delights a homeless woman in the park. . . . what we’re good at and what we love to do shapes how we offer our time in the world.

And we give our money to God as we buy groceries for our family, purchase shoes for our kids, insure our health, house our aging parents, captivate our grandchildren, support our Cathedral, feed San Diego’s hungry, care for Syria’s refugees. We invest our money so that all life may thrive. The money spent is equally holy, equally God’s, in all of these situations and uses. In other words, the money you give to the church is no holier than the money you spend to feed your kids.

So when it come to stewardship, the first question we must ask is: What do we give to God? Everything. If there’s anything we are not willing or able to consecrate to God in our lives, we ought to pay attention, dig deeper, ask God to help us understand why. What fear is holding back some part of who we are from God’s loving gaze and forgiving embrace?

Let’s take a minute of silence to consider whether and what we are holding back from God. What do we feel is “just ours,” not God’s?

Regular spiritual direction can help us along this process of digging deeper into all that holds us back from God. If you’d like to find out more about how this works, ask me.

Only after we see all we do and all that we are as our gifts to God can we ask a much less disturbing and demanding question: Just what do I have left over after providing for my family’s needs, and how ought I invest this blessed surplus in the world so that all life may thrive?

As you consider this question with care and prayer, know that your Cathedral invites you to take part in something spectacularly ambitious, dangerous (as Allisyn noted), and life-giving: your Cathedral invites you to join in God’s mission to the world. This is no Sunday school project. This is not something you can check off a to-do list. This is not even ours to determine or control. It is God’s, and we are called to lend heads and hands and hearts together to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Restore. All people. To unity. With God. And each other. In Christ. That’s what we’re about. It’s an impressive mission statement.

Inside and outside these stunning walls we learn to be a people loved impossibly by a crucified and risen Savior; inside and outside of this blessed sanctuary we practice hospitality and servanthood; inside and outside of this Cathedral we glorify God with our words and actions, voices and plans, checkbooks and hands.

This is no time to be afraid for the future of the Church. As long as God has a mission, God will have the Church. Instead, this is the time to be amazed by the Spirit’s wild movements about us: the near-doubling of our Latino congregation in a handful of months, the growth of our children and family ministries, the sparkling new world-class organ and soon-to-be-finished chapel, our increasing energy and readiness around our next work in the world together. There is so much to do, and we are poised to begin anew, as we do every day that we choose to come together and glorify God and to be sent into the world in Christ’s name.

How ought we invest our blessed surplus in the world so that all life may thrive? In prayer may God guide us so that whatever we can offer -- both inside and outside these walls -- is in service to God’s vast and great mission, one that demands everything and is filled with love, and to which each of us is invited.

When we give all to God, we don’t find ourselves empty handed. Instead, we find our hands full with God’s blessings given to share with this beautiful, broken, and redeemed world in which we live.

The Rev. Colin Mathewson
Sunday, Nov 10 2013

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