These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.
Today we bring to close the series on the elements of worship. The focus today is on what follows the hearing of the word… our response… the problem I’m having is that there are several ways we respond:
– our affirmation of faith
– our prayers
– our offering
– the sending: the blessing and benediction
I have been trying to decide whether to give focus to the offering or the blessing. In some ways they are connected: when you make an offering, you are offering a blessing… your offering is translated into blessings for many others: Your gifts pay salaries… provide space for AA, Welcome Wagon, Total Life Center, Preschool—all the church programming… All are a means of blessing.
So it is sort of hard to separate the two.
But I want to focus on the blessing—the benediction (which is another word for blessing it means: to speak well of)…
And I want to suggest that in the end, you and I were created by God to be a blessing. Blessed, to be a blessing as they say.
I wonder if you think my choice for a text for this theme is an odd one. It was not an original choice to be honest. But I listened to a sermon from my friend John on this text and realized it was exactly the text I wanted to share with you.
It is a story of Jesus… Jesus who encounters sibling rivalry—fighting brothers… fighting over money… over an inheritance… (surprise anyone?!)
My Dad warned me that some of the worst fights he has ever seen has been over an inheritance… which is why he has a plan for how we will dividing his… Jesus sees them fighting over the stuff… refuses to step in, but rather uses the conflict to offer a teachable lesson.
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
Before you start talking about being a blessing, I think you have to understand something of that truth.
Which is a hard truth to hear. It was in Jesus’ day… it is in ours. It may be harder to hear the richer your become.
We tend to measure life by how much stuff we have… big houses, bank accounts… the goal of life, if you listen to cable news—CNBC—seems to be to accumulate. A good day is when the stock market is up… a bad day in your life is when it is down.
Jesus seems to challenge all of that. Jesus offers a different perspective which he explains in the parable. I’m well aware that it is easier to tell the story than to hear it.
It is the story of a man who was a success in business. And he made his money honestly… no hint of crooked wealth. No corruption… just good at what he did. But I wonder if you noticed, as my friend John pointed out in his sermon, something about the attitude… the life perspective of the man. The man thinks about his life without any reference to other people or to God. His speech is filled with first person pronouns… as his crops take off … he thinks only of himself:
“He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops? Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink and me merry.’
But God said to him,’You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ so it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God”
If you are someone who has bought into the way of thinking that life is all about you… that God created the world just for YOU, that the goal of life is to accumulate… to reach a point where you can whine, dine recline and shine… then this parable may not make sense to you. This sermon may not make sense to you.
Or this may be your wake up call… as Jesus tries to wake up those brothers fight over money and stuff. Jesus is trying to wake us up to tell us what life is about. It’s not what you may think it is about.
Anna Quindlen – author and former columnist that many of us have enjoyed was trying to tell this to some graduates from Villanova a few years ago in her commencement address:
She told them:
“Don’t ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”…
You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul. People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good.
So here is what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.”
In other words, her word to us as is Jesus word to us is this: to get a life and be a blessing. And it is in the blessing you will find yourself blessed… you already have been, you know. So have I. More than we realize.
So in response to the word of God… a word that tells us that life is a gift of God… we are reminded that our purpose in life is to be a blessing. That blessing can take many forms.
Offerings are a form—you offer your money which becomes a blessing… but more than money… you offer yourself… you give yourself—your time to the children or youth and you bless them with your presence and love… you offer your service to leadership in the church—on a committee or the Session—and your work transforms the lives of many as you decide what to do… the church becomes involved in so many ministries and missions—each one a blessing to those in need.
Because we are blessed, we seek to be blessings…
But not just in this part called church or your community—but in your life. Your job, properly seen, can be a blessing. I remember talking to one new member of the church who works in a crime lab. I asked her why she enjoyed that. She didn’t say it was because of the money… she said it was because in the lab we can seek the evidence that leads to truth. Her work blesses our society. Think about your job, your work—as a means of blessing others.
How might you approach your day differently if you saw what you do as not a means to making a living… getting a paycheck… but as a way of making a life by being a blessing. Be a blessing wherever God has placed you.
It really doesn’t take much. I’ve been blessed so often by a teller, or my mechanic, grocery worker or a number of people who actually bothered to see me as more than a means to an income… but as a human being—who bothered to smile and maybe even call me by name. It can make a difference.
Perhaps that is one of the best reasons to come to church— Not just to praise God… Not just to confess our sins… Not just to listen to the Scripture and a Sermon hoping to be entertained… Not just to offer prayers– but what if one of the best reasons to be here is to return to the one who reminds you what life is really about… the one who gave you life… and who can tell you how to live… how to love… how to get a life…
I mean a real life worth living…
If that is why you are here… then you may soon discover that the gift God gave you is a blessing that will be a significant means of God’s grace in the lives of all who know you and love you. If that is why you are here, you will have a great life indeed!