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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stewardship 4: Stewardship of People


Stewardship of People
Please note that I have not had time to properly edit this post, so please forgive any silly mistakes that have crept in :-)

The first reading that is set for this Sunday as we continue our series on Stewardship, is taken from Luke 6:27 and we looking at Stewardship of People, we’ve had a look at stewardship of a number of different things; today we have a look at one of the more valuable assets in our midst – people.
And these are the words of Jesus, so here them, although I read them, please hear Jesus saying these words into your life and into mine. It is Him who is speaking and from Luke 6:27 “And I tell you who hear me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too. If someone takes your coat let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you for something and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do for others what you want them to do for you. If you love only the people who love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners do that. And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing. Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. No, love your enemies and do good to them. Lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward and be children of the most high God - for He is good to the ungrateful and good to the wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.”
Prayer.

Our second reading as we look at the Stewardship of People is still taken from Luke’s Gospel but Luke 10:25
“The teacher of the law came up and tried to trap Jesus, ‘teacher’ he asked, ‘what must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What do the scriptures say? How do you interpret them?’ the man answered ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as you love yourself’ ‘You are right!’ Jesus replied, ‘do this and you will live’ but the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus ‘who is my neighbour?’ Jesus answered ‘there was once a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when robbers attacked him, stripped him, beat him up and left him for dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road but when he saw the man he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man and then walked on by the other side. But a Samaritan who was travelling that way, came upon the man and when he saw him his heart was full with pity. He went over to him – poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged him, then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the inn keeper ‘take care of him’ he told the inn keeper ‘and when I come back this way I will pay you whatever else you spend on him’ and then Jesus concluded ‘in your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?’ the teacher of the law answered, ‘the one who was kind to him’ Jesus replied ‘you go then, and do the same’”
Brothers and sisters, the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our Lord will endure forever. Amen.

And so it is over the last few weeks we have been looking at stewardship, we’ve been looking at the scriptures and we’ve seen that God in His grace, has placed us in this wonderful creation. By His Holy Spirit he has breathed life into us. By that same Holy Spirit He has given us power, to look after everything He has placed us in the midst of.
We’ve seen that the one of the first commands He gave to people as He placed us on earth was – ‘take care of this that I give to you.’
We’ve seen that a very good attitude to have, and the one that Jesus had, is that we don’t own anything. God is owner of everything ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’. Everything we have is Gods, it’s Gods gift of grace to us and Peter has given us the text for this series where in 2 Peter 2:10 he has said to us; be good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We’ve seen that God has given us everything and has essentially said to us {Look after these things for me. Look after this creation that I have entrusted to you. Look after the time that I have given to you to some He gives that much time, to some he gives that much time, however much we have, God says to us be a good steward of the time, the years that I give to you.}
We’ve seen that God entrusts us with abilities, which are different to gifts, and are similar to talents. And we’ve seen that God builds these into us and makes us in a particular way. So that some people can sing and others, as you well know because they may stand or sit next to you, can’t sing J
He gives us different abilities, different talents, different gifting. And He doesn’t expect the person who can’t sing, to be a singer. But He expects the person who can’t sing, to be the person He has equipped that person to be.

This evening at our Coffee Service, and I encourage you and remind you that although every service is for everybody, it is very specifically for people who are on the edge of the Kingdom or who have never entered the Kingdom or who have drifted from the Church and I pray that even at this stage, that you would be thinking of who those people are and maybe even bring them along tonight and as you know this building changes into a Coffee Shop and is a far less threatening situation for people who have been threatened by the Church in some way. And this evening very particularly, we are looking at the theme of Olympics, Paralympics and the Gospel and we are looking at how people have particular gift, particular talents, particular abilities who might be born in a way that it might seem as if ‘oh nothing will even become of you’ and yet there they are running in the Olympics and we see the hope that is built into the gospel as we’re all part of a race that is called LIFE and I would encourage you as this evening we have a very particular time of inviting folk to make a commitment to this Jesus and if you know of anyone who you’ve been praying for especially, and if you can get them here this evening – then do that, because we have a deep sense that God is going to be moving here in our midst.

You see God has equipped us and one of the things He has asked us to be, is good stewards of the people He has placed in our midst. They are the one of the greatest things God asks us to be stewards of.
He’s entrusted to us, other people.

The man in that story before Jesus tells that story, kind of wants to know who are the ‘other’ people – who is my neighbour, who is it that I should care for?
And Jesus makes it quite clear that the person we should care for is the ‘other’, the stranger, particular the one who we might despise and want nothing to do with.
Jesus in this parable, kind of reminds us that in this Kingdom (and some of us don’t like this, but really that’s just tough) there is no room for ‘I don’t like you’ there isn’t, is there? That’s this Kingdom. And if we’re going to be apart of it, then we’re called to grasp that fact – that there is no one that we cannot like. And if we choose to walk on by, pass that person, well Jesus makes it clear in this parable that we’re walking a very dangerous road when we begin to think and act in that way.
He has entrusted people to us and He wants us to care for those people even if they don’t care for us.
In the words of Jesus He says “love one another, as I have loved you” and in that context we might find ourselves asking again, who must I love? And in the context of our readings, Jesus says ‘Everyone’ but in particular, the one who you find it very difficult to love.
The word that Jesus gives us to guide us in our stewardship of people is the word ‘love’. And it’s kind of the same word He’s given us in caring for creation, He’s asked us to love creation. To love all things bright and beautiful, to care for them as if they were our own which they are because He’s entrusted them to us. But in terms of people, Jesus has chosen this word ‘love’ to guide us in our relationship with them. And He’s made it clear that this love goes far beyond just loving the people around us or just loving the people we find it easy to love. That’s where this Kingdom becomes the difficult thing that Jesus says it is. And that’s not meant to turn people away, it’s meant to remind us that following this Jesus can be very difficult. The word He used to show us what its like is ‘picking up a cross’ and carrying a cross. It’s like picking up a noose, and carrying a noose. It’s like picking up an electric chair, and carrying an electric chair. Following Me He says, is sometimes taking upon yourself a very difficult lifestyle, and He makes it very clear here when he says ‘if you only love the people who love you, don’t expect a blessing from God. Even the sinners do that. And he says if you only do good to those who do good to you, why should you receive a blessing? And if you only lend to those whom you’ll get it back, that will get you nothing. Even sinners do that.’

He calls us to love one another. Who is the other? Well it is every other person out there but it is in particular, the one we find difficult to love – the one we find difficult to get on with.
And in His grace He gives us the Church, He gives us this place, but I think before He gives us the Church, he gives us our family. He creates us in a family. He creates us in a place where we are meant to be loved, where we are meant to grow up in a situation where we do learn to love those who love us but that’s not meant to be the end.
Then He calls us into a church, and he says, guess what in this Church there are going to be people who generally aren’t going to want to mix with, but when you take Me on, you take on my friends. So then He calls us into Church, He calls us into fellowship. But that’s not meant to be the end either – Jesus makes it clear here. It’s not just love your family and love the Church. He even takes it that one step further; our love is meant to spill out. The love that we develop in, in our families and then grow in, in the Church is meant to kind of like the filling up of a cup and overflowing, hopefully in our families – and one often knows that often we don’t experience this love in our families – but hopefully in our families we experience love. Hopefully in the Church we experience love, but again we know because the church is so much like a family, this is often the place where we hurt each other more than anything else. But hopefully here, we grow in love, but Jesus says that’s not the end. Let that be a cup that overflows ‘my grace that flows into you, flows from you, into the world as you go out into the world around you’ and then let the love of God which hopefully you’ve experienced in family, which hopefully you’ve experience in Church, then let that love flow out, to the other, to the neighbour.

In terms of Stewardship of People, we are called to be Good Samaritans.
The Good Samaritan, I would suggest, next to Jesus, is probably one of the heroes of the New Testament. I would imagine that there are many people who have heard of Jesus but that don’t believe in Him, he is a hero of the world. So there are many who have heard of him, they might not choose to trust in him but they know him. And I would say that there are many who have perhaps never come to trust in Jesus, who perhaps never read their bibles but they’ve heard of this chap called the Good Samaritan. I’m very sure that we could have a pile of folk and if there are many people here tonight who are completely foreign to the Church – we would say ‘who here has heard of the Good Samaritan and we know that many would put up their hands.
I believe the Good Samaritan is in the scriptures to show us how we are meant to care for other people.

There are four characters in that parable. Whenever you read a parable one should always have a look and see how many people are in this parable and when we do that, we are called to identify with one or more of those people.
Who are the four people in the parable?
There is a person in need on the roadside. There is a person in our context, as your drive back home today – who is lying on the side of the road, looking beaten up, perhaps looking drunk, perhaps kind of asking for help in some way. So there is that person, a person in need.
Then there is a priest, and there is a Levite and then there is a Samaritan.
You and I are at least, one of those four people. The one that we often forget to look at when we look at this parable, is the very first person who’s mentioned; the person in need on the roadside. Maybe you are a person in need this morning. Maybe you are even a person sitting here, broken in some way, hurt in some way, damaged in some way and I would really hope that for all of us here this morning who perhaps identify with that first person in the parable; that person who has been injured, hurt, left by someone else, I would hope that here in the fellowship of the Church – you have found a Good Samaritan. One would hope that in our midst here your brothers and sisters would have reached out and touched and tried to bring some of the healing, the comfort, the strength that you long for.
You see if it doesn’t start in the Church it will never flow out into the world. If it doesn’t start in the family and then grow in the Church it will never flow out into the world.
So perhaps you are here this morning, and you are the person on the roadside – I want to just break and pray and say ‘Heavenly Father, please give us in this place now, eyes and ears that would see and hear the cries from the people around us. Help us to see those who are battered and bruised this morning, help us to see those who are even if they are in midst of a group of other people, those who are alone and deserted and in need of a Samaritan, a Good Samaritan’ Amen.
And I encourage you to look around you and behind you, and pray for eyes maybe God has shown you.
And then there are three other people; once we see the broken humanity, the hurt person, once we see the crumpled life – then we have a choice, to be priest, Levite or Good Samaritan.

Perhaps we are a priest. What would a priest do? He would walk on by. Perhaps not even really have a good look ‘oh my goodness, there is someone in need’ but no I’ve got to get Eden Park after the service. So a priest might have prayed for those eyes, might have seen that hurt and said ‘well I hope someone else see’s that because I haven’t really got time’ and he just walks on by.
Many people have this experience in the Church. Where you’ve called out for help, and the priest has just walked on by. And you’re still waiting for that visit that they promised you before.
So perhaps we’re priests, perhaps we’re Levites. What did the Levite do?
A little better than the priest, the Levite goes and has a look, walks on, goes next to the crumpled person. But he see’s something that makes him decide I’m going to move on. Or he smells something, ‘this guy hasn’t bathed in a few weeks – he belongs on the street’ goes and has a look but he sees something but still moves on.
The priest and the Levite in this story obviously represent religious people, they in fact represent the very religious people in the time of Jesus. But they represent the religious people who were probably very religious in the temple.
So the priest, the Levite would see this but they are on their way to the temple, and when they get to the temple they are something else. There they are doing the right thing, saying the right thing being seen to look like the religion they claim to have. But on the road, out in the world they are something else.
So are you priest? Am I Levite?
So the third person we can be, or the fourth we might be the crumpled person.
Perhaps we are like the Samaritan. What does the Samaritan do? He gives him oil, he gives him wine. These are signs of the healing and of the comfort that they needed of balm. He gives of his time, he was on the road he was going somewhere. This whole episode must have severely upset his schedule. Just like I’ve got a schedule, I’ve got to get to Eden Park and stopping on the side road will mean I’ll be late. And you know they waiting for me, I’ve got baptisms, I don’t want to be late – someone else must stop for you.
He gives of his money because not only does he help this person but then he goes down to the closest bed and breakfast and says I’m leaving this chap here and I’m not sure how long it will take but when I come back here I will settle the account. The Good Samaritan shows us how to live as a good steward. He lets the man have his donkey, his mode of transport. In another words he lets him have his car.
Why does he do this? I think it’s because he knows that everything he has is actually Gods -its Gods time, its Gods money, the wine that I had for my journey is actually Gods.
He gives of all these things and I want to say, it is surely because he sees himself as a steward and a good steward of the manifold grace that God has shown him.

You know it’s so much easier to share something that doesn’t belong to you. Have you discovered that? It’s much easier to give something that isn’t yours. To realize that someone needs something that isn’t yours. ‘You know I haven’t got it but if I did have it…’
Well this philosophy that we find it easier to be generous with something that belongs to someone else is really what guides stewardship.
When we realize that everything is Gods, this donkey is Gods, this car is Gods, this money I’ve got is Gods. It’s much easier to give it away because its not mine – it’s Gods.
Hence we get back to where we started in this series; the beginning of good stewardship is to realize that everything we’ve got is Gods. Even this jacket that I’m wearing is Gods.
So if someone needs it, I’m not giving him my jacket, I’m giving him Gods jacket. And that seems to be why this Samaritan behaves the way he does.
And we’re not told anything more about this Samaritan – what we do know is that he is a man who has love, he is a man who has compassion, and he is a man who seems to be a good steward of the manifold grace that God has shown him.
As I said earlier, how many people who aren’t Christian know the story of the Good Samaritan, he is a hero. He is a hero of the New Testament.

Friends I want to close with this truth: there is a hero in each one of us.
There’s a hero in you – not because of who are but because of who the Holy Spirit is who dwells in you. There is a hero in you and me. The hero comes out when we leave as good stewards in the world around us.
There’s a hero in you and me. We are called to be good stewards of Gods people.
When we are good stewards of other people, where we do love when it’s easier to hate, where we do embrace when it’s easier to say I’ll have nothing more to do with him.
When we do these things, we see heroism - the heroism of Jesus.
The people that God entrusts to us in our families, in our Church, in our workplace and in our world – these are the people God wants us to be good stewards of.
Can I ask that we go from this place, wanting to be good stewards and just wanting to have the eyes and the ears that would see the one person that God wants us to be a good steward to this day or this week.
The Good Samaritan doesn’t change the whole world. The Good Samaritan doesn’t reach out to every beaten person in Israel at that time. He just reaches out to the one who God puts in his path… may you and I do the same.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit let us have eyes and ears that see the crumpled, broken hurt humanity around us - who see in us that neighbour and who reach out and be Good Samaritans.








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