Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trustees of the Kingdom

October 14, 2012
Pentecost XX 
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Trustees of The Kingdom
Audio file click here 

As I thought about this second sermon in our series for stewardship, I got stopped by the word itself – “stewardship.”  It’s one that we don’t see or hear much these days in our common every day, run-of-the-mill conversation.  We kind of have a foggy notion of what it may mean, but it’s often associated with sermons like this or that time in the TV program of your favorite TV preacher when “the ask” happens.

This morning I want to fill out the concept of stewardship a bit for us, but by using a different term:  TRUSTEE.

Many of us have had dealings in the legal world of one kind or another.  A trustee by definition is “one, such as a bank, that holds legal title to property in order to administer it for a beneficiary.”  Let me bring that down to our level this morning:  A Trustee is one, such as YOU, that holds legal title, that is power over God’s property, (Time, Talent, Treasure) – in order to administer it for a beneficiary (The Kingdom of God!)
 
Did you know that you are a trustee of God’s grace – of His gifts?  Have you ever thought about the fact that God has had to put ultimate trust in YOU?

Recently I’ve been talking to people about voting in the upcoming election, as many of us have I think, on one side of the aisle or the other.  The point is voting – taking part in the trusteeship that our constitution places in the individual, so that, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the face of the earth.”  We have a sacred trust which is coming due on us in about 3 weeks that determines the fate of that kind of government – and it happens every time the polling places are open, or every time the ballot comes in your mail box.  Not to vote in any election is an unconscionable dereliction of the trusteeship that our county has placed by constitutional mandate in your hands.

Likewise you have been given a sacred trust by God Himself as well!  God trusts in you! Now there’s a twist on our national motto!  But let’s look at a foundational few verses, that we usuaChrist Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

God has placed a deposit with you, my friend – a deposit of GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense).

GOD’S RICHES

So what is the substance of the riches that God has placed in our care?

God is rich in MERCY  (Eph 2:4) 

Paul asks the Romans, “do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (2:4)

He goes on in chapter 9:  [God] endured with much patience vessels of wrath… and he did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us … !” (22b-24a)

God is rich in GLORY!

A little later in Romans, Paul again exclaims:  “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (11:33) 

God is rich in WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE! 

And back in the letter to Ephesus Paul repeatedly references these riches!

1:18    “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”

2:7     “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

3:8       “to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”

4:19     “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory                             
              
in Christ Jesus.”
 

Paul later instructs Timothy with these words:

1Ti 6:17  “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

Friends, there are literally hundreds of references throughout scripture to the riches of our God, both in material wealth and in mercy, in gold and in grace, in cattle and coin, as well as in kindness shown to us by the grace of an unfailingly loving Father, through His Son Jesus Christ.

But we are told not to confuse the two types of wealth.  One type is flighty and uncertain, destroyed by moth and rot in time, while the other is timeless, held for us by God in heaven and given to us by Grace on the earth.

 

Where your Treasure, So Your Heart

Jesus, as He taught on this issue of trusteeship – of our position of trust as partners with God in the enterprises of the Kingdom – set up the account for us and made the initial deposit.

By His sacrifice of blood on the cross, Jesus won our salvation and gave us access to heaven and all its stores!  In Him we have our own PIN number!

Now we have to understand that this treasury work a bit differently than our normal bank account here at Wells Fargo or Keybank.  It’s different than your local credit union.

Your “savings” are associated with you have given away, NOT what you have put away!

In Luke 12, Jesus warns us of our normal way of doing business:

Luk 12:19-21  'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'  "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

As trustees of God’s riches, we see “treasure” differently.  Just a few verses later Jesus concludes his statements with this wisdom:

(v 33)  “Sell your possessions and give to charity;  make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” 

As trustees of God’s riches we need to always be mindful that they are never “for us” as a personal possession, but they are for others, through us!  It is in this way that we make deposits of that treasure which is ours in God to an eternal account.

(v 34)  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
 
Why do you think that Jesus made such a big deal out of the two-cents worth of the widow, as she was putting her little in the offering plate that morning, alongside those who were putting in so much more?

Because she got it right!  Her treasure wasn’t the two copper coins that she dropped into the offering baskets that day; her treasure was the Kingdom of God and the ONE who she trusted in for her sustenance.   Jesus singled her out to His disciples and made an example of her devotion and sacrifice, because “she gave all that she had.”  In that moment, she made a deposit in Heaven – in the Kingdom of God, the same kind that God is asking us to make.

Friends, the treasure we seek and which we have in Christ is not a treasure of this world, but a treasure of the Kingdom of God. Let’s go back for a second to the thoughts that Paul shared with his protégé, Timothy: 

I mentioned earlier 1 Tim 6:17:  “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

Paul goes on to fill out that thought:  “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (18-19)
 

Let’s look at a couple of these thoughts a bit closer:

DO GOOD

Do you think that there is ample instruction in Scripture about what these two words might mean?  Do you have an idea of what Paul might be talking about when he says, “Do good!”?  Let your imagination run wild!!  In fact he says,
 

BE RICH IN GOOD WORKS!

Here is the work of the trustee in the Kingdom.  Here is a picture of the true riches that we have administrative responsibility for.

In our first reference from Ephesians 2:10 we were told that God “created us in Christ Jesus, for good works, that we should walk in them.”
 

BE GENEROUS AND READY TO SHARE

This is the character of the trustee of the Kingdom of God – generosity that is uncharacteristic of the world and its system of hoarding and selfishness.  How we approach our life of giving speaks volumes to those around us about who we are as trustees of God and His riches in the Kingdom.

 
STORING UP THE TREASURE OF A GOOD FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE

We have classes on building wealth – we have professionals who come alongside us to help us with our wealth building – all in the name of our future!  Our retirement accounts are of ultimate value and anything that threatens those “treasures”, threatens our foundation for the future.  But the Kingdom of God turns it all upside down – or is it upside RIGHT?

 
SO THAT THEY (YOU) MAY TAKE HOLD OF THAT WHICH IS LIFE INDEED!

Jesus told us that our life doesn’t consist in the things we own or make or wear – in the things that so easily pass away in the fire of trial or the end of life.  Our LIFE – life that is life indeed – consists of the treasure of the Kingdom of God and what we do with that treasure as its trustees.

Friends, We have commitment cards on the table at the back.  They are a tool for us who are planning for this next year, for the ongoing salaries and expenses of our life together.

They are a sign of your trusteeship.  You are a trustee of the Riches of God, made available in Christ Jesus.  What you do with those riches is up to you – you can be like the one sea in Galilee that has a inlet and an outlet, receiving and giving its bounty to the Jordan valley and river -  or you can be like the other sea in Israel – one which takes and takes and takes, but never gives. 
 
They call it the Dead Sea!

 

Shall we pray:

Give us grace, O Gracious God, to see and understand the riches you have given us in Jesus Christ our Lord;  Riches of Mercy, Grace, Wisdom, Knowledge, Redemption and Sanctification.  Make us rich in good works, O Lord, for your sake and for the sake of Your Kingdom.  Help us not to grasp that which we can never truly own, but to give that which is not ours, that we may gain that which is Yours, a lasting treasure held in heaven. Meet our earthly needs, we pray of Lord, by the grace of your hand that we may come to share in and do the works you have prepared for us to walk in.  Help us to continually see the treasure you offer which is life indeed and to set our treasure in heaven, that our hearts may there be set also.

For the sake of your Kingdom, Jesus and the fame of Your Name, we pray.

Amen.

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