Whom Shall We Serve?

Today is a joyous day, a day of welcoming new members into the church, a day of recognizing not only that there are those coming among us who breathe new life into this congregation, but those who, on the day of this particular Scripture reading, have chosen whom they will serve. They come to us from other churches and have served God and served Christ their entire lives. But very intentionally today, by coming forward and being up front, and by going through the covenant promises, they have witnessed in front of all of us publicly who it is that they serve, that they serve God and serve Jesus Christ. And if we look at the end of our Gospel message for today, we have that tag line at the very end, 'You cannot serve God and wealth.' In a day and age like today, that has become more and more combined. We try, with as much effort as we can, to serve both. And in a first-world country, that's pretty normal. We're trying very hard to be able to serve wealth because we need wealth and enjoy wealth, but serve God at the same time. It's our wealth that allows us to serve God and to do so much more. So as we think about what we have and whom we serve, it is good for us to think that all the resources we have are from God and that our true wealth is the faith and the love and the grace that we experience every day. The true wealth is the peace that we sense.

I talked with the kids a few moments ago about what peace is. And that was just as much a lesson for me because I have not had a peaceful couple of weeks. It was good to sit down with them for a moment and think on peace and realize how much we need that in our lives, how critical and crucial it is for us to lead meaningful lives and to lead lives where we feel God's presence in the midst of it. Peace is a critical aspect of that. Now, some of you may have heard about or read in the paper (and actually, a few members of the church attended) an interfaith International Day of Peace celebration in Westminster this past week. It was quite a nice event because representatives of many different faiths in our world, not just Christianity, were present at the Senior Center in Westminster and we heard, from each one of them, an aspect of how God is speaking to them about peace being a critical and crucial part of their faith. And seeing the connections that we have in our Christian faith about being people of peace and being people who are peacemakers made me realize that if we are not intentionally working for ways of peace in our own community by being present with others and working against injustices and oppressions, as we read in our Call to Worship, we ourselves will not experience a sense of peace. We may have it, but it will be fleeting. It will come and it will go. But the more we invest ourselves into serving God and into serving Christ, we will see those experiences of peace returning into our lives.

Our children look to us as their example of what it means to be a faithful person. And what is the faith that we are teaching them? I wonder how deliberate we are about teaching them to be children who are peacemakers. Is that the call of Christ that we are instilling in them? And when I talk about peace, I'm not just talking about the end of wars, but I'm talking about the end of things that destroy life for people. Some of the simple examples: making a friend with someone, remembering to say you're sorry when you've hurt someone. Now, for the children it's probably because they pushed someone down. Not too many of us do that as adults, thank goodness. But we can say and do things that may hurt and offend people. And sometimes we have to get over our own pride and swallow that lump and say we're sorry for the sake of making peace, making peace in ourselves as well as making peace with the person who has been harmed.

Because it was International Day of Peace this last week, that is definitely a part of what's been a focus in our household, explaining to our children what this is that they were going to and experiencing. And they had a wonderful little program for the kids. A native American was there with a peace pole. It looked a lot like a maypole. Is anyone familiar with a maypole? There were ribbons coming down, and each color represented a different group of people, and they had the children holding those. And then she gave each one of them a little thing to hold which they were then to decide what it was. And they were supposed to give it to the person next to them. Of course, it didn't always work out that way when my son said, "Mine!" And it reminded me, "Okay, that's not peaceful"...but he is two and a half. But how often do we see things that we have or things that we want and, with that same subconscious attitude, say, "Mine!"?

And I wonder, if we do too little of 'yours' and offering to others. With that aspect of sharing that I read to them, it struck me that that sharing truly is peace. And that if you think about what Christ has done for the world, 'yours' is giving of himself to us and for us that we would learn from him what God's ways are for God's people from that point forward. "Yours." Christ has given us much, and there is much that we have to give. It may not be in terms of dollars and cents always, but it can be in terms of love that we can share with others. It could be in terms of being a generous spirit, someone to just sit and help reflect with someone when they're going through a difficult time and let them know, "I'm here, and I care." And, in a lot of ways, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel and, "We will help you through this," to be with each other. That instills another sense of peace. And when we do those things, it becomes quite clear who it is that we are serving when we do those things.

So today's message is kind of a call to action, a call to be peacemakers in the ways that we can be, a call to be the people who extend our arms out and simply say, "Yours." For a week, let's try to say 'yours' and not 'mine' as my son said and embarrassed his daddy in front of the whole gathering at this event. But there is that little 'mine' in each of us. And I think in this passage where Jesus talks about the shrewd manager, we can understand that a lot of us get to be pretty shrewd in our lives as to how we deal with things and our own resources. But it might be more shrewd for us to spend a little more time sharing that with others and recognizing that everything we have is a gift of God. And when we share that, we experience true peace.

Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve