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Sep 30, 2018


Passage: Luke 14:1-35

Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

Series: Generosity

Category: Stewardship Campaign Sermon Series


I received a message from a friend this week.  Actually, it was a message from his daughter.  And truth be told, he is much more than a friend.  He is someone whose influence has reached across my life and ministry in many untold ways.  His name is Joachim Hoffmann and for the two years I served as a missionary in East Germany in my early 20's, I lived beneath his family in a first-floor apartment, and worked as his sidekick in the St. Michael’s parish in Magdeburg.  I shadowed him as he taught Sunday School and bible studies.  I sat next to him in the parish choir.  I accompanied him on yearly trips with the senior citizens.  I went with him as he made pastoral visits and attended district meetings.  I discussed history and theology with him over cups of afternoon coffee.  I watched soccer games over bottles of doppelbock in the evenings.  And most recently, I read a message from his daughter about him.  He has lung cancer… and he is dying.     

Katharina informed me that, because of this, Joachim was “sorting through some things” and he wanted to know, specifically, if I might like his communion set.  The communion set that he carried with him on visits to the homebound; that he used for worship services in the German equivalent of nursing homes; that he took with him for special worship services when the senior citizens traveled to the mountains for their retreat each spring.  Words cannot express how humbled I am by this gift.  It is such an honor to receive it.  But I appreciate even more the choice he made to give this gift now – while he has the time.  Which has given me an opportunity to say “thank you” – thank you for more than the gift; thank you for everything he has meant to me.

We are defined by the choices we make.  The choices we make reveal what’s really important to us.  And what’s important to us is evident not in our words but our actions.  That is, I can say that I want to kind, gracious, generous, etc…  But my actions will indicate whether I truly am these things or not. 

We have two scripture readings today, both of which are about choices.   The first is from Luke 14.  Read LK 14:16-24.  God (the host of the party) sends out invitations to everyone… literally.  God does not stop until the kingdom (the banquet hall) is full.  All day long the servants in this story go out into the streets, handing out invitation after invitation.  Everyone who is invited has a choice to make: accept the invitation or not.  And the first three invitees are of greatest interest to us.  They each made the choice not to come.  Each is too busy to say “yes.”  The first is thinking of buying a new house (some real estate) but wants to inspect it before purchasing.  The second just bought a new car (10 team of oxen) and wants to take it on a test drive.  The third just got married and is leaving for the honeymoon.  All of them are polite in their refusal.  The first one even says, “Please send my regrets.”  And all of the things they choose instead of the banquet are things to which we can relate.  Property and relationships are of great concern to us.  Yet, in the end, none of them chose God.  And their choices revealed what was really important to them. 

And their choices remind us to think about our own.  What are we giving up in making the choices that we do?  Economists call that “opportunity cost.”  What opportunities are we missing by making a particular choice?  That’s how much that choice “costs” us.  If we make the choice to by this car or this houses, what does it say about us?  And what will not be able to choose because of it?  Do we sometimes sacrifice friendships because we make the choice to focus primarily on one relationship?  Is that what we want to be doing?  How intentional and thoughtful are we about making the choices we do?  

God gives us all many things in life.  At the most basic level, God gives us three (3) T’s.  Talents (skills and abilities); Treasure (resources – material and financial); and Time.  The question for us is “What will we do with our Treasures and Talents in the Time we have been given?”  Our second reading today, also from Luke, illustrates this question.  Read LK 14:16-21.  A rich man is blessed with great abundance.  The harvest is so plentiful the crops can’t fit into his barn, so he tears it down and bigger more and bigger buildings to store it all.  And he thinks he has it made.  But that night he dies and he can take none of his things with him. 

This story is not about his being rich, but rather about what he does with his riches.  He chooses to live for himself.  That is what is important to him.  But notice that there is no joy in that.  He dies alone.  He has no one in his life when he dies.  He chose, in life, to spend his time gaining riches, but has no one with whom to share his life – let alone his riches.  His grain is left to rot in the barns and no one is benefited at all.  We are defined by the choices we make.  “What will we do with our Treasures and Talents in the Time we have been given?” 

Which is why I appreciate my mom.  Two years ago she downsized, moving out of the home she had lived in for 50 years.  Like Joachim Hoffman, she went through a lot of her stuff – her riches sitting in her bigger barn – and passed things on to me.  At that time (two years ago) she gave family heirlooms – a silver baby spoon; souvenir milk bottles from the dairy farm she grew up on in the 1940's; some fine china dishes from grandparents.  Two years later, though, she’s still doing it!!!  She’s still giving me stuff.  But this time it’s more like the dregs from the garage and the bottom shelves in the basement – like random family calendars from the 1980's or programs from one of the hundreds of band concerts from my high school days.  It’s really too much.  And part of me wants to say, “Stop!  Just throw this stuff away.”  And yet, I still appreciate it.  Because she’s thoughtful.  She’s intentional.  She has taken the time to look her things over and set them aside, which means she has taken extra effort to do this.  And it makes her so happy!  Every time I come to visit, there’s a box of things, set aside, neatly packaged, for me to go through and she smiles as I sit down and look through them all.  And… truth be told… even though we both know I will throw 90% of it away, we enjoy reminiscing about everything what I pull out of the box.

In that spirit, our theme in worship over the next 4 weeks will be “GenerosiTy.”  There is great joy in giving.  For the giver and the receiver.  And the act of sharing has a great tendency to bring them both closer together.  And we are spelling “GenersoiTy” with a capital “T.”  Because the “T” matters.  The “T” represents Time, Talent and Treasure.  God has given us all Talents (skills and abilities), Treasures (resources) and Time.  The question for us is: What will we choose to do with our Talents and Treasures in the Time we have?  Generosity is being thoughtful and intentional about these choices, discovering that there is joy for both the giver and receiver when our Time, Talents and Treasures are shared.  We hope you will join us for these next few weeks.  Sometimes we need role models for how to be generous – just as we need role models for how to be good leaders, or professionals in whatever field our work involves.  That’s why I am thankful for Joachim Hoffman.  Among all the other things he has meant to me, he is now also a role model in generosity for me.  And I invite you, this week, to think about those in your life who have shown you what it means to be generous – and to give thanks for the example that they have set.