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September 26, 2004 (Pentecost 17)

Rev. Howell Foster, Enrichment Ministries

Tim Forner. Recognize his name? One day Tim was seated in left field as one of the ground keepers at the Cardinals ball park in St. Louis. Mark McGuire hit his 62nd home run. Tim caught the ball. That ball was expected to go for over a million dollars. Tim sure could use the money. So what does he do? He gives the ball to Mark McGuire. Why? "Because the ball does not belong to me. It belongs to Mr. McGuire."

Tim appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS's This Morning, the Today Show. David Letterman flew Tim to NY. Disney flew Tim to its Florida theme park.

A few days later Sammy Sosa hit his 62nd home run for the Chicago Cubs. Remember the scene? The ball went over the wall out into the street. A mob of fans struggled for the ball. There was fighting, biting. Accusations that the ball was stolen from the first person who touched it. A riot broke out. Finally, the courts had to decide who would get the ball.

These two scenarios reflect what happens in our life as we deal with our own personal stewardship.

I John 3:17-18 "If anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help--how can God's love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions."

Take a look at the sheet of paper in your bulletin. We will quickly review 6 significant facts about stewardship that affect us all.

  1. When we die, we take nothing with us.
     
  2. God lends us everything to use for a while.
     
  3. We have a responsibility to be good and faithful stewards of God's world.
     
  4. It's not what we have that counts, it's what we do with what we have that matters.
     
  5. God wants our first fruits and asks us to tithe.
     
  6. Stewardship is not a committee that asks for money once a year. We give to God; that is stewardship.

So there then!

Your most recent parish newsletter, The Heartbeat, laid out the schedule and the challenge for your stewardship campaign. Small group meetings to serve as listening posts. Where your input and ideas and critical. A 24 hour prayer vigil will once again show us how the power of prayer undergirds our ministry here. All of this leads us to make a faithful response to our God who has given us everything we have.

So how do we decide what we will share with LCH? Let me share a little of my story. In my retirement years Marge and I spend much of our time together. What an eye opener that has been for me. This year has been one of major changes in our home. Six months ago our electric range/cook top burned out. I figured we'd get a new stove for $600-700. Boy, was I off base. Would you believe $1400? And that was not the most expensive model available.

Then 3 months ago our 17 year old washer and dryer wore out. Off to Home Depot once again. I studied Consumer Reports for the best models to look at. We looked at more than 15 washers and dryers. We settled on a mid-level unit. $950 plus deliver, installation and 5 year service contract. $1300 over all. I was hoping for about $700. And last week our custom installed microwave burned up. Ten years old. Back at Home Depot we looked at nearly 20 models. Again we picked a mid-level microwave. Ended up with a bill of $410.

The other day I was writing out checks for the various ministries we support. And I realized how little compared to the major stuff we buy to keep our home going. We all know about comparative shopping. I suggest we do some comparative giving.

Think about it. Compare the time you spend on your leisurely activities to the time given to helping other s through your congregation. Take a look at your check book and your credit card statement. Compare your giving checks to those you spend on other things in your life. So today I have a concern and an invitation.

First, the concern. Gifting, Growing, Serving. Over the past year you have given $150,000 toward your 3 year capital goal of $432,000. Fantastic! And already you are seeing improvements around the campus. Keep it going! Let's see another $150,000 in 2005 for capital needs.

Pastor Dave highlighted another concern in this month's parish newsletter. Economic changes will mean a down sizing of income of over $40,000 next year. A dilemma being faced creatively by your Council and finance team. Somewhere I learned the Chinese character is the same for danger and for opportunity. It depends on how you look at it. Your Council leaders, your pastor, and hopefully you are looking at the future as a time of opportunity for growth in ministry and in income.

Now the invitation. First, understand God is the owner of all we have been given. I invite you to acknowledge the owner by your faith response in the giving of your time and talents and money to LCH.

Start to intentionally pray for your congregation. Each day. Your pastor. Your council. Attend the Evenings of Enrichment. Your input is critical. Participate in the 24 hour prayer vigil. Your prayers count.And develop a plan for growing in your giving. One simple way is to grow in your giving by 1% of your total annual income. If your annual income is $60,000, you would increase your giving by $600 or just more than $10/week. You can do the figuring on your income, but I invite you to have a plan for growing in your giving.

The really good news for us is that you are a part of LCH at a most opportune moment in the history of the congregation. We celebrate the past. Nearly 105 years. Touching lives for our Lord Jesus Christ. We affirm the present, highlighting the many avenues of ministry that are touching lives today. And we are open to the future. May it be said of you that we saw the needs of people in our parish and outside our parish. May it be said that we opened our hearts with great generosity as we moved into the future. Remember that Chinese symbol for danger or opportunity? Back in the early 1900's the Hackfields and the Isenbergs, then the Hormanns and so many others saw only opportunity as LCH was planted.

Pray. Share your hopes and dreams for your congregation. And come November 21st make your commitment, acknowledging God as the owner of all you have been given. There is no duplicate of you waiting to take your place as a steward of LCH. So I invite you to share your gifts generously and make a difference in the Name of Jesus Christ!


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