Stewardship is Mission – October 9, 2016
Jeremiah 30:18-22, Luke 10:1-12
September 9, 2016
Back in the 1960’s, there was a TV show called “Mission Impossible.” Do you remember that? Yes, in recent years there have been several movies based on that series – with Tom Cruise, I believe. But back then, the original TV series starred Peter Graves.
If you remember, at the beginning of each show, Graves’ character, Mr. Phelps found a hidden tape recorder. It was a reel to reel tape recorder! Anybody remember those? This was even before cassettes! Well, when he turned it on, the machine said what became iconic in those days, “Good morning Mr. Phelps.” “Your Mission, should you decide to accept it…” and then it gave some crazy, impossible sounding mission! Then at the end of the recording, it always said, “This tape will self destruct in five seconds. Good Luck!” Then there was the smoke in the machine, and the theme song! (Dan daaaan dan dan, dan daaaan dan dan dan!)
I took you on that trip down memory lane because we’re talking today about “Mission.” And this “Mission” is not “Impossible.” But in a certain sense, it is a mission we do need to “choose to accept.”
Our Mission is Stewardship. Now, I don’t mean to say that the only mission of the church is Stewardship. Far from it! I say it because everything we do in the church is about, or should be about, the Mission of the Church.
I went to a conference last Spring about Church finances. And that was the challenge they gave us. “When you do budgeting,” the leader asked, “what is it about?” “Is it about paying the bills?” “Is it about making sure buildings and grounds are maintained?” “Or… is it about the mission of the Church?” In other words, bills, buildings, grounds, snow removal, those things are part of the Church’s “Mission!” And we should be seeing those things that way.
So lately, we’re thinking about our “Mission Statement,” starting with the Session and the other boards. It’s always good to revisit that and to see where it might need some “tweaking,” or even challenging. The “Mission Statement” of a Church needs to bring into question who we are, and it needs to challenge us to be who we are called to be. A good Mission Statement will say something about our being a “Community of Faith,” about “Upholding one another,” and about “Reaching out to the world around us.”
In our reading from Luke, Jesus sends out the 70. He sent them out to tell everyone what God was doing in those days. As I said last week, we used to talk more about “Missionaries.” That’s what Jesus was doing in this passage. He was sending out “Missionaries.” This section in my Bible is even called, “The Mission of the 70.”
The Apostles were seen as the first “Missionaries” of the Church. Paul’s travels around the Mediterranean area were called his “Missionary journeys.” Does that make sense? The word “Apostle” means “One who is sent.”
Well, Jesus calls us to “Mission,” too. In a sense, he “sends” us. And no, that might not mean going overseas. But who knows, maybe it does! Actually, as one author said, our world has changed so much that the “mission field” has “come home.” Instead of the boarders of the mission field being the boarders of another country, they are now right here! They’re right at the doors of our church. That’s where mission begins now!
At the same time, it also means that the mission field is not just on the other side of those doors, but it’s on this side as well. As I said, what we do here is mission. Stewardship – which has to do with our time, our talents, and our treasure – is about mission. Ask yourself this. How does everything that you do as an individual, a committee, a board, a teacher, a choir member – how does all that relate to, and have to do with, the mission of the church?
In your financial “Stewardship,” how do you see yourself? Are you giving to the needs of a building or a program? Or are you contributing to the mission of the church? That gives us a different feeling, doesn’t it? And yes feeling is part of this! If you read on in Luke, the missionaries return. Verse 17 tells us, “The seventy returned with joy!” They told Jesus (and everyone else) how they had seen the mighty works of God!
They felt Joy! And I believe all the Apostles knew that Joy, too! They knew they were part of something bigger! And in a certain sense, we can, too! I hope we know the joy of being part of the mission and the message of Jesus Christ. I hope we can see ourselves as surrounded by, and as part of, that “Great cloud of witnesses” that Paul told the Hebrews about.
When we see ourselves in that light, we have a different attitude, don’t we? Paul told the Corinthians that “God loves a ‘cheerful’ giver.” We’ll look at that passage more closely in the days to come. But in the meantime, know that that “cheer,” that joy, comes from knowing what we’re a part of!
It is my hope you will think about that as we go through this Stewardship Month. Yes, this is the time we’re challenging you to think about your part in this Church. But I hope as you think about it, you will think in terms of “Mission.” For this is indeed “Your Mission!” And I hope you will “Choose to accept it!” “Good luck!” (“This preacher will stop speaking in 5 seconds…”)
Eternal God, help us to see ourselves as part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Help us to look to him as we run the race set before us. Give us the strength we need, and the joy that sustains us. Help us to know of your indwelling spirit as we seek to serve faithfully in the kingdom of our Savior. For these things we pray in his name, Amen.