Can anyone see what this is? Right! It’s a cockroach … (toss it to a parishioner) … not a real one, of course. In sharing it with you, I am letting you in on a secret ritual that your worship staff engages in each week.
Yes, when your rostered leaders gather to start planning for the week ahead … Pr. Sarah, Sr. Dottie and I, along with Adam who functions like a rostered leader due to his wealth of theological and liturgical knowledge … yes, when we gather on Monday, we also decide who should display the cockroach in their office for the coming week. The way that one of us earns to right to display the cockroach, is to exhibit the darkest and crankiest attitude of the four of us gathered. I get the cockroach a lot (although Adam has had it for the last couple of weeks – just saying) … because I am known to say regularly on Monday mornings, “I think I need to just die. God can take me any time he wants.” Now, some of you are not going to believe that I have a dark side to me. That’s because your church staff shoulders the brunt of my self-loathing death wishes … so that you get to see the charming side of my personality.
I share this background information, so that you will understand why I would suggest to you that today could be called “Cockroach Sunday.” Because of the severity of the lessons that we read, and the darkness they offer us about the world in which we live. Jesus references the destruction of the temple (which had already been destroyed by the time St. Luke’s church members were reading Luke’s gospel in their Sunday gatherings). Malachi talks in a similar vein about “the day of the Lord” … a time when the world will burn like it is a forgotten casserole in an oven cranking at 600 degrees. Even the 2 Thessalonians Lesson we read speaks of the end of the days of earth … Jesus’ imminent return … and the need for believers to get their act in gear. If that isn’t cockroach talk, I don’t know what is.
HOWEVER!! … however! … however … there is good news as we walk through this cockroach landscape tilled by our Sunday lessons. That good news is that today is the Sunday we also kick off the Commitment phase of our fall stewardship drive. You should receive your stewardship packets in the coming week. So … my logic is this … if the world is gonna end … you might as well put your money to good use and significantly raise your pledge for our 2020 ministry year … if our lessons are correct, we may not be around next year. Don’t let your money be eaten up by plagues and famines and worldwide cataclysmic warfare. Give it to the church, and let our ministries use it to help those whose lives will be compromised by the plagues and sufferings of the end times. (PAUSE) And my staff members think that I’m a pessimist. Aren’t the lectionary choices for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost just peachy?
OK, enough teasing … all of this is intended to give you a chance to laugh a bit, and soften up what can sometimes be an awkward conversation in church … what we do without money. This week you will receive your stewardship packets in the mail this past week. The message of the stewardship team is that your giving is important, because it furthers the ministries of this congregation, and extends our mission into our community and the world. The message of our stewardship team is also that as a member of St. Peter’s we are relying upon each and every one of you to carve some time out of a busy life, for the purpose of serving God and God’s people. We are relying on you to identify talents that you possess, which can be expressed in the ministries of the congregation and the community in which we live. And yes, we are relying on you to make dedicated gifts of your dollars to support those tangible expenses we cannot provide with our time and talent – utility costs, debt reduction, salaries, and program resources for core ministries here.
All this should be enough to motivate you to be a committed and sacrificial giver. But your giving is also important because generosity changes you as a person. When you are generous in sharing your gifts with others, you lay a foundation in your life that helps you prioritize those things that are most important to you. As you grow your giving you challenge yourself to look at the plethora of things that we spend our money on, and ask yourself the question, “Is this something that furthers my life? Or is it just silliness and a distraction from my life? And you find yourself more comfortable asking yourself the question … do I really need this? … can I use this financial wealth to a greater and higher purpose?
In thinking about today’s lessons … you could draw the conclusion … that when you choose to live as a Christian … and recognize that sacrificial giving is part of what makes you a Christian … you also, at the same time, make a conscious and public choice to say to the world … “Everything about the world IS NOT doom and gloom.” I cannot take credit for this statement. It is the Gospel writer, St. Luke’s perspective. We know this by looking at the lesson which starts off chapter 21 in Luke’s Gospel, which immediately precedes today Gospel Lesson. Does anyone know what that short lesson is that opens chapter 21 of Luke’s Gospel? The Widow’s Mite. The story of the woman who gives two copper coins to the temple treasury, and about whom Luke says, “she gave all that she had.” The story reminds us that our stewardship is our proclamation to the world that God is good!
It is a proclamation that we have hope for the world … and that there are reasons to have hope that all the children of God will start making better choices in our lives. Those of us who make an intentional choice to actively engage our faith, so that it changes our lives for the better … also, as part of the package, make the choice to help God make the world better.
The life of a Christian steward does not promise you that your world will be perfect. You will still have cockroach days … I still have cockroach days. But the world view Jesus offers us, and those Christian disciplines which inform that world view … like worshiping God … and praying for others … and learning God’s Word… and baptizing our youngest into this faith … and serving those in need… and stewarding God’s blessings …. These disciplines, along with others … make the cockroach days far fewer … and much easier to overcome, when they do arrive. And these disciplines make our ability to look at the world around and say “God is good!” that much easier to embrace.
May God’s goodness be apparent to you this morning … and may your goodness be apparent in the world around you. Amen.