Delivered at Ames UCC
on September 25, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are written to be
heard rather than read.
Please join us for worship
at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Our schedule of scripture this fall is taking us on an interesting walk through the formation, the dissolution, and legacies of families.
It began with the first human, split then into two. The first two humans betray God. But they live to make a family. One of those children betrays God, parents, and a brother through murder. But the generations persist.
Last week we met Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were old and infertile and without home. They were cynical but they were also kind. And eventually Abraham and Sarah had a child together. That child, Isaac, came with the promise of many more generations to come.
Isaac and his wife Rebekah have two children, children are Jacob and Esau. Jacob acts up a lot. He steals his brother Esau’s rights as first born son. Jacob dreams of heaven and he wrestles with an angel, Jacob becomes Israel. Israel has four wives and many children. But with Rachel he has Joseph.
As much of Joseph’s story that we heard today, we skipped a lot. Once enslaved in Egypt, Joseph is able to outsmart a false assault charge and rise to the ranks of highest power in Pharaoh’s court. Thanks to going through these terrible trials, Joseph is in the position to influence power when he has dreams of famine and the need to be prepared. Joseph saves his master and even his own cruel brothers from starving to death.
Joseph ultimately forgives those brothers, is reunited with his father Jacob/Israel, and is able to mourn him when he dies. Joseph, the youngest brother, then becomes the patriarch of the clan and lives to see many generations after himself.
Between the international and court politics, and the jealousy, and the forgiveness it is a truly rich story. But I want to start today with dreams that provide for the future. I want to talk about stewardship.
As the chair of our Financial Stewardship Team, Terry P., said in August when we launched this campaign, stewardship means many things. It means tending to and offering up our time and our talents. Being here today is an offering to God. So is baking cookies for our time in the parlor and helping to do some painting upstairs in October and driving kids from school to the Wednesday Afternoon Club.
Stewardship is also about treasure, our financial resources. On Sunday, October 9, you are invited to name how much of your financial resources you will pledge to the life and mission of this church. Not out loud but through either the yellow cards that have been in the bulletins the last couple of weeks or the version that was in the Courier newsletter or the version that is in the brochure in your pew today.
So what will you get for your gifts? We don’t have a tote bag or a mug. Instead, we collectively will have congregational meals and visits with the home bound. Educational and faith formation opportunities for infants through elders. Worship that continues to reference our traditions while remaining relevant in the now. Outreach through service and sharing that demonstrate the good news of beloved community. Charitable giving to organizations that protect and repair bodies and souls.
DREAMS FOR DROUGHT
At this stage each of your leadership teams has submitted requests for how to make all of this happen. The first draft of the 2017 budget is 20% higher than in 2016. Some of that is because we have to be better prepared to maintain our campus and its facilities.
But your team chairs and vice chairs are also dreaming big. They are dreaming of a church where more people may serve and be served with each passing year. They are allowing God’s vision to guide us toward a storehouse of abundance for times of drought.
And drought we are in. A true drought in some areas, offset by floods in others, but also a drought of compassion and listening. Today American streets run with the blood of Black people and emergency rooms fill with drug overdoses. Our police have become our de facto mental health case managers and outside of our nation the waterways of Europe fill with the bodies of refugees. These situations as old and familiar and scary as the Bible’s first murder and Joseph’s abandonment in a well.
But over the 151 years of this church’s history, members and worshippers just like us shored up these sanctuary walls as Joseph would a silo.
Thanks to them, we give away real food and real money to feed and shelter, but also the nourishing grains of prayer and song. Our dry goods are the Godly Play stories that teach our children to care. Our canned goods are conversations in classes and around coffee that open up possibilities for real action. Our gifts preserve a radical welcome as sweet as currant jelly, a direct response to larger narratives of tribalism and hate.
As Genya Coffey so beautifully shared through the Godly Play account of Sarah and Abraham last week,
Then Isaac and Rebekah had children, and their children had children, and those children had children. This went on for thousands and thousands of years until your grandmothers and grandfathers had children. Then your mothers and fathers had children. Now you are part of that great family which has become as many as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand in the desert.
We are the descendants of murderers and thieves, of the jealous and the cynical. We are the children of the forgiven and the forgiving. We are those who have accepted Christ’s call to proclaim that everyone is in God’s big, busted up family.
Please support God’s family today and in the future through a pledge.
A pledge is not a contract. If you ultimately cannot fulfill it as planned, that is OK. Life happens. Nor is a pledge intended to induce guilt. While it would be terrific for everyone to pledge many thousands of dollars, not all of us can do so. And that is OK, too.
But do let your commitment reflect your own response to our family stories of jealousy and forgiveness, to dreams of life-feasting in times of death-dealing-famine.
God’s dream a big dream, a long-term dream. One that, when we take it from fantasy to reality, ensures that in there will continue to be a storehouse of prayer and learning, liberation and reconciliation for God’s great family at the corner of 6th and Kellogg.