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Story of the persistent widow - Stewardship Sunday
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on October 20, 2013

Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8

Persistence.

As I have mentioned before, the staff reads the gospel lesson for the following Sunday each Tuesday and reflects on it as a group. I have to admit when I heard this gospel lesson and thought about it in the context of this also being Stewardship Sunday, I laughed -- indeed we all laughed -- and I hope you will at least smile too.  For it is my responsibility to be persistent, as persistent as the widow was to the judge, persistent in asking you to pledge, persistent in saying, “Pledge soon and pledge big!”

I couldn't have asked for a clearer gospel for the first Sunday in our annual pledge drive.  Persistence.

Some would say the widow expected miracles from the judge.  Others would say she was only asking for her due.  I hope that I am not “expecting miracles” when I ask for your pledges for the care and upkeep of this community. I hope that what I am asking is what is just and fair for this community as a whole, and that what we do here will serve us, our children and elders, that what we do here will support each of us as we take our gifts and experience of being a community of faith here to serve God beyond our doors.  Indeed the Stewardship Committee, the Vestry, Jim Dodson and I will persistently over the next month invite everyone to pledge for 2014...and pledge generously. We have been told that you do not want to hear about money and that it is unseemly at best to speak of money from the pulpit. 

I am certain that the judge thought the widow unseemly for all her nagging, and yet he responded, ultimately, in giving her what she wanted. Perhaps not for good reasons, but in the end, what was her own was restored to her.  I am not advocating that the end always justifies the means, but I am saying that things worth doing, goals worth achieving, often require us to go outside our own comfort zones to accomplish what we truly believe in.

Luke tells us (and this story is only in Luke) that the judge neither “feared God nor had respect for people”, but gave in to the nagging widow anyway because she was bothering him. I do not think Jesus told this story to glorify nagging, though as a world-class parental nagger, that would be to my liking, having biblical justification for nagging, but I don’t think that is the point of persistence as Jesus intends!

No. I believe Jesus was instructing his followers about faith.  He was suggesting that faith is about persistence in our actions that continually form and reform our faith, and thus increase it.  It is our faithful actions that bring justice and all the other Godly things Jesus intends for us. I believe this story is about using the means available to us to enact that persistence. I suggest that this story Jesus told is about being people who pray, persistently, who ask God to guide us, and in return, our  God holds our hands when we dare to go to beyond our comfort zones to act or do or pray in a way that our faith tells us is Godly.

So today I stand before you, in a place that is not so comfortable for me, asking for the money that has been entrusted to you.  Money, not just good works.  Yes, your participation and your worship and your prayers (always your prayers) and your ministry here and away from this place are essential to God’s kingdom here, and certainly to the good of your soul.  But I am also asking for money, and I want to be clear about that. To survive into the next year that is planned with your new rector, let alone the next century, as Christ Church has survived and thrived into this one, you must support this parish financially -- support it with the money with which you have been entrusted.

I know the demands you feel around money.  I live in this 21st century world in this country, in a community not far from here also. I have a family and I have lots of things I need to spend money on, things whose costs often seem to be beyond my control -- education (in our case for grandchildren), housing, food, heat, air conditioning, transportation, clothing, technology, medical care, vacations, books, hobbies, other charities and so on and so on.

So I am at once sitting there with you -- and also standing up here in this pulpit.  In each place, it is difficult to talk about money.  But we must. 

As I thought about Money this week I had a realization.  Money is a commodity that we have come to use to describe worth, or value. We are seduced into thinking that the more money we have or are paid, the more we are worth. And we use money to buy what we want, not only the things I just mentioned as money grabbers in each of our lives.  But the more we have, the more “necessary” more things become. Worth, achievement, value, purchasing power, and often our very identity are all tied up in what we have come to understand as “our Money.”

We are, as a people, as a 21st century culture, lulled into believing that not only is the money in our bank accounts and in our pay checks ours by virtue of something we have done or are, but that whatever money is in our possession entitles us to determine how it is spent.  ”Our” money, how much we have of it, has come to define our power and our ability to control our surroundings.  Yet, I have come to believe, that is not really true at all.

If we approach money with the same understanding of persistent, faithful action and living that we are encouraged, by scripture, to do in every other aspect of our lives, then money becomes not something we possess, but something entrusted to us by God to use for God’s kingdom. 

Period. 

We are not owners of money.  Nor, and this is very important, nor is our value or identity wrapped up in it. Our identity is as “God’s own forever”; a persistent follower of Jesus. We are precious and valued and important and beloved and of great worth because we are God’s own. The balances of our financial accounts do not define us any more than our diplomas, name and title on the door or who our great grandparents were. What defines us is how persistent we are in following Jesus.

And one of the surest ways of measuring that is by how much money we are willing to let go of in God’s name. 

We are in week one of the stewardship pledge campaign. Each family or pledging unit (as we refer to folks who pledge to churches) will be given a packet today.  PLEASE, PLEASE do not leave today without yours. In each of those packets is a booklet that shows the many ways we spend money here, pictures and a second envelope that has a pledge card and a piece of a puzzle of the church. Our hope is to have all the pieces returned by November 20th, and it will be abundantly clear how important each person is if even one piece is missing. It takes all of us persistently contributing to keep the church together.

I truly believe that this church, this community is worth asking for money persistently!  Even if it makes me uncomfortable.

The major source of income to keep this parish vibrant and vital comes from you -- no endowment or diocesan subsidy or money trees.  God has given us much to do here, and if we all let go of the money we are stewards of, each their fair share -- no more no less -- then we will have enough to do everything we are called to do, with much left over to do even more.  But truthfully, our fair share should make each of us really think, make each of us a bit uncomfortable.  Our fair share is more than you think. And it is our fair share, not something that can be rationalized to belong to someone else to do for us.

Maybe I am expecting a miracle, but I don’t really think so.  I believe I am asking what is “due” to this community of God’s.  I know the heart of this parish and the goodness and faithfulness that lives within each of you.  So I will be persistent about asking you to consider well what you have been given and then to let go of it, in God’s name. I am asking this so that what we do here will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many of us here, and to the many, many more whom we serve from this place.  Amen.

Last Published: October 23, 2013 5:46 PM