May 2018  
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Matthew 6: 24                “Defying Gravity- Tethered to God”                10/15/2017

Rev. Jerry W. Krueger                  Boardman UMC

Do we have any pilots here? What are you certified to fly?  There is something about flying and leaving earth untethered from gravity that is awe inspiring.

Charles Lindbergh in May of 1927 became the first person to fly from New York to Paris nonstop and claimed a $25,000 prize. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $330,000 in today’s buying power.

There were other competitors in this trans-atlantic race.  French WW I ace, Rene’ Fonck who built a plane stocked with cases of champagne, chairs and a sofa capable of being converted to a sofa. And food supplies that would last his crew of 4, 3 days.  The weight limit of 20,000 pounds was exceeded by 8,000 pounds with disastrous results on takeoff. The overloaded plane struggled to get airborne, inched upward, failed to climb, flipped and burst into flame, killing two of the crew.

Plane manufacturer Giuseppe Bellanca teamed up with millionaire Charles Levine. And their focus was on publicity and notoriety. The venture was grounded when one of the two additional pilots brought along, filed an injunction halting the flight. All over how much of the prize money each would receive if they won.

Commander Robert Byrd who claimed to have reached the North Pole was competing with the backing of retail store mogul Rodman Wannamaker. Wannamaker was so obsessed with safety and redundancy that Charles Lindbergh took off 9 days prior to Byrd’s flight, while Byrd and Wannamaker did more safety checking.

Charles Lindbergh had a plan, and was committed and dedicated to it. He simplified the interior of the plane, allowed for one pilot, and had minimal fuel on board. He budgeted for every ounce of weight, and dumped all excess in order to simplify the flight. Which we all know was a success, because Lindbergh sacrificed for his goal.

Most people set vague goals, and sometimes reach their vague result. Most people are not miserly, they want to give.  But give NOTHING because they’re weighed down by possessions, and there is no ability to experience freedom of generosity. Others like Byrd are so consumed with personal security, that they bypass the great goals of generosity.

In today’s text we hear Jesus words, “No one can serve two masters.” You can’t go to both birthday parties at the same time, in different locations. We have to make a choice which party we choose.  For some people, they look where they will have most visibility. Some look for the most notoriety. Some go where their ego can be fed.  And some, do of course, go see the close friend. Some try to attend both parties, and some, well, the choice is too difficult, so they just don’t participate. Their decisions is, to simply miss the party.             

We cannot serve both Mammon and Money. Mammon is NOT an Aramaic God. Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning “property,” And all it entails.

To be financially generous we need to do three things. 1. Make a Budget, 2. Live More simply, 3. Have a plan for generosity.

I won’t ask how many of you have a budget. Some do, some do not. But if you make a plan and work it, your rate of success is far greater than just flying by the seat of your pants. If God is truly central to your life, than we will budget for health, home, transportation, food, and even vacation. But the first priority should be in the column labeled, “God/church/ Christ. And that means that you contribute financially to the life and future of this church, and Christ’s Kingdom.

If we set nothing aside for the church, then anything left, is a left over.  We’ll always have personal expenditures, that’s normal. But failing to include God as a top priority in our giving generously as Christian’s, sets our course to be like Mr. Levine.  Focused just on his accouterments for his plane, and we don’t lift off.  Budget wisely, realistically, and with God in mind to receive first fruits.

2. Living Simply-   This cuts across all income brackets. It doesn’t mean you can’t budget for a car, or vacation, or trailer, or boat if you enjoy those things.  Living simply is really about knowing the difference between your needs, and your wants. Needs are food shelter clothing, retirement, tithing. Wants are a driver where the gravity bound person sees simplicity as the absence of life’s good things. Such as a new car, or larger home. The rationale is “why should I live a monastic life? The bed is hard, the car is undependable, and the shirt is haircloth. Dinner is hard bread and cold veggies.” If you see Simplicity as absence, your world view is distorted.  Living simply means we live… within our means, live on a budget, and don’t accumulate, accumulate, accumulate.

We see evidence of accumulation twice a year at Trash and Treasure. Where does all that stuff come from?  The Storage shed business is booming with people storing all the stuff they have acquired. In the last 10 years one of the fastest growing companies has been 1- 800- GOT-JUNK.  You call, we haul your junk away.

Consumption has consequences. But if you have ever done a major clean out at home or office, it is somehow cathartic.

My Mom and Dad’s San Antonio home, has a floored in, very tall attic, measuring about 1500 square feet. Over the years from 1966 when they built the house, stuff migrated to the “attic.” The attic didn’t just hold Krueger family stuff. Dad opened it up to his friends.

He told Mr. Holchak, “Sure, you can store that chest of drawers there. Plenty of Room.” The Sewell’s brought a baby bed, play pen, high chair and boxes of baby clothes. The Lovelace’s brought old books, and assorted furniture pieces that gravitated to the attic as their kid’s marriage status seem to constantly change. Married, divorced, engaged, living together, divorced, married. 

And of course, my Dad’s tax records from 1950 to 2012, as well as thousands of paper brokerage documents from old clients, deceased clients. There were golf clubs, easels, old outgrown clothing, boxes saved to wrap gifts at Christmas. A raggedy recliner, a single bed, and just stuff and dusty clutter.

After my Mom died, my two sisters and I went to SA, and had junk hauled off, furniture picked up, clothes donated, documents shredded, and it was cathartic.  No attic clutter any more.

If we are those who, defy gravity of self, we can see simplicity as freedom. If we hope that more and more stuff will make life better, we essentially have sold out to follow the world’s idea of success.

Before GPS, sailors navigated with the stars. They picked the North Star, and set their course.  But we know as did they, that navigation by a multiplicity of constellations won’t work. We need to locate the North Star, and set our course on it.

For us as Christians, Jesus is true north. His vision of God‘s kingdom is love, compassion, justice and generosity. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one or love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

When we set Jesus as the North Star, we see our blessings and understand God’s provision for us in many ways. Soon, living simply provides a sense of relief, or completeness, of assurance that we are living in a way, within our financial means, that pleases the Christ.

3. Setting Goals for generosity.

Those who plan their giving to the church, are excited when they learn that their giving enables the pipe organ to be repaired and cared for. It allows the preschool to operate and shape lives. It allows community to be formed at dance classes, at game nights, in Scouting activities, in worship and fellowship, in funding that supports mini missions in community, in overseas Mission, in the country and community.

Often people say, “I can’t budget, I don’t make enough money to give.”   Albert Lexie started shining shoes for $5 in 1957 at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, giving his tips to the hospital. In the course of 40 years he contributed over $200,000 in tips to the hospital. He was recognized as one who made a difference with Dr. Ben Carson, Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Rev. Billy Graham.

People of God, Scripture proclaims, “Render unto mammon things that are mammon’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Too often all that belongs to God, is one hour on Sunday, and mammon gets the rest. (PAUSE)

Christ challenges us with this Text today, calling us to budget our resources, giving God our first gifts, living simply and planning to be generous for the long haul...

God wants you to have a life that is truly, life. Generosity is the path. If you have it as your goal, being generous, you can defy gravity, and cross the great distance from committed consumer, to generous steward.

And all of God’s grace filled and generous people proclaimed, “AMEN!”