May 2018  
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Matthew 6: 19-21    Defying Gravity – When We Get It Right” 10/ 22/ 2017

CONSECRATION SUNDAY       Boardman UMC         Rev. Jerry W. Krueger

Where is your heart? That is the question that Jesus is asking of each of you today. Jesus asks “Jerry, where is your heart?”  And then Jesus tells us, “Where your treasures are, that is where your heart is.”

One of my neighborhood friends as a kid in San Antonio was Johnny McCoy.  And Johnny’s dad had the largest floor safe I had ever seen. Sometimes we would be at Johnny’s house and his dad would go into his office, twirl the dials on the safe, and then would ominously turn the handle, “Clunk,” and the safe door would silently swing open.  It allowed me to see the most money I had ever seen.  Johnny’s dad was a coin collector and the safe held silver coins, gold coins, MONEY. Johnny’ dad used to say, “This is my additional retirement.” But one day 3 police cars were at his house, and we learned thieves had hauled the floor safe out of the house and, absconded with about $50,000 worth of coins. This was in about 1964 or 65.  (That’s $386,000 today) Johnny’s dad was a wreck. All of his earthly treasures were stored in that safe.

Read Matthew 6: 19-21 again. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

At age 11, I started a lawn mowing business. It consisted of me pulling dad’s mower behind my bike, and loading broom, shears, and a can of gas in my bike side baskets. After a few weeks I was rolling in the dough. BIG CASH money!!  $10 a yard, 4 yards per day. 20 yards per week.  $200 DAHLLAHS!     “Need a loan, Dad? No problem.”  

As I sat at the kitchen table one afternoon counting my loot, my Dad said, “Jerry, what are you going to do with all that money?”  I said, “Maybe a new baseball glove, a book or two, maybe a new bicycle, maybe a ride over to the Rexall Drugstore to have a Dr. Pepper at the soda fountain.  Dad smiled and said, “so what about God?”   I admit, I gave my dad a slack jawed look and muttered, “Whuuuuut?”

Money to God? For what? And Dad explained the tithe to me, and I realized Mom and Dad put money in the plate each week, and the money was …gone. They gave it…AWAY!! Give it away? Are you nuts? I worked in the hot, sticky, humid 95 degree South Texas summer heat for this money.” 10%. That’s $20 bucks, I wanted to run out of the house. For me at that time as a kid, giving felt like losing MY stuff. MINE!

That was the first time I had felt the pull of financial gravity on my income.  For most of us, learning to be generous is just that. Learning. It almost seems….. unnatural.

As a young, my wife and I took a Crown Ministries class that was a Bible based 8 week study on giving. At the end of the class, we vowed to tithe. But I admit, at first I played the “WHAT if? “Game. You know the phrases, “what if the kids get sick and need a hospital visit? What if the car I’m driving finally gives up and I have to get a new car. What if the Zombie apocalypse comes and I run out of swords, or ammo to destroy them with? What if the asteroid comes so close to the earth….? Take a deep breath Jerry.  And I recalled these words from Psalm 116: 12-14 (read them)     What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord,    in the presence of all his people.”

We began tithing. At first I struggled with turning loose of such a significant amount of money, but after a while I realized my needs were being me, I was not without. I was not starving. This was not about, not having enough.

When I went to seminary, my son John moved with me. And as a single dad living in Ohio, we had a limited income.  I served a restart church in Columbus, and received a small salary. I worked 20 hours a week for the seminary maintenance department. I always volunteered for more hours, locking up the seminary campus every midnight. I would pick up a small job here or there, and I had a paper route that started at 5AM for 1 ½ years. I didn’t sleep much and Money was always tight.

One day I had our bills on the table and John says, “What are you doing Dad?” “Paying bills John.”  “Dad, what is this check for -to your church? Don’t they pay YOU?”  “Yes, but it’s my tithe.” John paused and then blurted out, “Don’t pay it dad, and we’ll have more money.”  And this was a teaching moment. “John, I give because I’m grateful.  We’re blessed. God continues to provide for us. He gave me a church, jobs at the seminary, a paper route and side jobs. We’re okay John.”

Giving is an expression of our love for God. Generosity and giving to God enables me, to fully rely on God, and to celebrate what Christ is doing in the world.

Jacob in the Old Testament had 12 sons, one of whom was Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachael. The other sons were from the other maid servants, and Rachael’s sister, Leah. The brothers were jealous of favorite son, Joseph. So when tending the flocks in the field, they tossed Joseph in a cistern, then later sold him to traders in route to Egypt. They lied to their Dad, saying Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

Even in despair, Joseph is faithful to God. He eventually, after being falsely imprisoned, correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, (7 years of bumper crops, 7 years of famine,” and ascends to be 2nd in command of Egypt.    Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all Egypt to prepare food storage facilities for the coming 7 year famine.

In the middle of the famine, Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt begging for food, and Joseph who had every right to punish his brothers, greets them with joy and happiness, and is generous to them. Joseph was a steward of God. The greatest accomplishment for Joseph was not being second in command in Egypt, but having a generous character that developed under harsh conditions.

Spiritual growth is a process. Many of our growing points to giving, are like chickens. Chickens when tossed in the air can only fly a few feet, and for a short time. So as we are a bit like chickens at first, going in fits and starts, we eventually dedicate more of our lives to God, until eventually our life is fully dedicated to God, and we fly like the beautiful and graceful Canadian geese we see in the autumn skies of Ohio.

If married couples are in different places on tithing, it can be difficult to reach common ground for them. For one, it is generous life giving of gifts to God. To the other, it is a painful loss of money that could have been enjoyed in the present, or saved for the future.

We can’t blame Jesus for this.  Our choice is “to pick up our cross daily and follow me,” says Jesus. “Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me, will find them.”           (Matt. 10: 38-39.)

Patricia Greenfield is an academic who studied families in Chiapas, Mexico for 40 years.  She found as family income increased, generosity decreased. Increased income, came with a surge in individual and self-serving needs, that became predominate in the family’s lives.

People of God, Jesus the Christ, whom we profess as Lord. Whom we claim as savior. The one who saves us, died in your place on the cross.

Your sin, your failures, your shortcomings, all were heaped upon him and he was crucified so we might have opportunity to live a life of love and grace, compassion and generosity, free from the threat of living a life of hell. Of having no chance of eternal life.

Generosity, like our faith, is countercultural. The majority of people in this country are NOT Christian.  We are wading against the cultural tide that proclaims, “Only live for self, and give to self.” God is calling to us to defy the gravitational pull of the kingdom of self which proclaims, “Do for yourself, and spend on yourself. Don’t worry, just give a left over, God will be happy with that.”

Defying Gravity in our culture as Christians encompasses this: it takes a commitment to give God first fruits of our earnings. It requires some sacrifice. It takes a shift in our world view, that serving self-first, is NOT what God has called us to do.

Such a life that honors God first with our prayers, our attendance in worship, our financial giving and support, our service to others and our witness, is a life that has broken free of the gravitational pull of the world, and enjoys the pull of the Kingdom of God, so that the Spirit of God will bloom and live in each of your lives forever.

Christ asks each of you this moment, right now, “Where is your treasure, because that is where your heart is as well.”  In the holy name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.