Love Generously

auction440x265Love Generously

Matthew 25:13-30

September 20, 2015

I was at a conference on Friday and was able to listen to

someone who’s probably the most popular Lutheran pastor after Martin himself:

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally),

she also happened to be on NPR last week.

She was introduced by the host of “Fresh Air,” Terry Gross,

as a woman who does not look (or act) like a typical church leader:

heavily tattooed and with a tendency to swear like a truck driver,

she was once a standup comic with a big drinking problem.

Pastor Nadia was giving an interview about her new book

which is already number 8 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Can you imagine?

A book by a Lutheran pastor on the NY Times Bestseller list!

One of the things Nadia said to us on Friday which got tweeted out quite a bit was,

“We’ve all heard that ‘Hurt people hurt people,’

Well, we Christians know that it is also true that

Loved people love people;

Forgiven people forgive people;”

And she also said, that “people who have been given much are generous people.”

One of the gifts she brings as a pastor and as an addict in recovery,

Is that she knows grace.

She knows how much she has been given…her sobriety often foremost in her mind,

And in response, she cannot help but give back in return,

Sharing her story with her congregation which she says includes “addicts and drag queens and felonius bishops and church-loving agnostics.”

These are the people she calls, “Accidental Saints,”

And it is the title of her book.

Today we continue a sermon series on the theme of “generosity,”

And whenever we stop and think about it,

We know we have been given much.

We have been given much treasure…

And by treasure of course, I mean more than money.

We have been given health, influence, intellect, skills,

Hours in the day, months, years in our lives,

None of which we’ve earned in the least bit.

We have been given it all.

We have been given much treasure.

Loved people love people.

Forgiven people forgive people.

And people who recognize that they have been given much treasure

can’t help but give it out –

they are generous people.

+++

I watched an interview last week with a man who works as an auctioneer.

He does primarily estate auctions…

-the kind of auctions where he is asked to sell the possessions

of persons who have died or who are moving and need to downsize.

He talks to people a lot about their possessions –

What some may consider their treasures …

This is what this estate auctioneer tells his clients:

“Surrounding you is your life’s work –

and in about 4 hours we will dispose of it all.”

Sobering isn’t it?

4 hours and your life’s work will all be gone.

Except gathering these kinds of treasures isn’t our life’s work.

The good news that Jesus brings is that our life’s work

is much more than the stuff we collect which will be gone in 4 hours.

Our life’s work, as the parable says,

Is using our treasures, sending them out.

Our life’s work is

Giving money away to causes we believe in;

Our life’s work is

Spending the precious hours, months, and years of our lives we have been given

In making the world a better place;

Our life’s work is

Using the intellect and the influence we have

to change the world for the better..

Our life’s work is

pouring ourselves out in relationships

with the accidental saints we meet along the way.

If we make use of our treasures in these ways,

they will last.

No auctioneer will dispose of them in 4 hours.

++++

Jesus tells this parable..

A master (whom we may read as God),

Has three servants (whom we may read as us).

The master is going away on a journey for a long time.

He gives each of his servants at least one talent.

A talent was a unit of measure consisting of about 75# in gold…

A single talent was worth about $1.2 million in today’s money!

The servants don’t know when the master will return;

And he doesn’t tell them what to do with this significant treasure.

When the master does return he calls his servants back,

And asks how they’ve managed his treasure.

And we know the story…

Two of the servants invest the treasure

And give  back double of what was given them.

But one servant does not invest it…he buries it, stores it, saves it, hides it…

And at the end of the day, it is worth even less than it was originally.

Jesus tells this story to his disciples on Tuesday of Holy Week.

In a few days he knows he will be leaving them,

And I imagine he’s wondering, hoping, praying,

That he’s given them treasure which will last…

And that they in turn will invest it in others.

All of us have a choice with what to do with what we’ve been given.

We can choose to make our life’s work building up treasures for the auctioneer

To sell off in 4 hours when we’re gone.

Or we can choose to make generosity our life’s work..

Giving our treasures in all their forms away, so that they will last.

Jesus of course chose to give it all away.

ALL…

At the time of his crucifixion he had no stuff (even his cloak was taken away),

His intellect and influence were mocked,

His time cut short,

His body scourged..

In the supreme act of love,

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, completely.

To paraphrase something else Pastor Nadia said

That kind of love,

the kind of love which gives everything away we don’t hear about in yoga class.

At the end of our lives,

the only things which can’t be sold,

are the things we’ve given away already.

Love generously.

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