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New York Times best selling author, Rory Vaden, says that if you want to know what someone really believes in – All you have to do is take a look at their calendar. And their checkbook. Because where someone spends their time – and their money – will tell you – more concretely – what it is they most care about – and what it is they most believe in.
Mr. Vaden and I may disagree on many other things – but about this – we’re totally square. More revealing than what anyone says – Or any story they may tell – Any kind of verbal commitment or emotional speech - Is what someone does with their two most valuable assets – time – and money.
If someone took a look at your calendar and your checkbook – would what you say match up with what you do? If a stranger was – for some reason – trying to figure out what’s important to you – would they be able to tell by looking at where you spend your time and money? Would your priorities be clear? If they decided to look for the two three or four things that were important to you? Would God be there somewhere? Would your calendar and your checkbook somehow render visible your relationship with God?
Jesus is back in Jerusalem – and everywhere he goes, he’s managing to get himself in trouble. Today – he’s very openly criticizing the scribes and Pharisees. For saying one thing – and doing another. He’s upset – because these are supposedly faithful people - The ones who have spent a lot of time learning about God – Learning how to pray – and how to interpret the law.
If someone took a look at the way they were living out their faith – instead of just what they were saying – Jesus knew that it wouldn’t add up right. And so Jesus tells the people not to do what they do – because they’re acting like hypocrites. It’s fine to listen to them – apparently – because they sit on Moses’ seat. Because they have studied – and they can interpret – and they do know all the right words to say. But it’s a do as I say – not as I do, kind of thing.
Jesus is also upset for another reason. He’s accusing the Pharisees of laying heavy burdens on the people. Not only of being hypocritical – but of failing to meet their responsibilities. Instead of doing their work – and living into the call God placed in their lives – To be servants – and to care for the people - They’re tightening the rules. Upping the sacrifices. Asking for more – and more – and not contributing themselves. Only taking. Experiencing their faith as something they get – instead of something they give.
If we believe that God’s word is truly at work in us – if we believe that Jesus is calling us to authenticity – and integrity – Then we must try not to be like these scribes and Pharisees. We have to try to live in such a way that proves our faith to be genuine. This requires a kind of honest and prayerful reflection – about how we spend our time and money – and whether it is in line with our faith – or not.
Paul, too – is talking about living with integrity – and he’s also talking about burdens. He’s talking about witnessing – and caring – and loving each other. And when he talks about blameless conduct – and about burdens – he’s reminding the community in Thesselonika that he and the people with them – met their responsibilities. Part of being a disciple, according to Paul, a follower of Jesus – is about shouldering the load that’s intended for us. Doing what we can – to be responsible for our own little part of the picture. And the burden Paul is specifically talking about – is about money.
In the larger context of this letter, one of things Paul is concerned about is that folks aren’t taking on their own responsibilities. They’re expecting others to do it for them. And so he’s saying here – even look at me. He, of all people, could have let himself off to hook – and he didn’t. Nor did the people with him. They shouldered – and took on their responsibility. So that the weight wouldn’t be doubly heavy for someone else.
If the word of God is at work in us – then it will appear in all aspects of our lives. It will dictate our priorities. And our choices. It will show in the way we spend our time – and our money.
As members of a community of faith – we have an obligation to support the life and ministry of that place. It is important that one of our priorities – one important aspect of our relationship with God – includes a financial commitment to the work of the church – and to the life and work of this parish.
You’ll have seen by now – or guessed, at least – that we’ve entered a season here at St. Andrew’s when we will intentionally talk about our financial stewardship. Stewardship, as you know, is something that we do every day as Christians. It’s not just something that we talk about once a year. But instead – if the word is living within us – and working us on constantly – then one of our priorities – as seen through our calendar and our checkbook – will be a regular commitment of our time – and money – to the work of the Gospel.
In truth – there are many ways that we can contribute to this work. But as members of a community of faith – one of the most important ways we can contribute is by standing up – And being counted as a member – and part of being a member – is being someone who pledges regularly.
Someone who supports the parish in a variety of ways – including this one… So that the parish can continue its outreach – and ministry – Because a parish can do more collectively – for the sake of the Gospel – than we can do by ourselves…just as one person.
A pledge is a commitment.
It is part of our responsibility as faithful people.
And living into this responsibility insures that we live with integrity. It insures that we do not lay unnecessary burdens on other people. On the people sitting around you in the pews. And on the people we hope will be able to participate in this parish in the generations to come. Pledging and contributing is the only way we can ensure that the work of the Gospel from this place will go on.
To live lives worthy of God – and in order to not lay heavy burdens on others – To live into the call God has placed on our own lives – To be members of a faith community – There are many commitments – many pledges – many promises we have to make – and keep. And work and living into.
One of the important ones – one that should be easy to check off the list – is this financial piece. That said – it’s a bit more deceivingly complicated than that sometimes – isn’t it?
In the coming months, you’ll be invited to participate in some conversations. To learn more about the financial shape of the parish. To participate a bit more in some of the decisions about our money. We hope you’ll come. And learn. And plan. And dream with us. And be counted as one of us. By the time we get round to next year, we’ll have, I think, re-framed much of our process around stewardship and budgeting…and the whole financial end of our work together.
But this morning – hear Jesus calling you through the Gospel – to be true to your word. To be intentional about your work – and about your faith – about God’s call in your life. And consider – prayerfully – what commitment God would have you make. What portion of what God has given you – is God calling you to give back? To re-invest in the kingdom – to offer up in thanks – and gratitude – to the work of the church – and to the mission of God.
If you want to know what a person really believes in – you only need to take a look at their calendar and their checkbook.
What does this say about you – and about what you really believe in?