We have been experiencing life in the wilderness of a pandemic. We also see the wilderness of a messy world where some have wealth and status while others experience food insecurity, injustice and homelessness. It is into this wilderness that today, John the Baptist proclaims that one is coming through whom “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). John points us to the Promised One and to the salvation Jesus offers. We are called to bear witness to the promise that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, who leads us to life.
Our final theme of our Fall Stewardship emphasis for today is “Fearless Giving.” Jesus spent more time on teaching about the subject of money and possessions than anything else. If we are going to be “fearless disciples,” we need to put away the fear and apprehension of talking about money and giving. Today we compare two of the stories Jesus tells. Both stories are in Luke’s Gospel. One is about a rich young ruler; the other is about a poor, old widow. The young ruler had it all; the old woman had nothing. Which of the two practiced fearless giving? Can we be bold as she? Might we experience this as Henri Nouwen says in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: “Every time I take a step in the direction of generosity, I know I am moving from fear to love.”
Today, our Fall Stewardship emphasis theme is “Fearless Sowing.” We explore Jesus’ parable of the sower in Mark 4. Are we the seed? Are we the ground? Are we the productive harvest or the one that never gets out of the ground? Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that we have it all backward. “What if,” she asks, “it is not about us at all, but about the Sower?” The sower is not fazed by the negativity or all the problems, rather the Sower just flings the seed everywhere with holy abandon. The sower covers the creation with fertile seed, good news.
Our theme for today is “Fearless Service.” Jesus said to the disciples, “I am among you as one who serves.” Examples of Fearless Service abound. They may be as close as a neighbor or a fellow church attendee. Service at its best is worship. This means that as one serves, one is offering worship of God.
How might we step out of our comfort zone and serve? Our mission is to serve and welcome all in the name of our Lord Jesus and show love in care and service to all.
Today we begin our Fall Stewardship emphasis “Fearless Generosity.” Today’s theme is “Fearless Living.” In his book, Being Me, Grady Nutt wrote, “I honestly believe that there beats in the breast of every person a desire to exert a dramatic influence on the course of life.” God has instilled in us a characteristic, an instinct, a drive that, when coupled with this desire to exert a dramatic influence on life, can produce amazing results. That characteristic, that instinct, that urge originates in God. It is part of God. It is part of us. How might we be courageous enough to take the risk of sharing our time, time and treasure?
Today the scriptures tell us that God’s grace comes freely, as a gift. But is anything really free? Yes, before we were born, before our first exam or job interview, before our first failure, before our first fight or our first loss, Jesus Christ hung on a cross to be sign that God’s grace is free indeed. In his cross, there is no catch or small print; there is simply the divine love that has been there for us all along. This is the love of a God who made the world and called it good. It is the love of a God who sees us, suffers with us, and binds up all our wounds.
In today’s gospel from Mark, a man who suffers cries out again and again for mercy as Jesus passes by. Yet his cries are too much for others gathered around, who are annoyed by the man and want him to be quiet. In his cries they hear only hopelessness, pain, and misfortune with no remedy; they hear their own powerlessness. But Jesus hears something different; rather than the problem, pain, misfortune, and human weakness, he hears a person in need, hope, and divine strength. Here is the beginning of healing.
In today’s gospel from Mark, the picture of Jesus’ power in the gospels is not one of king but of servant Lord. We do not see Jesus seated on a throne, issuing orders, and being served, but as an unassuming man, living among people, listening to their needs, and sharing God’s healing merch with them. Jesus calls his followers to share in his power and glory by being at his left and right as he stoops to wash feet, as he touches those considered uncle, as he is mocked by worldly powers. This is where true glory and power are found.
In today’s gospel from Mark, Jesus invites a man to leave behind everything he has known and thought about himself to become Jesus’ disciple. To the world, the mand is defined by his wealth, but Jesus sees the man behind the possessions and loves him. He sees past what seems inevitable about the man, to what God can make possible. Yet, tragically, the man can only see the world’s vision of him, a vision of limited possibilities. When Jesus calls him to leave his wealth behind, the man thinks he is being asked the impossible and leaves. How will we respond?
In today’s gospel from Mark, the two episodes may seem disjointed: a challenging, even unsettling passage about divorce is followed by a much-loved image of Jesus telling his disciples to let little children come to him. Yet in both passages, Jesus puts rules and conventions aside to challenge his followers’ hearts to greater openness and vulnerability. How might we become agents of love through Christ?