Sunday, May 3, 2009

Creating Home…One Gift At A Time

May 3, 2009
The Barnabas Effect
Acts 4:32-37; Malachi 3:10-12; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Homestead UMC is in the middle of a capital campaign called "Creating Home" for the purchase of land to relocate the ministries of our church. These sermons are to encourage our congregation and listen to God's call on our community of faith to extend its reach in ministry and mission through relocation.

The Acts community is “all-in”

Do you know that phrase? I had to look up again why I know that phrase. It is planted in my memory from the days I was fascinated by Texas Hold’em Poker tournaments on Television. All-in is a bet a player can make. They look at the cards they have, presumably it’s a winning hand, so on that hand they make their bet “all” the money they have. They lay it all on the table. They go “all-in”.

The Acts community has gone “all-in”. They have held nothing back. They have given everything they have and everything they are. They have laid it all on the table. They are “all-in”.

So to what is the Acts community “all-in”? They are all-in to this resurrection faith that has been given to them. They are “all-in” to reaching in as a work of God and to reaching out with the Word of God.

They are reaching in as a work of God. They have pooled their resources. Because of this, no one in their community was in need. They took care of their widows and orphans. That was something to which Jesus challenged the people of God. They had not lived up to caring for the most vulnerable of their society. But this Acts community was working to care for the vulnerable. No one had excess and no one was needy. That’s the way it goes. Because if I have excess, someone else is in need. The Acts community understood this truth. They lived in a kind of harmony not as common today.

They also reached out with the Word of God. They gave their testimony to the resurrection by going out and telling others why they were so full of joy. They brought others into the joy of their community and their way of life. They were sharing the risen Christ with others.

How is it that the Acts community can go “all-in”?

First – someone taught them the faith. The disciples and others who were filled with the Holy Spirit were compelled by the Spirit to spread the Good News. They made a life out of drawing others to Christ. This early Acts community of faith were recipients of their faithfulness. The Acts community of faith can go “all-in” because someone has taught them the faith.

Second – the Acts community of faith can go “all-in” because they believed in the ministry in which they participated. Scripture says they were “of one heart and one soul.” The thing that God had called them to do was powerful. They were gladly a part of what God was doing in their midst, even privileged to be a part of it! The Acts community of faith can go “all-in” because the work God called them to was so important!

Third – the Acts community of faith can go “all-in” because they had resources. God had provided those resources to them. There was land and houses and other resources. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, they sell it all. And in faith, they “laid it at the apostle’s feet”. They give it to the work of God happening in their midst. They are so convinced at the life-changing work happening in their midst that they are wholly committed to this work. They have gone “all-in” with their lives already. Now they go “all-in” with their resources, too.

Is it possible that we could go “all-in”, too?

We can go “all-in” because someone has taught us the faith! Do you remember who they are? Perhaps it was your mother or grandfather. Perhaps it was a youth group leader or a Sunday School teacher. Someone came into your life and taught you of the life-changing truth of the risen Christ. Perhaps it was several someones. For some of you, that was right here, in this building. For others, it may have been in another building or even in another faith community. Someone was so filled with the Spirit that they couldn’t help but reach out with the word of God to you. Someone taught us the faith!

We can go “all-in” because the work to which God has called us to is so important! God has called us to reach in, to teach the faith to our children and youth. God has called us to build a community that lives “family at its best”. God has called us to grow a community that nurtures and challenges and grows people in their walk of discipleship.

God has also called us to reach out, to go to where young families live an bring to them “family at its best”. We are called to strengthen families and individuals in their faith walk, and to share the family that we love with others.

Honestly, I have never served or been a part of a community of faith that has had such a clear call and ministry from God. I am privileged to help lead in this call. I am thrilled to see how it will unfold. I am excited to see what will happen by the power of the Holy Spirit through this faith community.

We can go “all-in” because someone taught us the faith and because the work to which God calls us is so important.

We can also go “all-in” because we have resources! God has provided abundantly for us individually. We have homes and land and cars and savings accounts and a variety of resources. At the very least, we must acknowledge that God has provided for us. Even if we struggle some financially, compared to other parts of the world, we have an abundance.

Paul reminds us in our 2nd Corinthians about our abundance. When we have enough of everything, it as a gift from God. And it is not a gift for ourselves. God has made sure we have “enough of everything” so that we “may share abundantly.” Do you hear that? When we “enough of everything,” God has given it to us so that we can share it with others. And, when we share it with others, God entrusts us with more so that we can share it with others. That is the way of God.

Barnabas understood that truth. He stands as an example to us. I don’t know if he had a lot or a little, but the fact that he owned a piece of land meant he was somewhat wealthy in his day. As he came to know Christ, he had to respond! So he sold that field and he, like the others, laid the proceeds at the apostle’s feet. That’s another way of saying to us that he gave them to be used in the important ministry work. Barnabas went all in! He held nothing back. He didn’t keep a little for himself or for a rainy day. He was so fully committed to the work of God that he gave all that he had!

Is it possible that we could go “all-in”, too?

In the time the Prophet Micah is writing, there is great difficulty, presumably because of locust. Whatever the case, they are in a place of uncertainty. In such a time, God invites them to put God to the test. “See if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” Put God to the test? We do that by entrusting what we have been given by God to the work of God, partnering with God.

We can go “all-in.” It is time for us to go “all-in” and put God to the test. We’ve already been doing that with our regular giving and God has proven faithful. In a time of a down economy and people cutting back, we are able to keep doing the important ministry work to which we’ve been called. Now is the time for us to put God to the test again. Let’s bring in all of our gifts and so test the limits of what God can do with us. May we be a powerful witness to the risen Christ. May God work in and through us and our “all-in” commitment. May the Barnabas effect change lives, ours included.

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN

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