Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

 “Extravagant Generosity”

Stewardship Sunday

Sunday, November 18, 2007

 

 

Luke 10: 25-37

Dean

Rev. Dean Snyder

 

The theme our Stewardship Committee selected for this year is “Generous Giving for Ministry.” When the Committee went looking for Scripture that would serve as a foundation for the theme, they came up with Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Today I want to share a few points of reflection from this parable.

 

First, we can often overlook the needs of others, moving along our road of life unaware.

 

In Jesus’ story, a priest and a Levite – a pastor and an associate pastor – pass by, on the other side of the road, the man who had been robbed and beaten. They had set out that day to travel from Jericho to Jerusalem to do their priestly duty. They were so focused and absorbed in their priestly responsibilities that they pass by an injured and dying man without stopping to really contemplate and be aware of the man’s condition.  

 

It is possible to be so caught up in the ordinary tasks of life, even a good life, that we lose sight of the need around us. One of the functions of stewardship season in the life of a congregation is to turn our eyes toward the needs of the world around us for ministry, and to help us pause in the busy-ness of our good lives to ask what God might be calling us to do on behalf of others around us who are in need.

 

We can often overlook the needs of others, moving along our road of life unaware.

 

Here’s another point: The Samaritan performed a ministry by caring for the wounded man. The Samaritan gave his own time and energy and did what he personally could do.

 

Ministry begins with the use of our time and talents and energy. Each of us has gifts for ministry – some to teach, some to serve, some to listen, some to make sandwiches, some to repair homes, some to administer, some to lead, some to encourage, some to sing.

 

Giving begins with the giving of our selves, our time, our energy, and these things are sometimes harder to give than money. Ministry begins with us giving ourselves.

 

A third point: In addition to giving his time and energy, the Samaritan gave of his resources. He paid for the ministry to continue with his own money. He paid the innkeeper to care for the wounded man as he continued on his business.

 

While giving our money is no substitute for giving our time and talent and energy, giving our time and energy and talent is no substitute for giving our money. Our money is a way of making ministry possible that we ourselves can not do.

 

Not all of us can teach at Africa University in Zimbabwe but we can give to support those whose ministry it is to teach there. Not all of us can move to the Gulf Coast to help rebuilt homes through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, but we can give to support those whose ministry it is to rebuilt homes there. Not all of us can be US-2 young adult missionaries and give two years of our lives to serve in mission in urban and rural America, but we can give to support those whose calling it is to be US-2 missionaries.

 

By giving of our financial resources we make ministry possible beyond our own capacities.

 

And here’s the fourth point: The Samaritan makes a commitment – a pledge – so that the ministry can continue as long as it is needed into the future. The Samaritan pledges to pay the innkeeper whatever more it costs to take care of the man until he is well.

 

While our giving may sometimes be motivated by an impulse within our hearts, substantial ministry is dependent upon a willingness to make an ongoing commitment. Sometimes we are hesitant to make commitments…to turn in commitment cards or pledge cards or estimate of giving cards stating what we intend to give in the year ahead. We want the freedom to decide along the way, according to how we are feeling about things or how well things are going for us, but substantial ministry requires the willingness to make a commitment.

 

Giving for ministry cannot be only a matter of impulse. It has to also be a commitment if ministry is going to be substantial, ongoing and strategic. The Good Samaritan makes a pledge.

 

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a great Scripture for Stewardship Sunday. It is a story of extraordinary generosity for ministry that encourages us to be generous in our support of ministry as well.

 

There is one more thing about the story that spoke to me this week in a new way as I studied it once again. It is something I came across in Joseph Fitzmyer’s commentary on Luke 10.[1]

 

Fitzmyer says that to really understand Jesus’ parable you need to consider the context of his telling of this story. The context is this: A lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus had turned the question back on the lawyer and asked the lawyer what the law says, and the lawyer answered that the law says, “To love God with all your heart soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered his own question.

 

Then the lawyer asked Jesus a second question: “Who is my neighbor?” Who is it that I am required to love? Who are the people I am required to care about? How far does my obligation extend?

 

It is in answer to this question that Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, Fitzmyer says.

 

The lawyer is asking: who do I really have to care about and who can I write off as not my neighbor? Fitzmyer says that Jesus turns the tables on the lawyer again and has him imagine that he has been beaten by robbers and is lying in a ditch by the side of the road half dead, and asks the lawyer the question – if you were in that situation, who would you accept help from?  

 

Would you accept help even from a Samaritan, whom the Jews hated and refused to touch?

 

He says to the lawyer, if you were lying in a ditch, beaten up and half dead, whomever you would allow to help you, that same person is your neighbor and you should be willing to care about him or her.

 

This spoke to me in a new way as I contemplated Stewardship Sunday and my own giving this year. Every year on Stewardship Sunday I ask myself the question: What should I give? How much should I commit? What is my obligation? Given my income and expenses, what is the minimum I should commit?

 

But the Jesus who tells the story of the Good Samaritan turns the question around on me.

 

Instead of thinking of myself and my income and my sense of obligation, I start to ask the question: If I were a homeless person coming to Foundry’s Walk-In mission for help to get a copy of my birth certificate and ID so that I could apply for a job, how much would I want me to commit then?

 

See what Jesus does with the lawyer in the story of the Good Samaritan? If you were lying in a ditch half dead, who would you want to be your neighbor?

 

Jesus did the same thing to me with my thinking about Stewardship Sunday.

 

If I were a day-laborer looking for someplace to get help to make my life better, how much would I want me to commit on Stewardship Sunday?

 

If I were a child learning the stories of the Bible in Sunday School here, how much would I want me to commit on Stewardship Sunday?

 

If I were a student at Africa University living on one meal a day so I could pay my tuition to get a higher education, how much would I want me to commit on Stewardship Sunday?

 

If I were a 20-year-old gay man in Mississippi who had been taught all my life that I am condemned by God, and I came across Foundry’s website on the internet, how much would I want me to commit on Stewardship Sunday?

 

If I were still living in a trailer on the Gulf Coast waiting for the United Methodist Committee on Relief to rebuild my home, how much would I want me to commit on Stewardship Sunday?

 

Jesus turns the tables on us and asks us not to think about what we need to do but what we would want us to do if we were the one lying in a ditch by the side of the road.

 

These are the questions I have been asking myself this Stewardship Sunday. If I were the man lying in a ditch by the side of the road, what kind of neighbor would I want me to be?

 

 

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[1] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV.New York: Doubleday), 882-885.