The Sunday Sermon: October 11, 2020 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: John 4:21-24
Into the Waters
There’s nothing new under the sun, says the wisdom teacher from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. But that’s not exactly accurate as we formally enter our Season of Stewardship this year at Pewee Valley Pres. And we have, as of this morning, entered our Season of Stewardship at Pewee Valley Pres.
True, we’re doing a lot of things the same: We’re putting preliminary Ministry Team budgets together for our Finance Team so they may faithfully and more accurately put a first draft of our 2021 operating budget. We’re considering all aspects of devoted stewardship as we engage again this year, including “deeper” commitments of time and giving of talents from all of you; and, once again we’re wondering how to communicate the need for money without actually saying money, or saying the word money as little as possible. (Money …) In any case, we’re doing a lot of things the same, but of course everything is different this year, as it has been all year – or at least since mid-March.
How will we encourage all of you to give of your time and talents in the ways we’ve done in the past when we are so incredibly limited in what we can do that takes time and utilizes your talent. How will we encourage you to faithfully consider your pledge for next year, how much money you will set aside for your church, when you may feel like the church hasn’t really given you much for your money this year and how long will it be into the next year until it’s much different. Maybe that’s just how we, your Elders and I , are feeling. More likely that’s what I, alone, am wondering. I simply can’t make peace with not being able to be with all of you in the ways I’ve always taken for granted.
But … make peace, I must. And find new ways of doing everything, we must. After all, we found new ways to triumphantly enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and to journey through Holy Week last April. We found new ways to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter that month, too. We found new ways to travel to and through the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in May, the long lazy weeks of summer through June, July, and August; Rally Day in September; World Communion in October; and all the weeks in-between those special days and seasons.
We found new ways to celebrate all that and we’ll find new ways to celebrate the promises we’ll make to the community we love in the weeks ahead through stewardship season. And maybe we’ll have a little fun with it, while we’re at it.
Pray with me … And listen for the Word of God. Read John 4:21-24. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
We’ll come back to that scripture and explore it in ways appropriate to this morning but let me first say a bit more about the reality we’re facing this season.
Since I’ve been the Pastor here at Pewee Valley, twelve years now, we’ve always had “Minutes for Mission” from our various Ministry Teams – Worship and Music, Mission, CE, CDC, Fellowship, Congregational Care, Music, Small Group, Finance – during the worship service every year. Well, not this year.
As I was talking with our Finance Team Leader, Lynn Wilkinson, and communicating with our Session Elders about this coming month we set aside to pay special attention to ourselves and our giving, I kept wondering how in the world we were going to communicate all that we want to share with you about how your Ministry Teams and all those who serve on them have been at work this past year, and more specifically these past seven months. I mean we haven’t been able to gather, so … how has congregational care happened? How has Small Group ministered to our youth and their families? How has the Mission Team provided? And in what ways has Finance been at work making sure this “shut down” doesn’t shut us down!
We’ll do it through worship liturgy, sermon message, affirmations of faith and music. During our time on Sunday morning, in recorded and drive-in worship services, Lynn and I hope that we will be able to communicate not only the responsibility of giving but the return and the joy of it. And perhaps we can hear from some of you how you have shared and/or received the love of this community during the past year. We might be able to put together a short video for our Stewardship Dedication Sunday on November 8th, four weeks from today. That’s a tough ask, in many ways – asking you to give more as you’re considering giving! But it does lift up the “time and talents” parts of all this. So let’s have some fun …
In the next weeks, if you have the time, energy and any technical savvy whatsoever, send us a 10-15 second video of how this church has touched your life in the past year. We’ll see how many may come in and what we can do with them. I’m also going to endeavor to share some of the things I’ve heard from some of you through emails, texts, cards, and conversations. Our “minutes for mission” will last all month long.
I know that we all must be motivated to provide by a connection to the thing, the person, or the ministry we’re giving to. That’s what I’m hoping to do this year, we’re hoping to do this year. Spend a bit more time talking and hearing about what’s actually happening so any one or more of you may feel motivated to go deeper in your giving to this church, this congregation, this community this year, instead of feeling like we can take a year off since everything else has seemed to slow down dramatically, if not stop altogether.
Let’s take a quick look at the scripture reading we shared this morning. Verse twenty-three in our reading from the fourth chapter of John makes it clear that, because of our faith in Jesus Christ, the time to change our conventional understandings of worship, and so of what it means to be the church, has arrived. The larger narrative in chapter four is a familiar one from the Gospel, beginning with the first verse. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well in a city called Sychar. Here he speaks to her of living water and how he is offering it to those who ask. The woman asks and he tests her. When she responds by “saying what is true,” Jesus speaks to her of true worship.
I’ve lifted these verses out of the larger periscope this morning to speak to us about what we’ve been experiencing most of this year and will most likely be experiencing in the months ahead, beyond Stewardship season, into Thanksgiving and most likely Advent and Christmas this year. “The hour is now here when the true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth.”
Do we need to worship “what we know” in the ways that we’ve always known in order to give back to the church? Do we need to be in our sanctuary in order to remind us of what we have? Do we need to physically be seated next to one another to understand that our giving – of time, talents, and tithe – is a sacrifice we make for others here, not just for ourselves?
I won’t answer those questions too quickly. Because “what we know”, the beautiful sanctuary where we have gathered, and the people we have journeyed with for … eight months, five years, or for decades and more are too important to not consider fully. But … Jesus, himself, reminds us that “God is spirit.” And one chapter earlier in John’s Gospel he teaches us that the “Spirit blows where it chooses.” If we are to truly worship God, then, if we are to truly give of ourselves, we must follow wherever the Spirit leads us – beyond what we know, beyond our beautiful room, and further distanced from one another.
To “worship God in Spirit and truth” is to realize that we no longer worship God simply with our heads and our practices, but with our hearts and our lives. We don’t simply go out into the world in body and from a sense of duty, but in spirit and in a desire for truth. It seems to me this is exactly where we find ourselves as Stewardship Season 2020 begins: Together in a Spirit that is leading us where it will, seeking the truth of our membership in a church and our discipleship to Christ.
Let’s have some fun. Take up the challenge of sharing with me a ten second video of why you are here and what you are thankful for. And together we will discover how to be better stewards of all we have been given. Let the new season begin. I look forward to the weeks ahead.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / October 18, 2020