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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by the Rev. Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Aug. 4, 2019 | 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

    Celebrate Ministry
    Luke 12:13–21

     I  WANT TO CELEBRATE the outward focus of our ministry.

    We begin a new initiative this week. We’re providing lunch for Elberta Elementary staff. Originally, I wanted them to come here for lunch so they would see our place. But time didn’t allow for that. I’m glad. Now that I’ve thought about it, I think us going to them makes a strong theological statement.

    “Go” is a call word of Jesus. Go to Jerusalem. Go and make disciples. Go and do likewise.

    Not they come to us. We go to EES. We bring lunch to them. We meet the staff on their turf. Our going helps them know we’re serious about a relationship with Elberta Elementary.

     † † † 

    WHY ARE WE FEEDING teachers lunch? Teachers are integral to our ministry to students. They know the students. They know their needs. They spend more time with each child in a day than anyone else. Teachers know what students need.

    Teachers know the need for shoes, or underwear, or pants that fit, or soap. Teachers see hunger that a snack won’t satisfy.

    We need the teachers to know we’re committed to the children of EES.

    They also need to know we are committed to them. We will support the staff. If they need something to enhance the classroom, I want them to contact us and if it’s in our power, we will provide that for them. We also want to care for the teachers. If they need prayer, support, comfort, or confidant, or a place to worship, we can provide that.

     † † † 

    WHAT’S THAT HAVE TO DO with our scripture reading of a farmer who stores away a bumper crop? Well, just that. This is a negative parable. Jesus is saying, “Don’t be like this farmer.”

    It’s not wrong that the farmer is rich. It’s not wrong that the farmer has a bountiful harvest. What’s wrong is the farmer is self-focused. Jesus uses the word “greed.” Five times the farmer uses the word “I.” Five times he focuses on himself.

    Notice Jesus says, “The ground … produced a good crop.” Yet, the famer claims all the credit. Never mind the sun warming the ground. Forget the rains falling at the right time. What importance is a seed, that the farmer didn’t create, that sprouts and grows and bears an abundance of other seeds?

    The farmer credits himself for the abundant harvest. He then decides to keep that abundance for himself. Tear down. Build bigger. Enjoy the fruits of HIS labor. Eat, drink, and be merry. But the farmer dies and the bounty goes to someone else.

     † † † 

    WHILE JESUS IS TALKING about an individual and that person’s greed/self-focus, Jesus talks to us, the community of faith, as well. It is easy for the local church to become like the farmer. Take what we have and keep it for ourselves. We use for ourselves. Claim the blessings we have received are for us and us alone. Take care of ourselves. Dying churches do this.

    Have you ever met anyone who thought their church was greedy? Of course not. Greed might not be the best descriptor. It might be better to say their funds are inwardly focused. Time, talents and finances take care of each other. Nothing “goes” in the name of Christ.

     † † † 

    WHEN A CHURCH STARTS the downhill slide on the bell curve (I mentioned this last week), gravity takes control. The maintenance, preservation and life support are places where the church folks are more concerned about taking care of themselves than ministry and mission.

    What does that look like?

    ■ When income decreases what’s the first expenditure to go? Cuts are made to ministries and programs with outward focus. Missionary support. Disaster relief.

    What’s the last to go? Those that keep the members most comfortable and ministries for church members.

    A church can no longer find money to support a missionary, but they can find money to replace the broken church air conditioner. A church can no longer afford to supply food for hungry people in the community, but there’s money to buy pizza for the weekly youth group.

    ■ Churches don’t want to do anything that might upset someone. If they leave we lose their money. So, the church does nothing. At least nothing of any consequence.

    Outward ministry focus fades gradually, so that no one notices. More and more of the church budget is used to keep the machinery of the church moving and to keep members happy at the expense of funding the great commission or the great commandment. (Thom Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church)

     † † † 

    TONY MORGAN, author and church consultant, says:

    “For the church to return to sustained health, a growing core of people needs to come to the realization that church isn’t about me.

    “My preferences aren’t as important as the people we are trying to reach. My needs aren’t as important as those outside of the church. My faith is meaningless if it isn’t backed up by actions to carry out God’s mission.”

    — The Unstuck Group

     † † † 

    SO THAT’S WHY I celebrate today. Instead of looking inward, we are looking outward. Instead of focusing only on ourselves, we are concerned about others. Thanks be to God.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY

    Luke 12:13–21
    Holy Bible, New International Version


    The parable of the rich fool
    13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

    14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

    16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

    18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

    20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

    21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

    — The Word of God for the people of God.
    — Thanks be to God.


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    23208 Swift Church Road
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367
    email: swiftpc@gulftel.com