The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

BLCF: GoodSamHands

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

The Lessons of the Good Samaritan’ 

 © August 19, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 26, 2018

Originally Published on May 2, 2010, and later on June 8, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin June 8, 2014

BLCF:Good_Samaritan 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee; Choruses     

Responsive Reading #653 (Love and Discipleship – John 13 and 1 John 1 and 3)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

 

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled ‘The Lessons of Good Samaritan’, also know as The Good Samaritan, referring to one of the parables Jesus used to teach and give insight to God’s will in our lives. The word “parable” comes from the Greekπαραβολή” (parabolē), the name given by Greekrhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitiousnarrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed. A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moraldilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. The dilemmas presented in Jesus’ parables often mirrored the real-life situations faced by those whom the parable is presented. As God has provided us with the Bible as a lamp to guide us through life, the Parable of the Good Samaritan was written for all who read His word.

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Luke 10:25-37 (ESV) The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Therefore, we may consider the Good Samaritan Parable was written expressly for both you and me. Any lessons learned from the parable are lessons given by God to us, for our benefit, and are just as relevant today, as they were in the time of Christ.

BLCF: Tale-Yax

The following story published April 26, 2010, by the Calgary Herald as reported by Tom Leonard, in New York’s The Daily Telegraph on April 26, 2010:

More than 20 people ignored a dying man for nearly two hours as he lay on a New York street after saving a woman from being mugged.

CCTV footage showed Hugo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, collapsing with stab wounds on a pavement shortly after stopping the mugger, who was armed with a knife. He lay dying in a pool of blood as people strolled past, some pausing briefly to look at him.

One even emerged from a nearby building to photograph Mr. Tale-Yax, a 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, with his mobile phone. Another man bent down to shake him, lifting him to reveal the pool of blood, but he still walked away.

When police and firemen finally arrived at 7:23 AM on Sunday in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens to find Mr. Tale-Yax was dead, he had been lying there for an hour and 40 minutes.

The same video footage earlier showed an unidentified woman being accosted by a man, who was then involved with a scuffle with Mr. Tale-Yax. As the other two fled in opposite directions, Mr. Tale-Yax staggered a few yards before collapsing.

He was found by firemen responding to an emergency call. Police said they received three calls, one about a screaming woman and another about a man lying in the street. But both calls apparently gave the wrong address and officers found the right location only after a third call.

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The incident has reminded New Yorkers of the notorious killing in 1964 of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in Queens.

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The story of Kitty Genovese In March, 1964, a New York City woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was raped and stabbed to death as she returned home from work late at night. According to a newspaper report published shortly after her death, 38 people had witnessed some or all of the attack, which took place in two or three distinct episodes over a period of about a half hour—and yet no one did anything to stop it; no one even reported it to the police until the woman was already dead. Although the murder itself was tragic, the nation was even more outraged that so many people who could have helped seemingly displayed callous indifference. And so the failure of bystanders to intervene became known as “Kitty Genovese Syndrome”—or, sometimes, just “Genovese Syndrome” or “Genovese Effect.” Social psychologists sometimes call it the “bystander effect.”

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It is interesting that we now have a social psychological term for people when they do not want to get involved in the injury of a stranger, even though such intervention might save the victim’s life, the Kitty Genovese Syndrome. In Mathew 10:27, Christ tells us that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then it appears in the murders of Miss Genovese and Mr.Tale-Yax that there are at least 58 people who lack such love or compassion. Either one might still be alive today if one had shown enough compassion to help, to be a Good Samaritan.

Ironically, Mr.Tale-Yax, perhaps because he was homeless valued life so highly, that he risked his own life to save a stranger and was rewarded for his efforts by his own death thanks to twenty who made no effort to help this Good Samaritan. And as Mathew 25:40 states: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me.’ So not only do the 58 bi-standers by not assisting the victims of these crimes demonstrated a lack the love for their neighbor, they are judged by their actions do not have a love for God as well.

So what is it we may learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan? In Luke 10:25, Jesus was tested by a lawyer who wanted to know how he may inherit eternal life. In Luke 10:26 Jesus answered this question with a question of his own: “What is written in the Law?” and tested the lawyer’s understanding of the scriptures by pairing with his first question, with a second question: ”How do you read it?”

The lawyer’s reply was: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke 10:28, we have Jesus acknowledge the lawyer’s reply as having answered correctly, telling him that by doing what he said he will live.

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a lawyer, Greek nomikos, who is a “legal expert, or a jurist, or a lawyer, and a man who is skilled in interpreting the Jewish Torah testing Jesus on a point of law.” The Jews often called upon a lawyer or jurist of the scriptures to settle legal issues. The purpose of using this question to test Jesus was not intended to reaffirm the lawyer’s faith in Christ, but more likely an attempt to find a flaw in His understanding of the scriptures. Jesus was quite astute by turning the question back to the lawyer and giving him the test, instead. Another interesting aspect of Jesus response was to allow the lawyer to answer his own question and to follow it up by advising the lawyer to show love of God and love to others, indicating that the attempt to trap Jesus implied motives absent of love for either, but more of an earthly desire based on distrust or fear.

The priest and Levite in the parable represent the religious elite. These people were characteristically arrogant and hypocritical, treating others they considered to be of a lower class, such as Samaritans, with contempt. Samaritans, in particular, were looked down upon. For though holding claims on Judaism, they were not pure Jews. They were half-breeds both genetically and theologically, a mixture between the Jews of captivity and the Samaritan people of the land they were captive in. Jews typically held Samaritans in contempt. The Samaritans were not gentiles and were still bound to the same law as the Jews. The parable illustrates the Jesus’ characteristic trait to humiliate the proud and lift up the humble, and thus he used a Samaritan in his illustration.

Jerusalem and Jericho are connected by a 27 Kilometer road. This road is quite steep, dropping over 4800 KM in altitude. In the times of Jesus, this road was notorious for robbers and thieves. The prospect of traveling this route and encountering a victim as described in the parable is quite within reason.

While the reaction of the priest and Levite could be rationalized that both avoided the half-dead man on the road because they feared the man to be not a victim but bait for a trap set by thieves. The fact that neither returned with help really shows the how self-absorbed these two were. The other rationalization for their reaction might be the fear that the victim was already dead and touching a dead body, if not a Jew, would defile particularly the priest to the point that he would not be able to collect, distribute or consume sacrifices presented to priests as tithes. Levites were descendants of Levi, but not of Aaron. Levites assisted priests, who were descended of Aaron, in the temple. The same expectation of non-defilement would apply. Whatever the reason for the journey of the priest and the Levite, each felt their business more important than the life a wretched victim found half-dead on the road, without help left to die.

So if the priest and Levite had decided to not stop to help this man, we would not be surprised if Samaritan had decided to do the same. Instead, we see in Luke 10:33 that the Samaritan shows compassion and acts on his compassion by stopping and treating his wound, then taking the man to an inn on his own animal, and paid in advance for the man’s room and board; promising to return and pay for any more spent for the care of the man.

Another example of a modern day Samaritan left to die by individuals with “more important” priorities is found among the elite mountain climbing community and their treatment of climber Lincoln Hall, who was rescued by Dan Mazur and Mazur’s team of fellow climbers, as described in summitclimb.com.

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Dan Mazur is most widely known for his discovery and assistance in the rescue of Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber on Mount Everest on 25 May 2006. Lincoln Hall had been ‘left for dead’ by another expedition team the previous day at around 8700m on Everest after collapsing and failing to respond to treatment on the descent from the summit. Mazur and his fellow climbers – Andrew Brash (Canada), Myles Osborne (UK) and Jangbu Sherpa (Nepal) – in abandoning their own attempt on the summit in order to save Hall’s life epitomised the noblest traditions of mountaineering. Their sacrifice was underscored by the death of a British climber; David Sharp, who died a few days before Hall, lower down on the same route. Approximately 40 people said they saw Mr. Sharp in distress, and walked past him, but no one rescued David Sharp, and he subsequently died. Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the first ascent of Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, spoke out against those 40 people, and said that nothing like that would have happened in his day.

http://www.summitclimb.com/new/default.asp?chyes=y&mtype=&prid=519&vid=520

BLCF: mt_everest

What was Mazur’s opinion of his team’s actions in contrast to the inactions of other climbing teams with respect to helping a climber left to die on the route to the peak of Mount Everest? The website uwpexponent.com provides us with Mazur’s view on the subject:

In May 2006, Mazur made headlines when, while leading a small group of climbers on Everest, he discovered an injured climber named Lincoln Hall.  Hall had been left for dead by his own climbing group a day prior. Mazur and his group risked their lives to save Hall’s.

“When the story became international news, I was really surprised,” Mazur said.  “I didn’t do anything different on that climb than I normally would have in that type of situation.”

During the rescue, Mazur attempted to flag down two passers-by for help.  The climbers claimed they did not speak English and continued on their journey to the top. Mazur later discovered that they did in fact speak English.  Mazur explained that the urge to reach the top often effects the decision making of mountain climbers.

“They said they didn’t stop because they were working on a research project and didn’t have the time to,” Mazur said.  “I then asked them in a non-confrontational way what they thought about people who climb to the top and can’t make it down on their own.”

Mazur further explained that the two hinted that if people are not strong enough to get back down on their own, they essentially deserve to die at the top.

“Every one of us has the ability to stop and help someone out, every last one of us,” said Mazur.  “However, every last one of us also has the ability not to stop.”

http://uwpexponent.com/features/2013/03/21/mazur-speaks-about-everest-climb-rescue/

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According to John Welch’s Commentary, this parable is an allegory of the Fall and the Redemption of Mankind:

“This parable’s content is clearly practical and dramatic in its obvious meaning, but a time-honored Christian tradition also saw the parable as an impressive allegory of the Fall and Redemption of mankind.

“This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity.”

In this allegorical interpretation of the parable, perhaps Jesus was hinting in this parable of the fact that he was going to pay the price for our salvation.

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I would like to offer another interpretation of the parable; that this parable is an allegory, but with a different paradigm or point of view from the traditional. With all due respect to John Welch and others, I would like to offer a different allegory, wherein Christ is represented not by the Samaritan, but instead, Christ is the fallen victim, avoided by the quote “Corporate Religious Groups”,  or modern-day Pharisees whose focus is upon achieving their self-serving goals. They would find nothing worthwhile to the corporate group’s interests in helping a half-dead wretch on the road or any other poor individual unable to contribute financially to their organization’s bottom line or financial growth. Such groups would deem it not only advantageous to themselves to not stop and help; better to give misery a wide berth, as stopping would only impede its self-serving financial objectives.

It is surprising that I have been asked on occasion by people associated with Christian Groups: “Why do we at BLCF Church bother wasting resources and time hosting the BLCF Café Community Dinner in the heart of Toronto for the homeless and marginalized? After all, what could they contribute financially to our church in return?

My response is: “Really! I mean really!

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Members of such large misguided religious corporations are represented in the parable by the Priest and Levite. They find that the dying individual does not fit into their corporate schedule. Besides, they are already late for some important meeting, and anyway, it’s contrary to their business plan to assume the liability or risk of helping a relatively insignificant individual. After all, it’s all about numbers and corporate sponsorship.

In the parable, it appears for the Priest and the Levite and the Levite, their focus was more upon themselves, their position in the church, and the fact that there was nothing to be personally gained, by stopping to help this man; a viewpoint which flies in the face of the Lord’s expectation of the practice of believers, as we see in Proverbs 14:31.  Now, it is popular among some Christian circles to portray Jesus as a radical with a totally different view from the Scriptures, which we refer today as the Books of the  Old Testament. But what Jesus taught in Matthew 20 about helping the least of our brothers and sisters was totally in sync with the Old Testament. It was Pharisees, Scribes and other Jewish leaders who twisted the interpretation of the Scriptures to suit their own worldly priorities instead of the Lord’s, not unlike some so-called Christian churches today. Fortunately there those who hold close to the Lord’s intended purpose in the Scriptures. Just below the graphic illustration of the Lord’s Commandments in Luke 10, we find the verse from Proverbs 14.

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Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,     

but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.

By their motivations and actions in not showing compassion and help the least of these, they have brought upon themselves the same treatment for their souls, condemning death upon them, by putting their own interests first. The same could be said for individuals and organizations that focus on their own growth and make no provision for caring for those in need who cannot contribute to their bottom line. The Apostle Paul authored numerous letters to Christian churches whose membership had drifted away from the path given to them by the Lord’s gospel and word.

Now think back on the Good Samaritan Parable, where the traditional interpretation holds that the Samaritan in the parable represents Jesus. My belief that the penniless, naked, beaten, half-dead man on the road to Jericho is not the fallen Adam, but Jesus who was beaten, naked, abandoned, left to die. And how did I come to such a different conclusion? The answer is from Jesus own words, as we read in Matthew 25:31-40, where Christ tells us  exactly who the beaten (sick), the naked stranger on the road is:

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Matthew 25:31-40 The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

BLCF: Change-the-World

So if we walk by a beaten, naked, half-dead, penniless man left to die on the road, for whatever excuse we choose to rationalize our behavior, we have violated the rule stated in Luke 10:27b: “love… your neighbor as yourself.And since God states that how to treat or mistreat others, particularly the less-fortunate shows to God how we love him, Luke 10:27a.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”

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By violating these two rules, that is, by not demonstrating love to our neighbor who is in need, God says you are treating Him the same way and you condemn your soul to death.

But the keyword in Luke 10, is love, which the Apostle Paul describes for us as the “The Way of Love”, in 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) The Way of Love

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13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

BLCF: EvilThrives

In conclusion, the next time you see an opportunity to help others and choose to walk around or go the other way, from someone in need, you have brought upon yourselves a heavy judgment by Son of Man on the Day of Judgment. You have in all likelihood denied yourself a place in God’s Kingdom.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we are considered to be “Born again” in God’s Holy Spirit, and if given an opportunity to be a “Good Samaritan” to demonstrate love and compassion to someone who is distress, we would do so without hesitation. Otherwise, as we read in Mathew 25:31-40, we can expect to be judged, accordingly.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

 Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

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Christian Stewardship: Cherishing the Godly Gift

BLCF: STEWARDSHIP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Christian Stewardship: Cherishing the Godly Gift’

© November 1, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Based On a Message Shared at BLCF September 6, 2009

BLCF Bulletin November 1, 2015

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #600 – Christian Stewardship (Psalm 24 and 50, Haggai 2, Leviticus 27, Proverbs 3, Malachi 3, Matthew 22, 2 Corinthians 9, 1 Peter 4); Prayer                                  

Opening Hymn #58: This Is My Father’s World; Choruses                                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                               

Today’s Scriptures: John 3:16, Luke 10:27, Luke 16:1-13, Luke 4:1-13  

Let us pray…

As we conserve daylight by changing our clocks for daylight Savings Time, today’s lesson is about conserving and stewardship of God’s gifts to us.

A wise man once said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion.” This is quite a profound statement. But what is meant by the statement: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion”, especially with respect our faith, our walk with Jesus?

In World War II, we have the account of a wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, which was kept in the wine cellar at the Chateau of Monaco.  At that time in history, the chateau was well known for its vintage, rare wines.  But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the chateau, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines.  The wine steward resented those “slime Nazis” and cleverly and carefully hid all the rarest of wines deep in the cellar, serving his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, pretending that those wines were the best.  Stewards are people who care for precious property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster. Though we may criticise the steward for not being lack of candor with the Nazi invaders, we can commend his desire to protect the valuable possessions with which he was entrusted.

Luke 16:1-13 (ESV) The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

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 1He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Footnotes: a.Luke 16:6 About 875 gallons b.Luke 16:7 Between 1,000 and 1,200 bushels c. c.Luke 16:8 Greek age d. d.Luke 16:9 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13

So what is the message given to us here? It is a message of stewardship, a message of trust, and a message of care for something valuable which has been entrusted to your care.

Author Jack Kelley, in an article written for Grace Through Faith, helps us to better understand what Jesus wants us to understand. Kelly states:

The key in understanding the parable is to know whether the manager is acting on behalf of his master (The Rich Man) when he reduces the debts that the debtors owe his master. Luke 16:3 indicated he was. The manager says this, “My master is taking away my job.” Note the tense of the verb. The Rich Man did not fire him on the spot! He was in the period of time his master gave him to “give an account of your management” (Luke 16:2). The creditors were under the impression that the Rich Man was the one being generous with them and lowering the amount they owed him.

The shrewd manager was hoping the creditors would welcome him into their homes and give him hospitality if and when he lost his job and was in need. He was hoping the creditors would honour the messenger who gives them good news. Notice that it is the Master who commends the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8). The Rich Man had two choices:

The first was that he could expose the dishonest manager for acting independently of his wishes and tell his creditors they still owed the full amount of their bills. If he does this he would appear selfish and greedy (even though it would be within his rights).

The second was to let the actions of the manager stand and receive the praise given him by his creditors (and no doubt others within the community) for his generosity. He would learn from his mistake of allowing the manager, of whom he was suspicious, to act on his behalf. Next time he would fire someone on the spot.

Jesus follows up the parable with a challenge to those who follow him to be creative in their use of worldly wealth for eternal purposes! He contrasts “worldly wealth” with “true riches” (Luke 16:11). Jesus does not confuse the two. He concludes with the warning that no one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money at the same time. You can only have one master. If money is your master then God cannot be. If God is your master then you should use your wealth in a manner that honors God. That is the point of this parable.

A manager is being fired by his master. Told to bring the books into balance before turning them over for a final accounting, he faces a serious situation. He’s too old for manual labour and too proud for welfare, so he asks his master’s debtors to come in and review their accounts with him. In private meetings he has the debtors write down their accounts to a more favourable amount. In so doing he earns points with both the debtors and his master. How could this be?

It was against Mosaic Law for Israelites to charge one another interest on credit extended, Deuteronomy 23:19 (ESV)

19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

Many merchants got around this restriction by overcharging for goods and services, taking excess profits in lieu of interest. (You can see a current example in the auto business. That 0% financing you got is really a loan whose interest is paid by the manufacturer out of excess profits added to the price of vehicles specifically for the purpose of funding such incentives.)

The manager had apparently dealt unfairly with the master’s debtors, tacking on excess profits in lieu of interest. From the story, there’s no indication the master either instigated or condoned any over-charging. Its discovery may even be one of the reasons for the manager’s sudden loss of position. Perhaps he was using these add-ons to compensate for the losses of which he was being accused.

Pretty Shrewd, Isn’t He?

Since the master commended the manager’s shrewdness in writing down the accounts, it’s hard to imagine he was being cheated in these dealings even though the Lord calls the manager dishonest. More likely, in settling with the debtors the manager was deducting the excess profits he himself had tacked onto their accounts, earning the gratitude of the debtors and the admiration of the master.

If so, his efforts resemble those of today’s Orthodox Jews during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, frantically going around to right all the wrongs they’ve committed against others in the preceding 12 months. They’re working to retain their place in the Book of Life before it’s closed for another year, simultaneously reconciling themselves to their friends and neighbours while getting back into God’s Good Graces.

Christians don’t need to work to get back into God’s Good Graces. Our names cannot be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. But our willingness to ask forgiveness of someone we’ve wronged is more than an attempt at reconciliation. It’s an indication of the contrition in our hearts, a measure of our repentance for the sins that we have committed.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It is easier to make a dream a delusion if we are willing to sacrifice some of our integrity in the process, as was the case of the parable found in today’s lesson. The manager felt it was easier to deceive his master as well as those indebted to his master, than to confess to both, his wrong doing.

Jesus often told such parables to clarify a point of faith. The parable had faith based moral theme or lesson which can help us learn what God expect us to do in certain circumstances, as Stewards of God’s treasures, often in stark contrast to the way a non-Christian would behave under the same circumstance.

So what exactly what treasure has God entrusted us with?

1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)

BLCF: Christian-stewardship

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And let us not forget God’s most precious gift, His Son Jesus. Our faith in this gift is the reward of eternal life.

The Bible Says in, John 3:16 (ESV) – For God So Loved the World:

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

And how does Jesus want us to take care of his treasure? His instructions are clear, Luke 10:27 (ESV):

 BLCF: heart-of-Jesus

27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

You and I are entrusted with God’s love. And God only asks that we freely accept his gift and faithfully give that love back to both God and to our neighbour. In order to make our gift acceptable, God sacrificed Jesus for our sins and make our faith acceptable in God’s eyes.

In the Parable in today’s lesson, Jesus said: “Turn in an account of your stewardship.  Give me a record of how you are handling the responsibilities that I have entrusted to you.” 

Jesus continues, “I have discovered that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things.  The person who is not faithful in the little things is not faithful in the big things.  The person who is faithful in both the little responsibilities and the big responsibilities, I will give even more to that person.  The person who is not faithful in the little things and not faithful in the big things, I will relieve that person of all responsibilities. To whom much is given, much is required. If you are not faithful with the little things of life, such as money, then who will entrust you with true riches?

When the Pharisees heard this, they scoffed at Jesus because they were lovers of money.

But stewardship is not about that narrow slice of life we call offerings to the church or that narrow slice of our time, talents and treasures that we give to church.  Stewardship is taking care of the precious gifts and people that God has entrusted to us and that is what I would like to talk about today.

The root of steward is the Greek word, oikos”, which means house.  Stewardship is taking care of household matters. A related word is oikonomics” from which we get the word, “economics:” Stewardship is taking care of money matters that God has entrusted to us. Still another related word is “oicology” from which we get the word “ecology”.  Stewardship is taking care of the earth that God has entrusted to us.

None of what you own truely belongs to you:  your clothes, house, furniture, pets, toys, plants, or family.  None of it belongs to you.  Can you take it with you when you die?  Of course not!  It’s not yours.  Everything in life belongs to God who entrusts you and me to care for these precious possessions.

Each of us has been made stewards of Gods treasures.

A Pastor who is hired by the Board and Members of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is expected to minister to the needs of the congregation through preaching, teaching, visitation and leadership that is both glorifying to God and which nurtures the spiritual growth of the congregation in a Christ-like manner.

Most churches entrust the care of their properties to trustees of the Bloor Lansdowne church properties. It is their responsibility to protect the church properties from those who may seek to use the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church and St. Helen’s properties for their own glorification and not for the glorification of God.

It is the responsibility of the Church Board at Bloor Lansdowne to see that the money spent is spent wisely and in a manner that glorifies God’s by building or edifying the faith and spirit of those who believe or seek God in the community of Bloor Lansdowne. The Board must ensure that God’s funds are not for the glorification of any person or group of people. Our church is facing hard financial challenges, which may require hard financial decisions to ensure that our church continues to exist, let alone be relevant in this community.

Your Church Elders are responsible to ensure that what is said, what is planned, and what is acted in the name of B.L.C.F., is said, planned and acted in a manner that is glorifying to God as well as showing love and respect to others within the church. For like that manager in the parable if any of what we say, plan, or  act is done in a manner to deceive God, who is the Master, cannot be tolerated and must be acted upon by the Elders. And so in the same manner anything said, planned or done which is hidden from others in the church is viewed with the same contempt by our Father in Heaven.

And as a congregation, we are stewards of our faith to God, this church (which is God’s house and His people), and to each other, as Jesus had commanded in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27. As stewards of God’s gifts, each of us are responsible to grow in faith to God, by trusting God, and showing Gods love by the way we treat one another. We are expected to demonstrate our support the church, both spiritually and financially.

But you may ask: why do the Pastor, the Trustees, the Board, the Elders, and the Congregation not just have faith and pray to God to provide for the means to take care of the church? My answer is while it is true that as Christian believers we must practice our faith through prayer, understanding His Word, and trusting God. We must remember what happened to Jesus immediately after he was convicted by the Holy Spirit:

Luke 4:1-13 – The Temptation of Jesus

BLCF: Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

 

 1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8And Jesus answered him, “It is written,     “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written,     “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’                        

11and

 “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

 12And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The lesson from this passage from Luke is no matter what our position and line of responsibility as stewards of Gods church here at Bloor Lansdowne, we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan into putting the Lord our God to the test in matters that God has entrusted us to take care of. Each of us should think, speak and act as faithful and trustworthy stewards providing for the church in a manner that is honourable and glorifying to God and loving and respectful to one another. Just as Christ had a mission to be the Word Made Flesh, we have a mission to be good and faithful Stewards of the Faith.

Let us pray…

That is how we keep the flavor of our salt and project the light of Lord to others, to His glory so that we may be blessed, be happy in the Lord!

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

 Communion

BLCF: Communion_Sunday                                                                                                                                              

Benediction – (1 Peter 4:10-11): As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

BLCF: God-says-trust-me-i-will-show-you-psalm126-6

Stewards of God’s Treasure

BLCF: Luke-12-34

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Stewards of God’s Treasure’ 

© November 16, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Updated Message Originally Shared at BLCF Sunday September 6, 2009

BLCF: Bulletin November 16, 2014

BLCF: who_do_you_serve

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #600 (Christian Stewardship – from Psalms 24 and 50, Haggai 2, Leviticus 27, Proverbs 3, Malachi 3, Matthew 22, 2 Corinthians 9, 1 Peter4); Prayer                             

Opening Hymn #512 Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service; Choruses                                                                                                                             

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings 

Scripture Verses: Luke 16:1-13, 1 Corinthians 2:14 , Acts 20:28-32

BLCF: integrity

 Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship on this, the third Sunday of November, 2014.

Before we begin today’s lesson, I would like to make a brief comment about a testimony shared just after Margaret’s message last Wednesday at our weekly community dinner which we serve here, in the heart of Toronto. One of our diners asked to share a testimony with everyone. This woman, whose name I leave anonymous, a single mother and her son were both regular attendees to the BLCF Café for at least six years. Her son, now about eight years of age, virtually grew up with us at the dinner; often playing rhythm with Terry as he played the guitar during the meal. Her testimony was to thank all the volunteers who provided meals, bread, clothing, care, and fellowship for both her and son in the safe and friendly space of the café.

Not being in her circumstance, we would never know how important the café became for her, as she found normalcy and joy at a time in life where she faced protracted financial and social challenges. She arrived at to the café at the time when we share the testimony and message with guests and volunteers, and shared the good news, that after years of unemployment, part time jobs and temporary employment, she had just landed a good job, with normal hours, so that she would have the means and time to prepare regular dinners for herself and her son at home.

Unless we have experienced the challenges of the homeless or working poor, we will never fully appreciate how important the financial security that comes from a regular job and paycheque, especially when raising a child.

BLCF_Cafe.

There are times when cynics ask why does the church instead of “wasting” funds on a community dinner, instead, spend those funds on new carpeting, updating the sanctuary with new lighting fixtures, and hire professional musicians? Or why not use café funds to make and serve smoothies and cappuccinos to the congregation after our service?

If you could see the joy and appreciation expressed on both the face and by the words of this woman Wednesday, you would know where the Lord expects us, as a church to place as our priority, which is to honour Christ by taking care of the least of our brothers and sisters. This woman could not afford to buy a loaf of bread for her son, let alone an ice cream treat from the local parlour.

I do not know which is sadder; someone who walks the streets of Toronto and is oblivious that such a need exists, or worse, does know and chooses to do nothing about it!

This was not the first testimony shared by a café guest at BLCF, who has given testimony of a restoration of dignity and spirit by the unconditional love of Christ shared every Wednesday at the BLCF Café. This January will mark the BLCF Cafe’s seventh anniversary. At an average of 150 per week, I calculate that some 7,500 guests pass through our doors annually. And with 15-20 volunteers, that is another 750. That is over 8,000 ministered to in a year! Obviously, this is where the Lord expects the church, which after all is the people of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, to invest their time and money.

By the way, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve both happen to fall on a Wednesday this year and we plan to serve Holiday Lunch instead of Dinner at the café, as we had done last Christmas Day and New Years Day, (which were also on a Wednesday). So if you are interested and available to volunteer to help at the café on either Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, please give Sophie a call at 416-535-9578 or at blcfcafe@yahoo.ca.

As far as the cynics are concerned, the Good Book says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV):

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

BLCF: 1Corinthians_2_14-NonChristiansCantUnderstand

Now back to today’s lesson.

A wise man once said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion.” This is quite a profound statement. But what is meant by the statement: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion”, especially with respect our faith, our walk with Jesus?

To begin today’s lesson, let me share with you a World War II story.  There was wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, the wine cellar at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.  At that time in history, the palace was well known for its vintage, rare wines.  But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the palace, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines.  The wine steward resented the invading soldiers, so he cleverly and carefully hid all the rarest wines deep in the cellar   choosing to serve his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, while pretending that those wines were the best.

Though the steward acted with the best of intentions by deceiving his “guests” in order to preserve that what he was entrusted with, he committed the sin of bearing false witness, albeit to his enemies.

The Prince's Palace in 1890

The Prince’s Palace of Monaco

But do the ends justify the means, and what is meant by the term “steward”?

Let us answer the latter first. From merriam-webster.com, we have the following definitions of a steward:

1stew·ard – noun \ˈstü-ərd, ˈstyü-; ˈst(y)u̇rd\

1:  one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts)

2:  shop steward

3:  a fiscal agent

4a :  an employee on a ship, airplane, bus, or train who manages the provisioning of food and attends passengers

b :  one appointed to supervise the provision and distribution of food and drink in an institution

5:  one who actively directs affairs :  manager

                      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/steward

BLCF: Stewardship_at_BLCF_Cafe

As Sophie is Director and Manager of the BLCF Café Community Dinner, and by definition is a Steward of the community dinner, a job which she does faithfully and with great integrity. Here is another definition for a steward:

 Stewards are people who care for precious people and property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster.

This brings us to The Parable of the Dishonest Manager, from the sixteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 16:1-13 (ESV):

The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

BLCF: stewardship-account

1He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 16:6 About 875 gallons b.Luke 16:7 Between 1,000 and 1,200 bushels c.Luke 16:8 Greek age d.Luke 16:9 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13

Cross references: A.Luke 16:1 : Luke 12:42 B.Luke 16:2 : 1 Cor 9:17 C.Luke 16:8 : Matt 25:2 D.Luke 16:8 : Luke 20:34; Luke 10:6 E.Luke 16:8 : John 12:36; 1 Thess 5:5; Eph 5:8  F.Luke 16:9 : Luke 12:33; Matt 6:20; 19:21; 1 Tim 6:10, 17-19 G.Luke 16:9 : Luke 16:11, 13; Matt 6:24 H.Luke 16:10 : Matt 25:21, 23 I.Luke 16:10 : Luke 19:17 J.Luke 16:12 : 1 Chr 29:14, 16 K.Luke 16:13 : Luke 16:9

BLCF: Luke-1610

What is the message given to us here? It is a message of stewardship. In this parable, the manager was likely overcharging those who were indebted to his master, by charging them interest which he pocketed for himself.

The manager’s deception, has been discovered by his master, and facing being fired and dishonoured by the master for his bad business practices, he tries to mitigate the circumstances by returning what was overcharged back to the debtors. The manager reasoned that if he were to lose his job, he would generate some good will with the debtors.

Not only was the manager guilty of deceiving both his master and those in debt to the master, but by charging interest to the debtors, he was in violation of Mosaic Law. It is interesting to note that although the master had chastised his manager for being dishonest, he commended him for his business savvy.

The people of Israel were forbidden by law from charging interest to others on credit extended, as we read in Deuteronomy 23:19 (ESV):

 19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

BLCF: stewardship-gifts-from-and-to-God

As Christian stewards, what treasures has God entrusted us with? We may find the answer to this question in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27, which focus on unconditional love:

John 3:16 (ESV) For God So Loved the World

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”

Luke 10:27 (ESV) Love God and Love Your Neighbour

 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

BLCF: real-riches

Each of us has been made stewards of God’s treasure. We are entrusted with God’s love. God only asks that we confess our sins, accept his gift and then return love back to both God and to our neighbour. In order to make any such gift acceptable, God sacrificed Jesus for our sins and make our faith acceptable in God’s eyes.

As Pulpit Preacher and Pastor here at BLCF, I have a responsibility to minister to the needs of the congregation through preaching, teaching, leadership and personal interaction with others in a manner that is both glorifies God and which nurtures the spiritual growth of the congregation in a Christ-like manner.

Our church trustees have been entrusted by our congregation of the Bloor Lansdowne  to oversee  and to protect the church property from those who may seek to use the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church property for their own glorification and not for the glorification of God.

It is the responsibility of the Church Board at Bloor Lansdowne to see that the money spent is spent wisely and in a manner that glorifies God’s by building or edifying the faith and spirit of those who believe or seek God in the BLCF community. The Board must ensure that God’s funds are not for the glorification of any person or group of people. Over the last few years, by God’s grace and provision, our church has faced and endured facing hard financial challenges, which frequently required hard financial decisions, in order to ensure that our church continues to exist, let alone be relevant to the Bloor Lansdowne community.

Your Church Elders are responsible to ensure that whatever is said, planned, and acted in the name of BLCF, is said, planned and acted in a manner that glorifies God as well as showing love and respect to others within the church. For like that manager in the parable if any of what is said, planned, or acted upon by anyone of the church, is determined to associated with an intention to deceive God, Who is our Master, cannot be tolerated and must be acted upon by the Elders. And so in the same manner, anything said, planned or done with the deliberate intention to deceive others in the church is viewed with the same contempt by our Father in Heaven.

As a congregation of believers, we are all stewards of our faith in God. We are managers of His gifts to us. Being His stewards, we need to acknowledge the Lord’s love by returning the same unconditional love to both Him and to our neighbours, as we had read earlier in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27.

BLCF: serving-others

The stewardship of God’s gifts comes with the Lord’s expectation that each of us undertake the responsibility to grow in faith to God, by trusting Him, sharing God’s love in the manner of how we treat one another and how we support our church, spiritually and financially.

But you may ask: why do the Pastor, the Trustees, the Board, the Elders, and the Congregation of BLCF just have faith and pray to God to provide for the means to take care of the church? My answer is; while it is true that as Christian believers we must practice our faith through prayer, in understanding His Word, and by trusting God; still we must not put the Lord to the test. We are tasked with the mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus, without putting our Lord to the test. You may recall from last week’s lesson, what happened to Jesus just after he was convicted by the Holy Spirit, Luke 4:4 (ESV):

4 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.

BLCF: stewardship-are-managers_of_Gods_gifts

 Just as Jesus was tempted by the devil right after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and tempted again on the cross, by the exhortations of one of the thieves being crucified beside him he resisted putting God to the test. God did not bring His son on earth as a show, to entertain the Pharisees and other cynics of Christ, but to fulfill His new covenant with true believers. And as followers of Christ, we may anticipate that the devil try to tempt our faith and drive us away from the Lord. This is the warning brought to do the same, as described in this warning from the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:28-32 (ESV):

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[a] which he obtained with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Footnotes: a. Acts 20:28 Some manuscripts of the Lord b. Acts 20:28 Or with the blood of his Own

BLCF: walking_in_light_vs_darkness

The lesson from this passage from Luke is; that no matter what our position and line of responsibility as stewards of Gods church here at Bloor Lansdowne, we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan into putting the Lord our God to the test in matters that God has entrusted us to take care of. Each of us should think, speak and act as faithful and trustworthy stewards providing for the church in a manner that is honourable and glorifying to God and loving and respectful to one another. Just as Christ had a mission to be the Word Made Flesh, we have a mission to be good and faithful stewards of the faith.

Stewards are people who care for precious people and property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 476: O Christian, Haste, Your Mission High          

Benediction – (Romans 8:38-39):

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

BLCF: Christian-stewardship