Sermon Transcript - "Giving to Change Lives" 4.16.23 Rev. Dr. Dustin Petz
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen lord. It's my great joy to be here with you today for worship. As Pastor Christopher said, my name is Dustin Petz. I served as a local pastor for about 18 years and three of those were just up the road a little ways from here. I was west of Lacine in small communities called Parker, Beagle, and Fontana. I don't know if any of you have heard of those small towns. That's where I started my journey of pastoral ministry while I was a student at Saint Paul School of Theology and it's great to be back in this part of the state. As he said, I lead the Kansas Methodist Foundation. We're like a community foundation for Methodists and Methodist Churches and agencies across the state of Kansas and we do investments that align with the values of the church as well as help families with charitable giving during life or in estate planning.
Today I want to talk about a parable of Jesus that that is probably one you've heard about before. Uh, it's about money. If you can't tell, I talk about money. That's a part of my calling, ofhow I work with families on how to grow their relationship with Jesus Christ in relationship to the resources in our lives. And Jesus talks about money a lot in the Bible. Actually, more than we prefer him to talk about money, quite frankly.
One of those is a parable called the parable of the talents. Often times when we hear that parable, we think about different skills – such as the musical gifts that we got to hear here today or other talents that we have, the ability to do complex math in our mind or draw or danc… other things and it's great to read this scripture passage with those kinds of talents and and how do we make the most of the ways God has created and gifted us - but in the first century, a talent was a specific amount of money. It was actually a very large amount of money.
It was the amount of money which was equivalent to 6, 000 days of a worker's wage. 6, 000 days of a worker's wage. That's like 20 years of a worker's wage. That's what a talent was in Jesus’ day. I did some calculations. I may be wrong, let's just qualify that - I may be wrong but it might be something very similar to a million dollars today is one talent So, there was a significant amount of resources that were given to these people and so, I'm going to read this passage of scripture from Matthew Chapter 25 and I'm going to I'm going to use the word “a million dollars” in place of a talent. So, you and I hear it like those first disciples would have heard it. So, I invite us to listen for a word that God wants to say to us today as I read.
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five million dollars, to another two million dollars, to another one million, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.The one who had received the five million dollars went off at once and traded with them, and made five million more. In the same way, the one who had the two million dollars made two million more. But the one who had received the one million went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five million dollars came forward, bringing five million more, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five miloon; see, I have made five million more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two million also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two million; see, I have made two million more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one million also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the million from him, and give it to the one with the ten million. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The word of God for us, the people of God. Thanks be to God.
What would you do if you were entrusted with a million dollars? Would you go at once and try to put it to work to try to use it, to make a difference in the world or try to grow it? To multiply it. To make an impact. What would you do?
Or would you go and bury it in the ground?
Maybe a better question we ought to be asking ourselves is what are we doing with the resources we have been entrusted? Our scripture passage here is from Matthew 25. This is at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry. It's actually during Holy Week that we just celebrated a week and a half ago. It's during that week, Jesus is there in Jerusalem for his last few days.
As I read this passage in the ones that around it, it seems like he's preparing himself. I I think he's preparing himself for his final meal with his disciples. The Last Supper. I think he's also preparing himself for his crucifixion and resurrection and return to the Father.
It seems to me also that he's trying to prepare his disciples. There seems to be some lessons that he wants us to hear that have lasting impact in this part of our scriptures. We hear this parable that I just read for you. We can read on in the same chapter of 25 of Matthew and we'll hear another parable about the goats and the sheep and that it matters how we treat one another. It matters how we care for one another especially those who are hungry and those who are naked and those who are strangers. Jesus says, as you do unto one of these, the least of these, you do unto me. and there seems to be an enduring impact based on our actions.
I think he's trying to prepare us. There are really three lessons that I want you to hear today from this scripture passage that I think are important for your and my discipleship of Jesus Christ. And the one is probably the most important and it is to understand that in this parable, the servants are slaves that Jesus references. Um the money that they have is not their own. You all got that, right? The money that they have is not their own. They're not the owners of that money. They are the caretakers of that money. They are the stewards of that money for time. The reason why that's so important is because if we read the scriptures, that's how it is with your stuff and my stuff in our lives. The Bible says, the heavens and the earth and all that is within them is the Lord's. Yeah, my name might be on the deed or the account but it's not really mine. The scripture says that it's the Lord's. Whether it's resources that we've been given from others as an inheritance or maybe because of our hard and faithful service through the course of our lives and we've earned money or maybe we've wise in saving money or growing resources over time. Scripture says, it's the Lord's.
Even our ability to earn resources. Deuteronomy 8 says, is brought about by God. I think that's important. When we think about the stuff that we have in our lives, the Bible says, it's the lord's and not ours, not ours perpetually. You all know this, but there'll come a day when we will breathe our last and all the stuff we worry about and we do, right? We probably been worrying a little bit more of these last couple of years. All the stuff we worry about, it won't be going with us. Now, where we're going, we're not going to need it, Amen? Where we're not going to need it. And yet, we're still responsible for how we use the resources that have been entrusted to us. These resources not on our own but we've been entrusted with them and we are responsible for how we use them. The is a Methodist pastor from Ohio. His name is Michael Slaughter and he recently retired. He wrote a book a few years ago called Shiny Gods. It's a good book. In this book Shiny Gods, Michael Slaughter says, “what you do with what you have makes all the difference in the world.” I'll say it again. “What you do with what you have makes all the difference in the world.” The next sentence in his book says, “what you do with what you have has the power to change the world.” We are responsible and we have this capacity to make a difference with what we have been entrusted of all sorts.
I read this parable and I think that there may come a day when I'll breathe my last and I'll get the opportunity to stand before Jesus. Maybe in a similar way to what we heard in this parable and my guess is Jesus going to ask me something like, “Dustin, what did you do with what I gave you?” And I'm going to get to make an account. I think he's going to be asking that of me about lots of different aspects of my life. “What did you do with the time that I gave you? What did you do with the relationships that I gave you? What did you do with the strengths and capacities and calling? What did you do with the resources I entrusted to you?” And I'm going to get to make an account.
I'm praying he's going to be gracious because there are many times when I've squandered money or wasted time or felt God's spirit prompting me in some way and I was scared and did not act and yet, I hear in this passage that he calls for our very best. He's not going to ask me to be responsible for your life or your resources or what God has blessed you with. Sometimes, we live in this world where we're very focused on other people and I don't know if that's a that's an excuse for us to not do something about the things in our lives. We'll focus on others and say, they ought to do this or why don't they do this or blah blah blah. Uh Jesus is not going to ask you about someone else, okay? Just your life. How are you following the calling in your life? I mean, this is a beautiful day. It's a little cool outside. The wind is blowing hard but this is the day that the Lord has made and it's the season of Resurrection and I think we figure out how do we make the most of this day? Maybe it's to be reconciled with a person where we have a broken relationship or to say, I'm going to try again or maybe there's something that God's been prompting you to do and you've been pushing it off and the Spirit is saying today, “try again, I'm with you. Do not worry. Do not be afraid.” Uh Friends, we're responsible. I think we're responsible one day at a time. We're responsible how do we make the most of this day? I think we're responsible for how we use our resources on a regular basis to give to God through the life of the church, to use them, to make a difference in the world around us. One week at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time.
I think we're also responsible for how do we make a difference at the end of our journey of life. Leave an impact for those who will come after us. There was a gentleman that gave a gift to an organization that I was connected to. He gave this gift and he actually made a statement as he was making fairly large charitable gift not in his estate but while he was still living. It was a living gift and he gave this gift and he said, he said, I came here and I drank from wells that I did not dig. And I ate food that came from fields that I did not till. And I sat under the shade of trees that I did not plant. I think what he was trying to say is, I'm the beneficiary of so much generosity and love, and foresight, and vision, sacrifice of so many who have gone before me, for which I want to give thanks, and give appreciation, and now it's my turn for those who will come after me.
Let me ask you a question, when did this congregation start? Not when would this facility build, but when, when did First Methodist Episcopal Church begin? Late 1800’s right? Is that about right there? So, were any of you founding members? No? no, Yeah. Yeah. No. No.
We're… we're all beneficiaries, right? We're all beneficiaries of people who have gone before us. Even if you moved into this community and joined this congregation, more recently, I guess as many of us have come from places where we were cared and nurtured in the faith because of faithful generosity and foresight and investment of others who have gone before I think there comes a time when we say, “God, I'm so blessed. I want to give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I want to remember those people in my life who have impacted me and say thank you and now, oh God, I hear you calling me to be responsible with what I have to make a difference.” Church, I I invite you to think about putting in place your estate plan if you don't have one in place. I'll be talking about that later today or update it and I'd invite you to consider remembering this church as part of that estate plan to give a gift of a lifetime, to make a difference for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in this community and beyond. Maybe it's a tithe. Maybe it's a child's portion. I actually had one of my congregation members that I served in my last church. I I met with them and invited them to remember the church and their estate plan and to give maybe a tithe of their estate and 10% and they said we're going to give charitably a child's worth. This family had three children and they were giving one fourth to each of those children and one fourth to the charitable causes that they cared about. Their church was getting half of it and then other causes that they care about in the community. I think we have a capacity to take what we have been entrusted that we're responsible for and to make a difference for those who will come after us.
The last lesson that I want to lift up in this parable is is we're called to take action. We're called to focus on what we can do and to make positive action. You heard as I read this parable. It didn't go so well for that third person, right? That that's actually kind of rough to read. It didn't go so well for him. It wasn't because he tried his best and failed. It was because he was so captured by his fear. He took no action at all. Sometimes, when we think about money or other stuff too, sometimes we'll focus on what we don't have or what's missing or what we can't do instead of saying, God, with what I have, I want to give my best. I want to make a difference. I don't know how it's going to work and yet, I step out in faith trusting that you will make a way even if I do not see that way. In all aspects of our lives and say, God, use what I have to make a difference. My last church, I had a family member congregant come to meet with me. Uh I was Talking about remembering the church in their estate and this woman came. She was a widow. She came and said to me, pastor, I'd love to give a gift to the Legacy Fund. That's what we called the fund that was an enduring endowment fund. Uh I'd love to give a gift to the Legacy Fund but I just don't have much. Would it still be okay if I gave a gift? My gift's going to be pretty small. But it'll be my best gift.
Of course that matters. Of course it is okay. We're all called to give. To trust that God will use us To be persons who say “God with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.” And I think we do that in all aspects of our lives, one day at a time. We say “God, I I believe in the resurrection.” I mean, we're in this season of resurrection. celebrating that Christ is risen, and because he lives, it changes everything for you and I. And so we figured out how do we make the most of one day at a time? How do we put plans in place to be a blessing for those who will come after us, and live our lives to the fullest.
So I ask as I close, what legacy are you leaving? What will you do today to make a difference because of Jesus Christ in your life? That will impact beyond you. Let us pray. Gracious God, we ask and pray that you might continue to lead us. Help us not to be captured out of fear of failure. Focus on what we don't have or what someone else should do but say, God with what I have, who you have created me, with what I have been entrusted, help me to be faithful. Help me to be found faithful and welcomed by you. Because of my actions and my trust. God, you have my heart. Have the hold of me. Lead us, Lord, with your spirit, that we might take the whole of our lives and entrust them to you. It is in Jesus name that we pray and for whom we live. Amen.