Being a Steward of the Faith – Sermon September 1, 2013

Proper 17 Year C September 1, 2013

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,

 “The Lord is my helper;

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”

 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 “The Lord is my helper;

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”

 First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you for your warm welcome.  I know so many have given of your time, your prayers, your resources to make my being here possible.  The Rectory is beautiful and I want you to know how much I appreciate all of the work.  I’m sure there were disagreements, as well as plenty of fun in making everything happen.

 I also know this community has been through so much…so much change in such a short time and you know we Episcopalians aren’t very good at change. 

I know Kentuckians love stories, so I’d like to start off with one.  Rector Don Waring of my field parish emphasized the importance of storytelling in sermons, so you can blame him if this style isn’t for you….

 Over 100 years ago, a small group of people came to this small town in the Eastern Kentucky mountains.  The town they found would not be incorporated and named for six more years.  The people who came brought the promise of a new kind of economy, one of railroads.  They also brought their faith, one of worship and actively living out their faith in the community.  They met wherever they could find space, and often shared a priest.  They started a school and bought that building before building a church building. 

 This group would be a mission church for nearly 100 years.  It would experience ups and downs as the economy changed.  It would buy property, offer services, and then need to sell that property in lean times.  The group did whatever was necessary to worship God AND be God’s hands and heart in their town. 

 They did their best to follow what we heard today in this letter to the Hebrews:

  •  Show hospitality to strangers
  • Remember those who are in prison
  • Remember those who are being tortured
  • Hold marriage in honor
  • Keep their lives free of the love of money
  • Be content with what they had
  • Remember their leaders and imitate their leaders’ faith
  • Do good and share what they had…

 As you probably have guessed, they were the community of faith in Corbin, KY, known as St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

 They were Stewards of the faith…of the Christian faith…of the faith that was handed down nearly two thousand years before them. 

 Now, stewardship gets a bad name sometimes.  We usually associate stewardship with money exclusively and talking about money feels uncomfortable.  But the definition of being a steward is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care….

For those who started St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Christian faith had been entrusted to their care.  They were careful and responsible in managing this immense gift handed down.  We today, stand on their shoulders.  This is the legacy… this is the charge we have today.  To be good stewards in this place of Corbin, Kentucky…in this time of 2013. 

So what is the writer of Hebrews telling us about how to be those good stewards of the faith?  There are a couple of things I’d like you to consider…

  Being a Steward means caring for the stranger, being hospitable.  Now I know we all find it easier to serve people who are more like us.  Yet, God has created all of us and when we reach out to those who seem “strange” to us, we open ourselves to all of God’s creation.   

And I don’t know about you, but I love thinking I could be entertaining angels… a reference to Abraham and Sarah and the three guests at the Oaks of Mamre as we read in Genesis 18.  The hospitality of Abraham and Sarah meant pleading with three strangers to rest awhile…to have their feet washed and to be fed with fresh bread and choice meat.  Abraham and Sarah were entertaining angels that day and provide an example for us.  Freely giving the best we have to those we do not know…

Being a steward means keeping our lives free from the love of money.  It means being content with what we have.  Boy is that a tough one in our society.  Some people have no choice.  Some people do not have enough.  For those of us who do, we are charged with examining our relationship with money.  Do we love money more than we love Jesus?  Does our being in love with money keep us from a faithful relationship with God?  Are we content with what we have or caught up in the “never having enough” addiction?  Yes, there is a line between being responsible with our financial resources and being irresponsible with our financial resources.  Remember, we are to be careful and responsible managers. 

The reason we must raise this issue and we must explore this issue, however, is that the research and statistics show us that the income gap between rich and poor in this country and in our world is growing.  The disparity is growing.  Clearly some are in love with money, just like in Jesus’ time and most likely in every age…  The writer reminds us of Jesus’ teaching that money will not save us… will not provide the good life.  We know the panic of economic insecurity.  The writer is emphasizing Jesus’ teaching that our money…our riches are not our own.  They have come from God.  In prayer and in our Christian community, we can lessen our panic of economic insecurity and say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. 

 We must ask, are we clinging as fiercely to Jesus as we do to our money and our possessions?

So let us examine our lives, personally and as the community of St. John’s.  How are we doing as stewards of the faith passed down to us?  Where are we excelling in our hospitality to the person who is a stranger to us?  What can we do more of to entertain the angels in our midst?  Are we in love with money?  Where have we been content with what we have and what could we do differently?  And in the end, as good stewards, let mutual love continue and let us remember that God will never leave us nor forsake us. 


The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, Priest-in-Charge


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