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Pledge Sunday
November 18, 2018, 12:00 AM

Good Morning. Grace and peace to you from the Triune God. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you God.

This is the Sunday when we dedicate pledge cards. So, we are obviously working on questions of financial stewardship and with that comes questions of “whole life” stewardship. Always put the money last in that equation they tell us. I recently went to a multi-day conference on stewardship to find out what the best current thinking is and it revolves around generosity.

Stewardship education for pastors was telling us how the human being feels better when they are generous. We humans are wired to feel better when we give something to another, whether that is a financial matter or simply using one of our talents to better the other persons life. When you give a gift it feels good. When you find a need you can fill, you feel worthwhile. When you do a good deed there is an internal reward in addition to the external rewards you might receive. So, we are to encourage generosity and do it throughout the year instead of just for one Sunday or one month out of the year.

Now as Lutherans this generosity comes about as a response of gratitude for what God has done for us. God in God's infinite wisdom, so very much wanted a relationship with you and I that God chose to do that which was necessary for our salvation and then offer it to us as a free gift. God sent Jesus, who paid the ultimate price but in his sinless death and in his ability to conquer death paved the way back to God for us. All we have to do is have faith and even the faith we need to accept this free gift was placed into us by God so that it is no action of our own that saves us and for that we are forever grateful and so we give back. We give our tithe of money and possessions. We give our time to help the church along in its work. We give of our talents freely and generously because they also are a gift from God.

Now unfortunately, we live in a world and that world instead of barter has come to prefer money to stuff, although the church has a long history of collecting stuff and using that to help our efforts, whether by giving it to the needy or by turning it into cash to fund our projects. The church has also come to understand that while having faith that something will happen is important, so is planning for the future. This planning for the future often takes the form of a budget and usually a financial plan but that is not necessarily the only way.

Did you know that in the last year something in the neighborhood of 5,500 times someone worshiped on this campus. Speaking of generosity I am sure that there are a few hundred hours of time and talent, donated along with the materials to make the over 100 quilts that we gave away and until the last week or two this effort has continued. A couple of hundred hours have been donated to make it possible for us to have a food pantry that stocks not only dry and canned goods but also frozen foods that were left over from restaurants and so not only helps to feed people but also helps to keep perfectly edible food out of the landfill. Over 1000 times someone has been able to access recovery services through Alcoholics Anonymous. The Cub Scouts, a organization that encourages the faith of young boys and girls, has a place to meet and grow and learn because we donate space to them. Over 100 children get an early childhood education in a loving, caring, nurturing and Christian environment that not only focuses on learning numbers, letters, and social skills but also practicing regular prayer and times of worship. And the list could go on.

All of these are possible because we have a building in which to house these activities. Some activities will go away and new ones will come along but the reality is all of these things need a space in which to occur if they are going to happen. This building then becomes one of the tools we have for ministering to the community and good stewardship means that over the last three weeks, something in the neighborhood of 50 hours was donated to get the exterior lights working again. Good stewardship of the ministry resource known as the building also means having a budget to fund things we can not donate like electricity, new air conditioners, water, sewer and the like. 

Unfortunately, at some point it does also mean money and so we ask you to consider what your response to God's provision in your life will be and then share that with us. But even this is an opportunity for us to consider how God has blessed us. Even this is an opportunity for a grateful response that then also helps those who serve in leadership roles of this church prepare a budget, which then is presented back to you. Hence the pledges, because it is a way for us to know whether we are on track with last year, well above last year or should plan on tightening the belt in the coming year. Pledges then serve the purpose of being an intentional time during the year to consider how God has blessed you. Pledges serve as a way for us to help you know whether you are on track during the year, and we have solved the issue of getting the information in the computer, so you should have a third quarter statement of giving. So, Pledges help us to plan for the coming year and hopefully help you plan as well.

You may be wondering where our bible lesson fits in to all of this. Isaiah gives us this wonderful vision in the second chapter, of a time that is in the future when war will cease. We also know from the new testament that the day will come when we will eat from the tree of life in the middle of the garden and drink from the river of life that flows through. The world now more that ever needs that voice in the wilderness calling out and saying that we need to end the wars. The world more than ever needs that voice that calls out with the Good News that we are loved and forgiven by our creator, who wants more than anything a relationship with us, if we will but turn toward God for a moment. The world needs our voice reminding it to care for the widow and the orphan and to not forget about or treat poorly those who are incarcerated. The world needs to hear that it is possible to beat the swords into plowshares or maybe in today's terms it is possible to turn F15 fighter jets into battery driven, solar powered, tractors for harvesting wheat to feed the hungry masses. That voice the world needs must gather together to be nourished and reminded that we are loved and forgiven, that you are loved and forgiven so that we continue to have the strength and grace to pronounce the love of God to all whom we should meet along the way. It is our calling to help make the world a place that beats swords into plowshares and it is our glory to do it by serving God and it is our nourishment from that very same God that gives us the healing, the strength and the wisdom to help make the world a better place in all we do.

So this morning we will ask those of you who are able to make a pledge. Feel free to write in other pledges you will make on the back of the card. We will ask God to bless the pledges and more importantly to bless us that we might be able to fulfill those pledges. We remember that we are loved and forgiven, nourished by the grace and love of God. And we go forth from this time of nourishment to be the voice in the wilderness calling the world to a time when swords can be plowshares.