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Full-filling Our Time

October 2nd 2011

Today we started a 3 week Stewardship emphsis entitled "Bearing Fruit for Jesus." Vicar Chittick shared a message based on Ecclesiastes 3 concerning the stewardship (the faithful use) of our time. Read the message to find out more...

Stewardship Series, Bearing Fruit for Jesus - Week 1 - Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "Full-filling Our Time" - October 2, 2011 Grace mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Today we begin our sermon series entitled “Bearing Fruit for Jesus”. And today’s sermon focuses on the fruitful use of time. Next week we will look at the fruitful use of talents and then finish up with treasure in 2 weeks. This series is designed to remind us about what stewardship means: that as redeemed children of God, we bear fruit. You may have noticed the posters on the front doors and the devotional booklets you have received all feature a picture of grapes on a vine. Our readings today focused on the fruit that we bear when we follow Christ. A few weeks ago we heard the parable of the workers in a vineyard in Matthew 20 and learned what a privilege it is to work in that vineyard. And in Isaiah 5 we are told a story about a vineyard that produces rotten grapes. The Bible is full of fruit metaphors, because they really do a good job of describing the relationship between faith and good works.

That relationship is this; Jesus plants the seed of faith in our hearts. It is a gift from God, given to us through His holy Word and through the waters of baptism. The Holy Spirit sustains and nourishes it, and eventually, it produces fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. In our Gospel lesson we heard about how Jesus say “I am the vine; you are the branches”. We see how this relationship works in nature all the time. After a storm you can often see branches that look like they are still connected to trees, but in only a short time you can see the leaves turn brown, and it is much clearer that the branch is dead, because it is separated from the life sustaining tree. Our lives without Jesus cannot produce fruit. This fruit manifests itself in many ways, but for the next few weeks we will be focusing specifically on how it manifests as time, talent and treasure.

Today, we hear about our use of time. We spend a lot of time thinking about time. We “spend time” “buy time” “give time” “run out of time” “have no time” and even call for a “time out” from time to time.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” So if there is a time for everything, how do we know if we are being faithful stewards with our time? It is difficult because it cannot be broken down into a simple formula of percentages. Let me give you an example.

Every night before bed I fill the coffee maker with water and fresh coffee. I know that if I wake up, push the button, then jump in the shower, my coffee is going to be ready by the time I need to step out the door. Of course, since its morning, and I haven’t had my coffee yet, I sometimes forget to push that little button, and on my way out the door I grab for my mug and realize what I have done. So I have to choose, do I start my day 10 minutes late waiting for the machine, or do I start my day without coffee. The machine does the same amount of work no matter when I start it, so the only difference between my coffee waiting on me and me waiting on my coffee is when I start the process. There is a time to brew and a time to pour, and if you mess with the timing, the whole process falls apart.

You see, that is the problem with thinking of our time as something we donate at the end of the process. Let me ask you a few questions. Is Sunday the first day of your week, or the last? Is your worship time something you squeeze into your week at the end if there is time, or is it something that launches you into your week. Do you find yourself always “closing with a quick prayer” when things have run a little long? How does that demonstrate God’s priority in your life?

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there “is a time for everything” To me this means that there is a time for renewal. We spend our nights recuperating from our daily chores. Those 8 hours of sleep are not wasted time. They are needed for a healthy life, and when you go without them it is pretty clear as you go through your day that something is wrong.

Our bodies are not the only things that need a rest. We take vacations from our jobs most often not because of physical exhaustion, but mental and emotional exhaustion as well. A weekend trip to the lake can really relieve the stress of a tough month. Simply sitting and enjoying a football game with friends can strengthen friendships and help us relax after a hard week. There is a time for these things.

How much more de we need spiritual renewal? We need to look at our daily devotions, our prayer life, and our time with God’s Word as the spiritual refreshment we need to make it through the day. Without Jesus we are spiritually improvised, unable to sustain ourselves. We need Jesus to be our life sustaining tree. We need the forgiveness He offers through the cross, and the life that comes only from Him. Martin Luther once said “I have so much to do today that I need to spend an extra hour in prayer.” Jesus Himself prays often, for strength and renewal and encouraged His disciples to do the same. He knows they needed that same renewal, and He sets the pattern for sinful Disciples, then and now, because He knows that they need what only He can give. You see spending time every morning to pray in not time lost, any more than sleep is. It is a necessary part of our spiritual renewal, and when we go without it, we can see the negative results in our lives.

And this points us to the great part of worshiping our God on Sundays. When we dedicate this first part of our week to responding to His love, it is like tilling the soil of our hearts. We get together, as fellow believers and sing our praises. We get to hear about the amazing gift of grace from God, and the saving work of Jesus Christ. This puts us in the right frame of mind to begin our work week.

I had a sermon professor at the seminary, Dr. Schmidt, who changed the way I thought about sermons. He told the story of a man who didn’t really see the value of listening to a sermon every week. He once commented that he couldn’t even remember a single sermon topic from the previous year, and was wondering if it was even worth having them. The elder to whom he was complaining answered, “That is a good point, in fact, thinking back over last year, I can’t seem to remember what I had to eat for a single dinner, I wonder if it is worth continuing to eat.” This reminded me that we receive in the sermon the good news of Jesus Christ, which is good food, fertilizer that will keep us growing throughout the week.

But we don’t just eat once a week. We immerse ourselves in God’s word through Bible studies throughout the week. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The Word of God equips us for our work. What good is it for us to equip ourselves for our work as an afterthought? We do not study the Bible in addition to living our lives, we study the Bible to prepare us for living our lives.

Our reading from Ecclesiastes helps us put all of this together. Sleep is a good thing, but only when it is properly used. There is a time for sleep and a time for being awake, too much of one or the other is a bad thing. Taking a trip to the lake is a good thing, but if you are depriving yourself of beginning your week with worship then you aren’t making the most of your time. Being a faithful, fruitful, steward of your time does not mean simply dedicating x amount of hours to God, it means living your whole life with God in mind. And that means taking advantage of the opportunities he gives throughout the week to hear Him speak through His Word and pour out His gifts through the means of grace, that same Word and the Sacraments.

God provides everything we need to grow into faithful stewards. We are dead branches without His love, but through the life and death of His beloved Son, we are grafted into His family. We are blessed to be able to respond to this amazing gift of love and grace, and blessed even more that that response is part of the sustaining work of God. We live our lives, knowing that there is a time for all of the wondrous ways God provides for us. Amen.

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