God’s grace His mercy and peace from Him our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The texts for our sermon this morning is from Romans 14:7-9 where Paul tells us none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
You will not be the same after this sermon is done. Yes, the words of Christ spoken through me will bring new life in you through the Holy Spirit as you are killed alive, but I also mean you will physically change. In the time it takes me to deliver this sermon, you will be older, and therefore your body will be further along in its gradual, inevitable demise. Perhaps a hair or two will fall off (more for some than others); skin cells will die and be replaced by others; your eyesight dim; wrinkles deepen and lengthen; the enamel on your teeth thin, your joints will stiffen, your back will compress. Although these changes will be so profoundly minute that the loss defies measurement, it nevertheless remains true. You are changing as you hear these words. You are aging. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact. (Bird)
Today we are touching on the stewardship of time and this is a topic of stewardship that we can all relate to, whether we are 3 or 103 we are stewards of our time. When it comes to talents, some people just don’t have them (kidding), when it comes to treasures, some have more than others and some may not be in an earning arena of their life (too young). But if you are alive, you have time. This is why time is a good place to talk about stewardship.
Stewardship is taking care of the things God has given to us. Godly stewardship is loving him and loving others with everything he has given to us. In the stewardship of time we are called and redeemed by God to use our time in ways that helps us to love him and helps us to love our neighbors. These are the great commands. This is all we are to do, and thankfully God helps us to do it by giving us time. God is patient with us as we grow in love towards him even as he lives in us. Because whether we live or die. We are his even as he is in us.
So time… What is time? Time is something we are continually watching. Our culture and society prize time and value time and mark time like none other. Time is always before us. In our speech and in our mind. It can become an obsession for us.
We measure time with centuries, decades, years, months, weeks days, hours, minutes seconds milliseconds becomes more and more precise as we “progress” in the world. Time is really just the passing of events one after another. Whether we track it or not, time is passing. From the beginning the passing of days has been noted and noticed. The first 7 days of the world included the creation of the lights (day 4) in the (Genesis 1:14-15) expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. These lights are to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years to shed light upon the earth.
Since the moment when death entered the world through sin, time has meant many things but for our broken minds more often than not, the passing of time reminds us of the approaching of death. Regardless of what we do with it, how we measure it or how we spend it, time is a gift from God and our days are entrusted to us. How we manage our time as God’s people is one of the questions we are blessed to answer with our lives in Christ.
We have a couple examples from our lessons today of time management. “Jesus,” Peter asks, “how many times do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Aren’t I just wasting my time if I do it more than seven times?” Jesus responds: “No, you need to do it more like seventy seven times (or 490 times) before you should worry about the cost it is to your time.” What a great picture of how we are to spend our time. Forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. Do it. How many of your 168 hours in the past week did you spend forgiving your fellow believers who have sinned against you. And, not just in your mind, but in your living. I admit before God and before you that I have not lived to this degree the forgiveness that God has called us to exhibit.
In the parable Jesus follows this exchange up with, we get an example of needing more time and being impatient. The man in the parable asks the master to be patient, I cannot repay you at this time, I need more time. Be patient with me and the merciful master allows the debt to be carried a bit longer. What a great gift of time given to the man. This man leaves the presence of the master only to find a man who owed him a debt. This second debtor to the original debtor too wants time to repay. But the original debtor would not extend the grace that was originally given to him.
And therein lies just a picture of our sinful failures to be good stewards. In this example it is a stewardship of forgiveness. A stewardship of patience. A stewardship of time. God has given us all of days, hours, minutes and seconds and he doesn’t just want some of them dedicated to him, but he asks for lives that are dedicated to him. And we fail. We fume. We forget. We fight and we forge a schedule based on the desires of our heart rather than that which God has called us to loving him, loving others. Forgiving as we have been forgiven.
In our Old Testament lesson we receive a picture of the life of stewardship we have been called to. So often we carry a chip on our shoulder and we let that chip dictate our motivation. I will do this so that someday I can show them. I will put up until I can get up. I will fake it until they break and then I will make it. Our sinful nature loves to make us focus on a fairness based on our standards rather than a faithfulness based on God’s commands.
Joseph’s father had passed away. Upon the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers were concerned that Joseph would pay them back for what they had done to him (throwing him in the pit, selling him into slavery, claiming he was dead). Their fears were put check when they sent a message to Joseph from their father before he died where he asks Joseph to forgive their sins. Joseph wept, and they said, we are your servants, he wasted no time telling them not to fear. Joseph says: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for your little ones.” Genesis 50:18-21
Joseph’s answer easily could have been quite different, but this man of God was living a life to the Lord. This is what a life lived to the Lord looks like. It realizes that God has given us all things. All of our time, all of our blessings, all of our challenges, and he uses them to bring about His good. Had Joseph harbored hatred and sought vengeance with his time do you think the story would read as good in scripture? Well they do make the pages. Because God’s word doesn’t gloss over the reality of our brokenness. God doesn’t ignore or hide the fact that we are not perfect stewards of the time he has given us on this earth No, those stories of bitterness and unforgiveness are written not only in scripture, but in our own personal lives. They have happened and happen continually they are the stories that put our Lord to death on the cross.
Romans 14:7-8 None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live we live to the Lord. and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
How does our living look when we realize we are the Lord’s? How do we use our time? This week and the week ahead I would like to challenge you to track your time for a day or two. If you had a chance to look at your news and notes this morning already, you will have seen or you will see that there is a chart with some average time usage statistics. These statistics and at least 25 pages of similar data are available from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Including breakdown by gender and ages.
So in the next week or so, proactively track you time. What do you spend your time doing?
Consider this a family homework assignment, the children, make sure your parents are doing their homework!
We aren’t asking you to report how you use your hours, although you are welcome to share observations on the back of this yellow card if you want…
This is a personal exercise that you can use as part of your devotional life. Take note of what takes your time, pray about how you feel you are spending your time, ask God to forgive you for too much time spent on things and not enough time on others. Watch God answer prayers and lead you to a life with different time emphasis…
We are asking you to complete this assignment no later than Oct 5 by returning the card with your name on it. We want to encourage one another with this and will share the names of those who complete the time challenge.
How many hairs did you lose? How many skin cells died? Your eyesight may indeed be dimer; your wrinkles don’t appear to be deeper and longer from where I am standing, but ever so slightly they are; the enamel on your teeth is thinner. You have changed. You have aged. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.
But even if I was to deliver this sermon over and over again, there is someone beside who will not change. He is to your left and right. Above you and below you. Before you and behind you. Inside and outside you. He thoroughly envelops you with his presence. He too has a body like yours, but his body is different, and it is finished with change. It changed from a fetus to a crying newborn; from a newborn to a toddling toddler; from a toddler to a pimpled teen; from a teen to a robust man; and from a man to a beaten, crucified victim robbed of life. And, then, after three days, he underwent the final change: from a buried victim to a resurrected victor. No hairs fall off. No skin cells die. His eyes penetrate heaven and earth. Even the scars from nail and spear are dazzling, trophies of love. He will not change, either in body or heart. He has said it once, and his announcement remains unalterable: “You are mine. I have bled for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. Though you are on your way to death, you are not, for in my death you already died. In my resurrection you already rose. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.” (Bird)
None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9
In the name of our Living Lord, Jesus. Amen.