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Stewardship of Tomorrow

November 5, 2006 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan

Topic: Biblical Verse: Revelation 21:1–21:6

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Festival of All Saints
Revelation 21:1-6a

"Stewardship of Tomorrow"

When you think about tomorrow, what are your thoughts? By tomorrow, I mean not just the next day, but the day after that, and the day after that, next month, next year-the future as it stretches out before us. For some, the future shines bright with promise and hope. They are confident and optimistic because of their personal situation in life, or just because that is their outlook in general. For others, they're not so sure. They have cares and concerns about the future that make them uncertain whether tomorrow will be better than today. These cares and concerns may be rooted in work, family, health, or a host of other concerns. Anxiety about tomorrow robs us of joy for today. And haven't we all walked in those shoes? On this Festival of All Saints on which our 3-part stewardship series concludes, the Scripture lessons paint a picture of the future-God's future for us, and despite whatever cares and concerns we may have about tomorrow, the Lord God assures us that his future for us is better than anything we can possibly imagine. And so the message for today is entitled "Stewardship of Tomorrow." May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.

Some 750 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah shared with his people a vision of the future-God's future (Isaiah 5:6-9). Israel's future at this point in time looked pretty bleak as their kingdom teetered on the brink of destruction. People were wringing their hands, fretting about tomorrow. Despite their unfaithfulness to the Lord, the Lord's future for his chosen and faithful ones revolved around a banquet-food, glorious food! That future-God's future-included the ultimate "big gulp," when God himself would swallow up death forever. Tears would be wiped away; shame and disgrace removed, and rejoicing would be the theme of victory. Fast forward ahead to today's Gospel lesson (John 11:32-44), and here Jesus fulfills what Isaiah foretold. In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus makes known to the world that death itself is subject to him. He himself holds power over death and the grave. Good Friday must give way to Easter Sunday. In Jesus, death must give way to life. This is the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come that we confess in the creed. When we lay our loved ones to rest, despite the grief and heartache we may feel, through our tears we know that death is not the final word. There is a new and glorious future in our risen Lord Jesus Christ that awaits us.

The book of Revelation is often misunderstood, even feared. The bizarre and graphic images are unsettling. Today's second reading (Revelation 21:1-6a) sums up what the whole book of Revelation is about: a vision of the future-God's future-for his people that will strengthen and sustain them in their faith, even in the midst of persecution. And what an incredible future it is! God dwelling in the midst of his people (He already does that through Jesus); death destroyed; no more mourning, or crying, or pain. It's everything that Isaiah said, and more! This is the future God has prepared for us, and for all who have put their trust and hope in him.

Whatever outward circumstances we may have in life, stewardship of tomorrow has already been secured for us. This is God's gift to us, sealed in the blood of his only Son on the tree of the cross. The ultimate fear and anxiety we face about the future-what happens when I die?-has already been taken care of by God. With our future secure, God calls today to live a life that gives praise and glory to the One who has done all of this for us. The opening words of today's psalm (Psalm 24) are a timely reminder: "The earth is the Lord and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein." It all belongs to God. We are just the managers, the caretakers, of what is his. He has placed earth and all its resources, our abilities, our talents and time, our possessions and finances, all that we are and have comes from God. Stewardship of tomorrow calls us to exercise wise and faithful management of God's gifts today.

On this All Saints Sunday, I have people on my mind-people, saints of God, who have shown me what God's love in Christ Jesus means, not just through words, but through living. In this our fiftieth anniversary as a congregation, we give thanks to God for all the saints who have demonstrated God's grace and mercy over these fifty years. Some of them have gone to be with the Lord; others are with us still. It is here in the Lord's Supper that we are joined together and become one in the Body and Blood of Christ our Savior. As the liturgy for Holy Communion tells us, "Therefore with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven..." If we want to get close to our loved ones who have died in the Lord, the blessed dead, we should go not to the cemetery where their earthly remains are buried, but we should come here to the altar. The holy Supper of Christ's Body and Blood links us not only to Bethlehem and Calvary, but to the whole world beyond the grave, where even now God is making all things new.

Stewardship of tomorrow causes us to look ahead to the future. One year from this past Wednesday, on November 1, 2007, our congregation will take possession of the 1.8 adjacent acres, the Posey property. Now, what will we do with this? That is exactly what we are engaged in prayerfully discerning. Our Mission and Vision Team is hard at work in casting a new mission and vision for our congregation, and this is feeding into the work being done by our Master Facilities Planning Team as we consider what God would have us do to grow his kingdom. How can our church facilities, how can our ministries here at St. John's, work to further Christ's mission to the world? Our Church Council meets this evening to plan for ministry in 2007. Stewardship of tomorrow is you, me, and all of us working together, for Jesus' sake. And so I am bold to ask for your prayerful and financial support as our congregation moves into our fifty-first year.

May the Lord guide and direct us to joyful obedience in our stewardship of tomorrow. Amen.