Hosea 11: 1 – 11
Colossians 3: 1 – 11
Luke 12: 13 – 21
I have lived long enough to see greed ruin people. Otherwise very nice people can turn nasty when money is involved. And one of the reasons for this is that people mistakenly think that money (which represents power to get things done) equals happiness.
Today we are focussing on Stewardship and on Baptism. Stewardship refers to the way we manage the time, talents and resources that God has given us and baptism refers to what happens when we enter the family of God.
You might wonder what these two things have to do with each other – aside of course from the fact that the lectionary readings for the Epistle and the Gospel just happen to speak to both these topics today. It’s a convenient coincidence because we had planned today, before we knew what the readings were going to be, to focus on stewardship, and then we received a request to baptise Alia today.
Simply put, when it comes to our time, our talents and resources, God expects us to be generous; generous towards him and generous towards other people. And the thing that works against what God likes is human greed.
Greed in one of the ugliest things to witness, because it shrivels the human spirit.
Generosity is one of the most beautiful things to witness because it expands the human spirit.
So the question is simply this: how do we become generous?
The simple answer is by living out a baptised life.
‘What do you mean by that?’ you may well ask.
There are two aspects to baptism.
- Baptism is an initiation ceremony. It is a symbol of God’s cleansing and welcome into his family. It’s the parents saying, “We want our child to grow up a Christian”, and the church responding with, “Great! We have a ceremony for that. It welcomes you as a member of Jesus’ church.”
It says, “Welcome little one. You are symbolically cleansed in the water and made a member of the church, the Body of Christ.”
- But it does something else too. While we baptise babies by pouring a little water on their foreheads, that is a stylised form of baptism. The real deal is a complete dunking under the water and symbolises a burial and resurrection.
As you go down into the water the old non-Christian ‘you’ is symbolically buried, and when you come up out of the water, the new Christian ‘you’ rises to new life in Christ.
The Christian life (and this is the important bit) involves keeping that non-Christian side of you buried and encouraging the Christian side of you to flourish.
That is why Paul says to the Colossians 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). “Keep it buried” is what he’s saying.
And that too is why he says to them, 3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. “Keep the life of Christ foremost in your character and behaviour – let it flourish” is what he’s saying.
So quite simply, Baptism is a welcome or initiation ceremony which also provides a symbolic clue as to how to live the Christian life, namely by keeping selfishness buried, and allowing Christlikeness to flourish.
And we can only do that by faith, by reaching out to and trusting in, God.
And that, dear friends is how you deal with greed and encourage generosity. Stewardship is about responsible use. And when we use our time talents and resources, not to feather our own nests, but to build the family of God, we are good stewards.
So welcome, little Alia, to the family of God; and God bless you all as you learn to live the resurrection life of Christ, one that in essence is unselfish and generous.