“Bold and Confident”
Pastor Todd Buegler
November 14-15, 2015
Stewardship Commitment Weekend
Trinity Lutheran Church
Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, and from Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world! Amen.
In 1955, Trinity Lutheran Church was located in downtown Owatonna. The church building was on the site just in front of what used to be the old Red Owl grocery store. But back then there was a church building there, that Trinity had outgrown. So Trinity’s leaders made the controversial decision to relocate and build a new church building. People thought they were crazy for building out here past the edge of the town, in what was basically a swamp.
Shortly after the physical construction of the sanctuary was completed, Trinity’s building committee received word that the stain-glass artist who had been commissioned to do the windows of our new building had gone into tax forfeiture. The beautiful stained-glass windows that Trinity had commissioned and paid for were going to be put up for auction to the highest bidder.
Of course, this was a huge problem. There wasn’t money to order a second set of windows. So the building committee put together a plan. Building committee member George Dow and Pastor Art Bagaason, the senior pastor back then, climbed into George’s station wagon and made the drive to the warehouse in Minneapolis. Pastor Art was a gifted, stubborn, Scandinavian pastor, and George was a lawyer. It was a great and powerful combination.
The two of them walked into the auction and spotted Trinity’s windows among all the other items up for sale. They then began walking around the room, talking to the 25 to 30 other bidders. They were friendly and smiling, but they were direct: “See those windows over there? They belong to Trinity Lutheran Church. We’ve already paid for them once. Don’t bid against us.” And sure enough, when bidding opened, Pastor Art and George made a token bid… just $100. “Do I hear $150?” the auctioneer asked. Nothing. Crickets. “$150 anyone? $150? $150? How about $125?” And finally, “Ok then, $100, going once…going twice…sold!” And Trinity won back the stained glass windows; our stained glass windows.
So Pastor Art and George somehow managed to squeeze these ten sets of windows, each of which was encased in a large wooden frame, into George’s Ford Country Squire station wagon (you know, the ones with the wood paneling on the side?) and with the tailgate dragging on the ground, got them back to Trinity. I asked George on Friday, “How did you do that?” With a glint in his eye he said “I have no idea.”
But make no mistake, there is great power in confidence. Being firm in your faith that something is going to work out will carry you a long, long way.
I remember one of my seminary teachers in a class where we were discussing “Pastoral Confidence.” How do we have the confidence to walk into a hospice room…or a hospital room…or a crisis situation…and bring a word of hope? His answer: “You just do.” “But how do we learn that?” And he said “You don’t. It comes from the Holy Spirit. You just have it.” And over the years, I’ve discovered that he was right.
Our scripture reading from Hebrews says that “since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts, sprinkled clean and our bodies washed with pure water.”
You see, there was a time that people feared God. There was a time that people felt distance from God. God was there, but God was so holy, that we couldn’t even speak to God. Prior to the reformation, and in the Catholic Church today, this was what was generally taught. The priests represented and stood between God and the church-goers. Confession was given to a priest, who would then hand out the penance on behalf of God.
Growing up, I remember that this is how I viewed God. Distant…on a throne…unapproachable. I remember walking into church sanctuaries, especially one that is gothic, or traditional, and instantly my voice would drop to a whisper. As a child, I remember thinking that God was very, very busy. I mustn’t disturb.
During Jesus time, there was a curtain that literally separated the center room of the temple, called the “Holy of Holies” from the people. And it was only the high priest, once a year, who after a very thorough ritual cleansing, could enter that space…to be in the presence of God. For the Jewish people, God felt very distant.
This is the same curtain, separating God from the people, that was heard being torn in two at the crucifixion of Jesus. It was literally the sound of the separation…the wall…between us and God, being torn down. Because of Jesus, God is not separate. Because of Jesus, God is not distant. God is available. God seeks us out, to be in relationship.
And so, confidently…boldly, we can approach God. We can come with our worries, our fears and our concerns. We can come with our hurts, and our need for healing. We can come…and we can come closer. The curtain is open. And as it says in Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
These are good words for us to hear, especially this weekend. As we all reel from the shock of the events in Paris, it is easy to despair. It is easy to feel like the darkness is winning. But it is not. Light always overcomes darkness. Always. And these days we need to be reminded that Christ is the light of the world that no darkness shall overcome. And we, Christ’s church, and our ministry, is how that light is spread. From person to person to person.
This is, as I have said, “Trinity in Motion” commitment weekend. We’ve spent the last three weeks in worship talking about our congregation’s mission to be the bearers of Christ’s light, and talking about how our giving fuels that mission. Trinty’s members have received our pledge mailing.
I know that talking about money in the church can make us feel uncomfortable. What we give feels personal. And sometimes people are critical of churches because they think that all churches do is talk about, or ask for money. But I’ve got to be honest; I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I actually think we don’t talk enough about money in the church. Because how we give is one of the concrete ways we live out our faith. Giving and generosity is a spiritual issue for people who follow Jesus.
Every time Lori’s and my offering is given, (well, transferred really…we use the electronic Simply Giving) it’s a reminder that we trust in God to provide for us. Every time we give, we have to face our anxiety: “what if we don’t have enough for ourselves.” But every year when we make our pledge, God reminds us: “no, don’t worry…I provide.” Every year. Every year.
And because the curtain is down, because Jesus walks with you, you can trust completely in God to provide for you. And so you give.
You give not because I ask you to (though I do ask you to), and not because of any kind of guilt (if you feel like you’re giving because of guilt, then let me free you of that right now…I’d rather you didn’t give because of guilt.) No, we give because we are thankful for all that God provides. And we give because we want to make a difference in the world. And we give because we believe in Trinity’s mission.
Hopefully you’ve seen our 5-year strategic plan. And hopefully you understand the new ministries that your offering is going to fuel. I have complete confidence in this plan and this mission and I am hopeful that you do too. Trinity is a church whose mission is
- to grow disciples of Jesus Christ
- to serve those in need
- to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves
- to create community
- and to share the love and grace of God.
Have confidence to approach God. Believe in God’s promises; promises to provide love, grace, forgiveness, and all that we need to live.
Because of these promises, we can boldly give. I have no doubt…zero…that God is going to provide enough; enough for me and my family…enough for you and yours. And because you give, we are confident that there will be more than enough to fund the mission of this church.
Theologian Henri Nouwen once said that “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you—your energy, your prayers, and your money—in this work to which God has called us.”
And so today I’m going be bold, and ask you to join me and my family in making our pledge to the work of God in our congregation. As a community of faith, let’s boldly join together in the work God has called us to do. As a community of faith, let us confidently approach the altar, make our pledge and pray for God’s Holy Spirit to bless our ministry together.
I’ll ask the ushers to come forward, and we will receive our pledges.
Let us pray:
God of grace, you have thrown down the barriers between you and your people. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, you have come along side us, bringing gifts of grace and love. Be with us now as we respond to these gifts with our pledges…and bless the growing ministries of Trinity, so that your love can be shared and your mission here fulfilled. All this we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.