2-19-23 “The People of God”

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Romans 12:1-5

“The People of God”

(Stewardship Month #3)

I want to start with something funny: For the most part the pastor doesn’t like to preach about money. But when the coffers were running low, he has no choice. He told the congregation, “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we have more than enough money for all the current and future needs of the parish. The bad news is, it’s still in your pockets.”

Today is the third Sunday of stewardship month. On the first Sunday, we talked about how we all are stewards of God because God created all things and entrusted all things to us to manage well and multiply them. Among all things, last Sunday, we talked about the church. God entrusted the church to us through Jesus Christ. Each of us is building the church together according to our abilities, gifts, and talents. Some may be charged with a big portion; some a smaller portion; however, all of us are a precious part of our local church. Somehow, even though our church may be smaller, if we manage it well, doing our best with sincerity and faithfulness, God may give us a chance to improve our abilities, talents, and gifts to extend our ministry and add more people of God.

Today, I want to talk about the people of God in a stewardship mind. Who do you think the people of God are? What kind of people come to your mind when you hear “the people of God”? Perhaps, you may think about those who attend Sunday services regularly, those who work at the church, and those who commit to community service by volunteering. When I think of the people of God, the story of a rich young man in the Gospel of Matthew comes to my mind (Matthew 19:11-24). He said he kept God’s commandments well from his youth, such as “do not murder,” “do not commit adultery,” “do not steal,” “do not give false testimony,” “honor your father and mother,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” He thought that he was one of the people of God. What more does he need to do? It sounds like he is a perfect person of God. He is proud of himself and says to Jesus, “all these I have kept. What do I still lack?” I want to ask you, “How do you think of this rich young man? What more does he need to do to be a person of God?” We know this story very well. And then, without needing to form our own idea, we got the conclusion to the story. Well, you may think the problem is that he is rich. Jesus said that he should sell all his possessions and distribute them to the poor. But because he had many possessions, he worried about selling them and returned home. It is the conclusion we expected. If that’s the case, Christians should be poor. Indeed, is the problem because he is rich? If the people of God shouldn’t gain any possessions, how could we help the poor?

The point is not “to sell his possessions and give them to the poor.” He has done it already. He indeed said that he kept all God’s commandments, including “love your neighbor as yourself.” He might keep helping the poor with his possessions. The point Jesus was making was to “follow me.” He was a person who followed the money. We remember that Jesus said, “You can’t serve two masters; you cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He couldn’t choose Jesus instead of money. My point is that the people of God are those who follow Jesus.

Non- Christians can help the poor. However, the difference between Christians and non-Christians is whether they follow Jesus. Please pay attention. Jesus is “love.” We can give money to those in need without love, but we cannot love others without giving. The Letter of James says, “If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16). We help others in need because we love them as Jesus loves us. Jesus’ love is the love he gave when he gave himself up for us. Those who follow Jesus must be the people of God.

Today’s scripture shows us how the people of God live the love of Jesus in everyday life. The Apostle Paul says, “Worship God in the spirit in everyday life, which we may present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Jesus Christ became a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God for our sins. If we follow Jesus, we should be a living sacrifice for others. You may remember when we have a communion service, we pray “the Great Thanksgiving; “And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.”  And then, after giving communion, we pray: “Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” It is a short prayer, but it has a profound meaning. We will give ourselves to others as a living sacrifice, as Jesus has given himself for us. Have you ever thought of these prayers mindfully?

We pray this great thanksgiving and communion prayer every month, but we, perhaps, keep them as a liturgy in Sunday worship service without thinking about how we live it out in our everyday life. However, let’s truly be the people of God now and evermore. We are the masterpiece of God, and God made us in his image. Even though we sometimes go far away from God, God still loves us. Even when we hadn’t yet recognized God’s love, Jesus died for us to forgive our sins. The best stewardship mind is that we offer ourselves to God and others as Jesus offered himself to God for us. So, how can we be a living sacrifice for others? Should we die on the cross as Jesus did? No, we shouldn’t.

A living sacrifice means to live it out. In other words, we should live following God’s will in everyday life. Today’s scripture says “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what the will of God is.” Remember that if we are confused about what the will of God is, we should open our minds and hearts to God. The scripture says, “Be transformed by renewing of our mind so that we may discern what the will of God is.” The people of God are those who transform not only the world but also themselves by renewing minds. If we don’t transform ourselves, how can we transform the world? If we aren’t the disciples of Jesus, how can we make others the disciples of Jesus? We should transform ourselves by renewing our minds in everyday life. The stewards of God are those who offer themselves to God and others. Remember, we can give ourselves without love, but we cannot love without giving. If you love God, give yourself to God. “If we give all we possess to the poor and surrender our bodies to the flames but have not to love, we gain nothing”(1 Corinthians 13:3). The people of God are those who love God and love others by their acts. Let’s show how we love God and our neighbors! Thanks be to God. Amen!