Making a Methodist Disciple "A Servant Steward's Spirit"

33-66-97. No, no quarterback will bark these signals today. But all of us Christians ought to know they call our play. We believers represent a little less than 33% of humankind. Yet we control 66% of all the wealth on earth. Hmm. And the 97? That's the percentage of all we have that we spend on ourselves, worldwide. 33-66-97. Jesus says, "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all." In Jesus' name, John says, "Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth." Ahh, sweet, sweet Jesus, who, on the night he gave himself up for us, took bread, broke it, gave it to his own and said, "Take, eat, this is my body broken for you." In the same way, he took the cup. 'Gave thanks. 'Said to all his own at the table, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." Sweet Jesus. He wills for us a giving spirit. He commands of us a spirit to serve. On this sacred day, this World Communion Sunday, we share with believers in every place the call to a giving, serving discipleship. Jesus awaits it. Our community groans for it. It's a bit overdue, even in our own congregation.

For three weeks we've lifted the marks of Methodist (or any other) disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the last in this series. Glenn McDonald (The Disciple Making Church, Dry Bones to Vitality) has helped us with a sacred list of six "marks". They could appear in any order in our lives, but always #1: a heart for Christ alone! And #2, a mind transformed, made new, by God's Word. Arms of love and knees for prayer, marks #3 & 4 for everyone who wants to be like Jesus. That's what a disciple is: one who wants to be… like Jesus! (Is that you?) Then you'll want to be marked, just like Jesus, with a voice to speak the Good News. Ahh, # 5. Our passion, like God's: bring home every lost soul! Says Jesus, it can't be done without a final mark of discipleship. #6. A certain spirit. A giving, serving spirit! Church folk have called this a steward's spirit for centuries.

It all begins, of course, with Jesus. Identify with him, and we're driven to the heart of his heart. He tells us openly, "…The son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." We're good so far. We can do that. It might be a little inconvenient occasionally, but we're good people. We can do this. Only, Jesus goes farther. "…The son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…and to give his life, a ransom for many!" Whoa! Too much! "Jesus, are you kidding? Better you than me!" No wonder our Lord asks Peter himself at the last supper, "Are you able to drink the cup I drink, or be baptized with my baptism?" Now there's no avoiding a way- deeper commitment. You don't get to claim your arthritis, your bad back, or your crazy aunt Mamie at the family reunion as your "cross to bear." All such lesser things understand the cross too cheaply. First of all, not chosen, second of all, with no intent or power to serve another, and third, with no passion to serve or seek the lost. These greater urges are what Jesus means, and what Jesus does. They are his gut-level offering to God the Father, making him our Holy Brother! 'Marks of a disciple? A heart… for Christ; a mind, changed; hands and knees for love and prayer, a voice to speak… body parts all. But go to the gut, the innards, the very entrails of Jesus, and you get compassion. (Literally, gut is the NT root word for this deepest caring for others, for God's sake.) Is this the mark on the innards of your soul, your life? Are you like Jesus?

Innermost, uttermost, discipling describes a life of serving and giving. It confounds and contradicts every message, certainty and pre-conception the uncommitted, unbelieving world affords. It changes every relationship. God's agenda becomes our agenda. Take a look at our insert today. See that sentence with the blanks? How would you fill them in? A HEART FOR CHRIST ALONE IS THE MOST ___________ MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP! The Spirit of a servant steward (a giver!) is the most ___________. (Important, difficult) It's so true. Serving and giving challenge us, even as disciples. 'Cause it's all about putting others above self, God-in-Christ above all. (Nobody sells those large foam hands at any ballgame printed, "We're #3!" behind heaven and our neighbor. From childhood we're conditioned #1.) Following Jesus turns all our learning upside down. I love the story (Mcdonald) of Stumpy and Martha. At the county fair for years, he wants to take the $10 bi-plane ride. She says it's a waste. Afterall, "$10 is $10!" Finally the pilot offers a free ride this year, he's heard their argument so often. "I'll ride you in the open cockpit free, only no talking. Say a word, it's 10 bucks." Up they go. Speed and altitude. Loop the loop, steep dives and barrel rolls. Not a peep. The pilot lands, turns to Stumpy, just behind him and compliments their silence. "Well," says Stumpy, "I was tempted to say something when Martha fell out, but $10 is $10!" The spirit of Jesus?… not exactly!

Four questions focus our discipleship in the matter of a servant steward's spirit. (Mcdonald) Everyday, ask yourself, who's in charge? Whom do I see in charge of my day and of our world? Churchy folks always know the right answer is God. Our heads know so. Our tongues say so. But do our lives live so? Paul writes to Timothy, "As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy." Wanna know if this applies to you and me? Well in global terms, in the sweep of human history, if you came here by any means but walking, if you can afford to own your own Bible, if you're going back home and watch TV today, you're rich enough to listen to Paul's reminder. Wealth, stuff, security are not Biblically bad or wrong themselves. But Jesus insists they're inherently spiritually dangerous! Why? Because they tempt us to believe life's all about us and what we've got comes from us. Belongs to us. Is deserved by us. Our only certainty rests in God through Christ. He's in charge. Our security rests securely on him… alone! Next question. Where's home, really? Permit me a hint. "T'aint" the address on your driver's license! Sorry. No matter the work you've put in on it, or the pleasure you've gotten out of it, in the eternal scheme of things, this is a very temporary rental arrangement! Our hope, our home is in God, with whom dwells eternal peace. Nowhere else. Have you been reading and hearing? The so-called real estate bubble has popped. Harder to sell, cheaper to buy, longer to move. One of those home channels the other day cautioned, "Don't pour so much into your home you can't get it out. Don't over invest in your current place. It might not be worth it." In real estate, such advice is occasional. In the spirit, such a word is eternal. Jesus himself warns against laying up such treasure on earth as to be poor in the things of heaven! Question three. What's your real job? Paul advises Timothy, "…Do good, be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up … a good foundation for the future, [taking] hold of the life which is life indeed." What a Christian job description! Did you know that in 1946, only 8% of us in the US had significant enough income for nonessentials? Today it's 51%. And pretty much 100% here. Most of us will have to hang up our cell phones, turn down our Ipods, zap our PDA's, unplug from our email, just to get the word. Take our county's average income, times only our regularly attending family units, times 10% (a tithe). Were we to answer as a body, "Who's in charge: God, giver of every good and perfect gift, sufficient to our every real need," and our budget would not be less than $1.5M! At only ½ a tithe, $750K. In fact, we heard this week, we're struggling to make 500+K, and may need to right-size our goals accordingly. On Paul's scale of liberal and generous, laying a good foundation for an eternal future, each of us needs to ask how we're doing, trusting heaven as our one real home and the cause of Christ our one real job. Ahh, one last question. #4. What's success? Paul writes Timothy. "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Bible words too outdated, somehow, too quaint? How about a happenin' formula, a modern day equation worthy of at least algebra two? Basic needs (God provided) + Eternal perspective (Jesus demonstrated) = Success Today/Tomorrow. The BESTT life (with 2 T's) is the right life for a disciple's life-like-Jesus. (Mcdonald, alt.)

So, come to the table today with all who call on Christ. But come with a spirit of self examination. [Insert] Do I bear the marks of one who wants to be like Jesus? How am I doing in the spirit of serving and giving? Do I get my contentment in his? Do I give and serve when it's convenient; or whenever, however God-in-Christ directs? Do I give and serve with abandon, not counting the cost, but all for joy of changing the world to be more and more (like) God's Kingdom? Do the gifts of God, and the Best of God, his son Jesus Christ, humble me to hear and prompt me imitate his limitless love? Please, don't fear: trust. Don't forget: speak up and show forth. Don't sit still: reach out. Don't wait for tomorrow: seize today. We know not what a day may hold, but only that the hour for serving Christ is always near at hand.

Come to Christ. Be like Christ. Take Christ in. Shine Christ out.

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