November 15, 2020

Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Worship
November 15, 2020

Call to Worship: Psalm 123:1-2

Unto You I lift up my eyes, O you who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters. As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until he has mercy on us.

Hymn of Praise: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” buy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Prayer for Peace

Your Love challenges us to love like Jesus. You challenge us with the teachings of Jesus. You challenge us to live peace and seek justice. When we think of these challenges we are humbled by our human limitations. At the same time we are determined to do your will and work for peace. Help us by your Holy Spirit to rise to the challenge. Help us recognize needs and opportunities to make peace around us. Give us courage to speak out for justice. Help us be the balm of peace when there is injustice and violence. Amen

Focus Moment

Let’s talk for a few minutes about one of our Enduring Principles-Responsible Choices.

“God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices. We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.” –Sharing Community of Christ, 4th edition, page 30.

Our choices usually are better when they are made patiently and unselfishly. The opposite is illustrated by the expression “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” The story behind this saying is credited to Aesop as printed in Aesop’s Fables, One version goes like this: The people in the story were greedy. They wanted instant gratification rather than waiting for the next day to have more money. As a result they made a poor choice.

God gives us the ability to make choices and hopes that we will make good choices. When we do, we create more good things in the world, we have better friendships, and all of creation is healthier. Even when people have made bad choices the hurt others or the Earth, we can work with God to make things better.

Jesus asks us to use different priorities than the people in the story: to think of others first and to act out of God’s love for all. Then we make responsible choices.

Disciples Generous Response

In this sixth week of the Generosity Cycle, faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment of constraint. Break free of the shackles of conventional culture that mainly promote self-serving interests. (Doctrine and Covenants 163:9)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25: 14-20

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and in the ground and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants can and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents, came and brought five other talents saying “lord, you delivered to me five talents; look I have gained five more talents besides them.: His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Community of Christ statement on discipleship: “Being a Christian is more than holding a list of right ideas; it is about radical obedience to Jesus in every part of life. God’s boundless love sets us free to lives of responsible stewardship in which we generously offer our lives in service to God’s reign. Discipleship is both an inward and outward journey. Jesus calls us to follow him and to invite others to experience the transforming power of his grace.” (Sharing in Community of Christ, Third edition, page 16)

Receiving God’s grace and love allows us to reclaim our true nature. It is our nature to be generous like God. God’s generous sharing transforms us. We respond by changing our lifestyles. Learning to live generous lives comes as we open our lives to God often and intentionally.

During the Disciples’ Generous Response this morning, reflect on how we can continue to explore grace and generosity over these next months and year. May God bless and guide us in our unfolding search to embrace whole-life stewardship through receiving God’s gift and responding faithfully moving ever onward to Zion.

Ministry of Music: Covid-19 – Praise Worship & Healing For All – Way Maker

Morning Message: WHOLE LIFE STEWARDSHIP by Elder Dick Kramer

Our theme for today is whole life stewardship. Strange that our worship leaders thought that this would be a good topic for the congregational financial officer to talk about. This last statement really encapsulates a concept that I want to discuss. Too often when we think of stewardship we immediately think of money. In truth, finances are only a small part of stewardship. The word stewardship means caring for and managing something that belongs to another. In the parable of the talents, the first two servants not only protected the talents entrusted to them but also caused them to increase while the third servant sought only to protect the talent. To simply protect something is not good management. A good manager or steward seeks to make the most of the item being managed.

So, what does it mean to be a good whole life steward? First of all, we need to recognize what we have stewardship over. Hopefully, we all recognize that everything that we have and have any control over belongs to God. The phrase “to him to which much has been given, much is expected” really applies here. Our very lives are a gift from God and an item for which we are required to be stewards. We need to care for, protect, heal and nurture our bodies.

During this pandemic, we have had the chance to choose to protect ourselves and others by simply maintaining safe distances and wearing a mask when in public. Many have chosen to think that this was a challenge to their liberty rather than an exercise in stewardship to protect themselves and others. The tangible and intangible property that we call ours is actually God’s, and we are stewards over it. Those of us who live in a democracy have been given the gift of participation in the government that controls our community. We are, therefore, required to vote and express our stewardship over this gift.

The families that we have been given (both immediate and extended) are likewise a gift and we must care for the members of that family as stewards of a truly wonderful gift. The world we live in belongs to God. We have a duty of stewardship over the portion of it that we occupy. We must protect our environment and try to heal the wounds that we, humankind, have inflicted upon it.

In short, every aspect of our existence is a gift that we owe God stewardship over. YES, I said OWE. We are all debtors. We owe everything to God. The good part is that God is a generous and forgiving creditor. He is even more generous with us when we are good stewards. And, He is forgiving and understanding when we fail in our stewardship. However, He is also an unchangeable God. His universe is subject to compliance with the natural laws that He created.

This means that when we violate a natural law there will be consequences. When we dump trash into the ocean and our waterways, they become polluted. As a result, the water and sea life that we depend upon become unsafe for us to consume. Our ever-expanding use of fossil fuel expels carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which causes the atmosphere to allow more and more heating or the earth by the sun thus changing our climate. We have removed a large amount of the rain forests which would help absorb much of this carbon dioxide thus increasing the rate at which our planet warms. We in the developed countries of the world consume and consume while there is starvation around the world. We each need to evaluate the way in which we live and decide if we are truly being good stewards over our gifts from God.

Closing Hymn: God Be With You Till We Meet Again, Antrim Mennoite Choir

Sending Forth

Lord, as we prepare for the coming week, may we remember God’s words as we seek to make the right choices…What Would Jesus Do?

God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me totally awake and ready to respond.
Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace.

This service was prepared by Dick and Vera Kramer.