Passing on the Treasure of Faith

What does your Christian Faith, and the Orthodox Church herself, mean to you? Think about that for a moment? How would you value your faith and the Church? In other words, where do you place your relationship with Jesus Christ in your life? What have you received from Christ Himself, and how have you been blessed by His Church?

Can we put a value on such a thing as our faith? Would it matter if we didn’t have the freedom to worship God, as millions of people don’t have around the world? We are now seeing in the daily news the unbelievable challenge of groups like the Islamic State or Boko Haram, where they are threatening the very existence of Christian communities in Syria and Iraq and Nigeria. Do we realize what a blessing we have to freely worship God and believe as our forbearers have?

If we faced such threatening challenges as ISIS and Boko Haram, how would we respond? Is our faith something so precious and dear to us that we would even risk death to preserve it? That’s the story of the martyrs of the church throughout history, and the story of the martyrs of today!

There is a legend about Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, whom Jesus called down from a sycamore tree one day to have dinner with him. Zacchaeus, you recall, converted from being a wealthy and despised thief as a result of his personal encounter with Jesus. As a result of his meeting with Christ, and the transformation of his life, he would end of giving half of all his wealth to the poor, and repaying everyone he cheated fourfold! What a conversion!!! In later years, the legend says, Zacchaeus used to rise early every morning, carry a bucket of water to this tree and carefully water its roots. On one occasion his wife followed him and when asked the reason for this strange concern over an old sycamore tree, Zacchaeus replied, “This is where I found Christ! This is where my life changed! This is where I discovered the deepest meaning of life, and I am forever grateful!”

A life of meaning and purpose! A means of change and transformation! A wellspring of mercy and forgiveness! A worldview of divine love and unconquerable hope! This is what faith in Christ and His Church can mean to each one of us.

God is everywhere, seeking out each one of us, but it is in His Church where we are nourished in our faith in Christ. Here is where we are baptized. Here is where we hear His sacred word proclaimed and explained. Here is where we join in fellowship with other believers who encourage us, bless us, and hold us accountable. Here is where Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts when we receive Him through the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Here is where we find mercy and forgiveness through the Mystery of Confession. This is why we love the Church and are ever grateful for her. And this is why we work for the Church and support the Church! Here is the Body of Christ and the Ark of Salvation!

Have you thought about our forbearers who for the past 2000 years made great sacrifices to ensure that the next generation would have the Christian treasure of faith? And what about our forbearers who struggled and sacrificed to bring our faith to this country?

Thank God for all those who have gone on before us, who have lived the faith, preserved the faith, held on to the faith, passed it the faith, and then died for the faith, so that we may be able to receive it and practice it in our own day and age! What a special and immeasurable blessing!

Well, next week we will celebrate stewardship Sunday, and in preparation for this Sunday, I wanted us to preach about what our faith means to us. Supporting our Church is directly related to understanding how precious our faith is! We are called to reflect upon how much we treasure our faith, and what we are willing to do to help keep this faith alive and vibrant, passing it on to our own children and grandchildren and the next generation. What are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that the Good News of our faith and this Church are not only maintained, but continually proclaimed to a world that is falling away from all faith?!?

Acting as a good steward with all the gifts that God has given each one of us, and thinking about how we can use these gifts to nourish our own faith and support our beloved church in promoting this faith to the world around us – that is what Stewardship Sunday is all about! So let us think about the central gifts we possess, and how we use them for the glory of God.

TIME is one of the most precious gifts we all have. How do we use our time? Are we willing to offer our time to serve god’s church? To serve on the parish council? To help at our different Church events? To not only offer our time at our Church, but also at the Webster Soup Kitchen, Project Mexico, Meals on Wheels, and other charitable avenues? What time are we willing to pledge to serving God through His holy church?

What TALENTS and GIFTS have God given us? Are we willing to offer our Talents TO SERVE GOD’S CHURCH? If we have a good voice, will we sing in the choir? If we are good with accounting, can we become a treasurer of the Church? If we are a good handyman, will we help take care of the upkeep around the church? If we are good with computers, can we develop our website, or help in the IT service? Or what other talents do you have? Will you offer them for the service of the Church and the glory of God?

And then there’s the gift of our Treasure, our finances? According to how God has blessed us, will we generously give back to God by supporting the operation and ministries and outreach of this Church? The Bible teaches us to offer back to God from our “first fruits.” In our financial accounting, do we place support for God’s Church and charitable giving as our first priority? When we give to the Church, are we looking to give a minimum, or are we trying to be as generous to God as He is to us? Think a moment about what you give to the church? Is it the same amount that you’ve given for the past several years? Have you considered how things have changed in your life, how you’ve been blessed, and are you willing to give accordingly?

This week in the mail everyone will receive your stewardship pledge cards for 2015. Please prayerfully think about how you will fill that card out, and as you fill it out, prayerfully reflect upon what your Faith and the Church actually mean to you. Will you support it sincerely, joyfully, with enthusiasm, as a sign of gratitude to God for His special blessing?

Along with our annual Stewardship Sunday, next week we will also have our Fall General Assembly, and at this meeting we will present a new special Building and Renovation Project we hope to embark upon. This will be an additional way we will ask all our beloved Church Family members to support our Church! Are we ready for such a challenge?

What does our Christian Faith and our Orthodox Church mean to us, and how do we value this priceless treasure? Stewardship Sunday is all about reflecting upon the meaning of our faith, and discerning how we want to support and promote this treasure to the world around us!

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