The Message of Stewardship #3
A sermon based upon “The Message of Stewardship” by Ralph Cushman.
I follow the politics of our presidential elections. I have watched Christians vote democratic. How can a Christian vote for a party that favors abortion, same sex marriage and the spirit of socialism that goes against the “thou shall not covet” of the ten commandments? Yet they do. To quote an OT guy: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”
Here is the political quote from Lucius Coverdale at theresurgent.com:
“The South Carolina primary results raised red flags for Ted Cruz.
Evangelicals have not coalesced around his campaign like he had hoped even though he is the solid evangelical in this race. This reality reflects the sickness of the church, but it also reveals Cruz must rethink some elements of his communications strategy.”
The “sickness of the church” is what a book like this can help cure.
I was talking to a pastor about an upcoming “one-minute bible study seminar” in Vallejo CA. He mentioned the possibility of turning the “one-minute bible studies” into something more substantial so as to use it as a tool to discuss doctrine and biblical truths (my words not his). I knew what he was getting at and told him I would make time to talk to him further. The reality is that I have probably done more of these one on one encounters than anyone and I am yet to see it act as a springboard to an examination of the scriptures used. It opens a door to the heart, no doubt about that, it has led to many conversations about their lives and God. Without being negative (colored no doubt by my substitute adventures) we are a society that has been dumbed down. I refer to some of the verses used, but the simple thinking of verbs and nouns to define what God wants to say is sometimes lacking.
The “one-minute bible study” encounter hopefully leads to conversion, if not now somewhere down the line, where that person can begin a personal walk with God that includes bible study. The point of the above political quote is that Ted Cruz is thinking that those that proclaim Christianity think about it in relationship to the life they live. The sad truth is the “sickness of the church”.
Text: John 4:31-33 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
- The Importance of Happiness
“Jesus would not tolerate the pagan philosophy that pleasure-seeking and self-interest are the chief end of life, but we should not forget that happiness was an important item in his own philosophy. ‘I came that they may have life,’ he said. And, echoing his message, Paul urged his fellow Christians to ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ The distinction is that Jesus taught that happiness comes not through making it the chief quest of life but as the result of faithful stewardship…Jesus taches that it was his ‘joy’ and his ‘meat’ to do the will of God.”
John Ruskin: “We may always be sure, whatever we are doing, that we cannot be pleasing Him if we are not happy ourselves.”
From Wikipedia: John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.
His mother, an evangelical Christian, would have him read and re-read the bible; memorizing large portions of it. This would have a profound effect upon all of his writings.
“Before he returned (to Oxford after a sickness), he answered a challenge set down by Effie Gray, whom he later married. The twelve-year-old Effie had asked him to write a fairy story. During a six-week break at Leamington Spa to undergo Dr. Jephson’s (1798–1878) celebrated salt-water cure, Ruskin wrote his only work of fiction, the fairy tale, The King of the Golden River (published in December 1850 (but imprinted 1851) with illustrations by Richard Doyle). A work of Christian sacrificial morality and charity, it is set in the Alpine landscape Ruskin loved and knew so well. It remains the most translated of all his works.”
He found his calling in using his writing skills to describe and critique art.
He would marry his Effie Gray, he is love, she not; but her father was in need of cash so he pushed for the wedding and was able to get out from under his debts through the marriage. This is all from a Guardian review of “Marriage of Convenience” by Robert Brownell in 2013. This knowledge seem to be too much for John and they gave themselves 6 years to fall in love and then he set things in motion for the marriage to be annulled because of lack of consummation. She went onto a marriage to his painting friend with 8 children and he to a lifelong love of books and writing.
Once again we see the examination of society that leads to a desire to see problems solved. Here from Wikipedia: “The chapter, ‘The Nature of Gothic’ appeared in the second volume of Stones. Praising Gothic ornament, Ruskin argued that it was an expression of the artisan’s joy in free, creative work. The worker must be allowed to think and to express his own personality and ideas, ideally using his own hands, not machinery.
We want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen, in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers. Now it is only by labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with impunity.
— John Ruskin, Cook and Wedderburn 10.201.
This was both an aesthetic attack on, and a social critique of the division of labour in particular, and industrial capitalism in general. This chapter had a profound impact, and was reprinted both by the Christian socialist founders of the Working Men’s College and later by the Arts and Crafts pioneer and socialist, William Morris.”
Wikipedia: “In 1858, Ruskin was again travelling in Europe. The tour took him from Switzerland to Turin where he saw Paolo Veronese’s Presentation of the Queen of Sheba. He would later claim (in April 1877) that the discovery of this painting, contrasting starkly with a particularly dull sermon, led to his “unconversion” from Evangelical Christianity. But in reality he had doubted his Evangelical Christian faith for some time, threatened by Biblical and geological scholarship that had undermined the literal truth and absolute authority of the Bible: “those dreadful hammers!” he wrote to Henry Acland, “I hear the chink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses.” This “loss of faith” precipitated a considerable crisis. His confidence undermined, he believed that much of his writing to date had been founded on a bed of lies and half-truths.”
This from the first “Stewardship” sermon: “God is a kind Father. He sets us in all the places where he wishes us to be employed; and that employment is truly “our Father’s business.” John Ruskin (a crisis of faith led him to develop a human effort to “fix” society that exists to this day, the guild of Saint George, but died an embittered with the world man. He wasn’t able to fix it and he had cut the ties to the only one who will.
Ruskin’s works would influence Christian Socialism to this day with Atlee, the socialist who replaced Churchill, commending him on his influence upon his politics. Yet, Ruskin became embittered towards the realities of trying to create perfect societies and even attacked Darwinism; although a friend of Darwin. And then you die. He had lost the idea of stewardship when he lost his relationship with God.
John 15:10-11 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
- Garrett Horder: “To do the work and seize the joy of each day as it comes, so that the forward look shall not dim our eyes to the beauty along the road; and to let the light of the Christ-revealed God fall on every scene and time, leading us to regard every touch of loveliness in earth and sky, every sweet affection and fellowship, every holy thought and aspiration as signs that behind all the mystery of this strange world, there is a Great Heart of Love, in whose keeping we are safe; these are little counsels to guide us in the pilgrim way.”
A pastor who wrote books on songs.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Thy love; Shall chant itself its own beatitudes; After its own life-working. A child’s kiss ;Set on they sighing lips shall make thee glad; A poor man served by thee shall make thee rich; A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong; Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense; Of service which thou renderest.”
From Wikipedia: “She was educated at home and tutored by Daniel McSwiney with her oldest brother. She began writing verses at the age of four. During the Hope End period, she was an intensely studious, precocious child. She claimed that at the age of six she was reading novels, at eight entranced by Pope’s translations of Homer, studying Greek at ten, and at twelve writing her own Homeric epic, The Battle of Marathon: A Poem.”
“Much of Barrett Browning’s work carries a religious theme. She had read and studied such works as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. She says in her writing, “We want the sense of the saturation of Christ’s blood upon the souls of our poets, that it may cry through them in answer to the ceaseless wail of the Sphinx of our humanity, expounding agony into renovation. Something of this has been perceived in art when its glory was at the fullest. Something of a yearning after this may be seen among the Greek Christian poets, something which would have been much with a stronger faculty”. She believed that “Christ’s religion is essentially poetry — poetry glorified”.
- The Necessity of Prayer
“Jesus revealed his consciousness that life is a stewardship, planned by the Father, in his constant dependence on God. The steward must frequently report and consult with his Lord. The Father is the source not only of the program but of the power which his human representative needs in every part of the task. The Son was still the steward and no exception to the rule. Many were the nights he spent in prayer while his disciples slept, thus showing that with the deepening sense of stewardship comes the growing burden of responsibility which drives men into a closer communion with God.”
Luke 22:39-42 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
John Ruskin: “It is not so much resolution as renunciation, not so much courage as resignation, that we need. He that has once yielded thoroughly to God will yield to nothing but God.”
George Matheson: “My heart needs thee, O Lord, my heart needs thee! No part of my being needs thee like my heart…Be thou the strength of my heart. Be thou its fortress in temptation, its shield in remorse, its covert in the storm, its star in the night, its voice in the solitude!…I cannot rule this heart of mine; keep it under the shadow of thine own wings!”
He is the man. From Wikipedia: “He was educated at Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow, where he graduated first in classics, logic and philosophy. In his twentieth year he became totally blind, but he held to his resolve to enter the ministry, and gave himself to theological and historical study. In 1879 the University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.D.”
“O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. Years before, he had been engaged, until his fiancée learned that he was going blind—that there was nothing the doctors could do—and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one to care for him through the years, but now she was gone. He was now 40, and his sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak. It was in the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gave Matheson this hymn, which he said was written in five minutes.”
III. Faithfulness the Crowning Virtue
Christina Rossetti: “Does the road wind up-hil all the way?”; Yes, to the very end.”; Will the day’s journey tke the whole long day?”; “From morn to night, my friend!”
From Wikipedia: “Typically, Rossetti’s poems evince a concern with individual salvation rather than social reform. Writing to Dante Gabriel in April 1870, she declared, “It is not in me, and therefore it will never come out of me, to turn to politics or philanthropy with Mrs Browning: such many-sidedness I leave to a greater than I, and having said my say may well sit silent.”
“The conviction voiced in these lines concerning the steward’s pilgrimage is expressed in still another way by the Apostle Paul when he says, “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Both the poet and the apostle had before them the example of our Lord. Faithfulness to the end is the crown of stewardship. Not so much the quantity, or even the character of the service, but unswerving devotion “to the very end” is what God requires of his stewards. This is the example stet us by the Master himself”.
John 19:28-30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Owen Meredith: “The great moral combat between human life and each human soul must be single…When a soul arms for battle he goes forth alone.”
Owen was his pen name: from Wikipedia: Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (8 November 1831 – 24 November 1891) was an English statesman and poet. He served as Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880
David Livingstone: “Nothing earthy will cause me to give up my work in despair. I encourage myself in the Lord God, and go forward”.
From Westminsterabbey.org: “David Livingstone, the famous Scottish missionary and explorer, was born on 19 March 1813 and died at Ilala in the centre of Africa in May 1873. On hearing of his death A. P. Stanley, Dean of Westminster (no relation to Henry Morton Stanley who “found” Livingstone) wrote to the President of the (Royal) Geographical Society offering burial in Westminster Abbey. Livingstone’s heart had been buried under a mpundu tree but his faithful attendants enclosed his embalmed body in a cylinder of bark which was wrapped in sailcloth and carried it to the coast and then sailed to London, arriving the following year. As the Doctor had been away from England for so long a correct identification of the remains was required and this was verified by the badly set broken arm which had been crushed by a lion. There was also the fact that only Dr Livingstone could have inspired the Africans to overcome their natural superstition of carrying a dead body for so many months in order to reach the African coast with all the dangers that journey entailed.”