525, 600 minutes in one year.
Is there a way to get more? Regularly do emails, podcasts, and morning shows suggest ways to maximize your time. Streamline a process. Eliminate redundancies and smooth out unnecessary roles and tasks. Maybe more moments will show up in your day.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and time to pick up what’s been planted.
Time is something we waste and slips through our fingers. We can not get it back, and yet have too much of it on our hands.
Today, we begin a six-week series on stewardship. How is it that God’s promises are fulfilled when we share? God’s promises are always being spoken to us. God speaks through scripture. The Bible is a living word. God speaks through tradition of the gathered body, the church. God speaks through our own reason. God speaks through the witness and experience of others. In this series, we will explore where God is calling us to step outside of where we have settled in and become comfortable to take another footstep in the journey of discipleship. Discipleship is about stewardship of our time, talents, witness, legacy, tithe, and prayers.
Time raises the question for each of us about intentionality. Do we know how we are using our time? Or have we fallen into habits unaware?
Our gospel lesson this morning catches up with Jesus on the edge of the Tyre, not interested in a lot of outside attention. We find Jesus in a conversation with Syrophoenician woman advocating for her daughter and the daughter’s very life. The woman ends up being more than a truck stop on a political campaign for Jesus. Jesus is traveling from place to place. Jesus is teaching and preaching. Jesus is healing and making people whole. Jesus is ushering in the kingdom of God. Where is Jesus spending time? And yet, the very quick voice of Mark takes the time to tell us, he entered a house, where he did not want anyone to know where he was. The mother, like many who advocate for their loved ones, spoke words to Jesus that sound even today shocking! If we were editing the public relations campaign, we might edit this story out! Jesus reflects the cultural slurs of the time calling the woman a dog, even as he entered the house to heal the girl. But the mother is an agent of transformation. We have sometimes painted the mother as clever, witty, or the product of specific social location. She does not stop with the slur but finds the courage to advocate for her daughter. How do we spend our time?
More fully, what we know is this story is sandwiched between two feeding stories of 5000 in chapter 6 of Mark and 4000 in chapter 8. With 5000, there were twelve baskets left over, representing the tribes – all the people of Israel. What if the Syrophoenician woman who persisted in her advocacy for her daughter needing Jesus’ healing expanded Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles? The feeding of the 4000 in the 8th chapter which follows has seven baskets left over. Seven is not only the number of completeness and wholeness, but of the all the nations. Perhaps, Jesus’ mind was expanded about how to relate to Gentiles. (1)
A time to seek, a time to lose.
Are we still waiting for crumbs of time to spend with those we love? Did you know that according to studies that if we are alive 80 years, we spend 11 of those years in front of screens and only 334 days in school. (2) What are the priorities for our time?
We care for family, work, home, school, community, self, and much more. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, asked nineteen questions historically of those who were to be ordained. They included such reflective questions as do you have faith in Christ? and Will you be fully devoted to God? As we consider stewardship of our time this morning, I was struck by the last question: “Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.” (3) These are all questions about how we spend our time.
Where are you giving time serving others? A steward is one who considers how best to use that with which they have been entrusted. The communion steward is responsible to share the communion will all those who come for communion, so that it is accessible and understandable. The trustees of our building are responsible to care for the building in the best ways, so that clean, in good repair, and appropriate decisions have been made.
Where have you shared time with the body of Christ? We are told all of the parts of the body are needed. From those of us who cook to those who vacuum, to those who teach to those pray, where are your passions? There are no retired Christians. As a part of our God’s Promises Fulfilled series, you will be receiving a stewardship letter. It will have both an opportunity to commit for financial offering, tithe, and gifts as well as talents and time. Please prayerfully consider how you and your family are a part of this church family in both ways. Your time is a vital part of your giving. When you share your time as Sunday School teacher, you are Fulfilling God’s Promises to generations of learners. When you share your time in the office preparing envelopes for mailings, you are Fulfilling God’s Promises to homebound members with sermons or our congregation with Thanksgiving mailing. When you share your time with Family Promise, you are Fulfilling God’s Promises to those who are temporarily homeless. When you share your time as a youth leader, you are fulfilling God’s promises to our young people as they explore fellowship and faith. When you join our prayer ministry team or visitation team, you are fulfilling God’s promises by opening yourself up to the movement of the Holy Spirit!
A time to keep silent, a time to speak.
Sabbath. This biblical practice is weekly as well as annual. This practice is when Jesus drew away from people to spend time in prayer and connection with God. We practice sabbath in worship, in nature, creating art, music, spending time with family, and contemplating God’s mystery. If you do not have practices of sabbath, I invite you to regular practices of sabbath. This is also more extended annual practices. When do you rest and renew?
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together
And in the midst of all of these considerations, where have you offered grace to yourself and others? You and I have only 525, 600 minutes a year. Have we extended grace to ourselves and one another when time has not been on our sides? In Mark’s Gospel, we watch Jesus expand the vision of the God’s kingdom and share time. Where are you be called to consider and reconsider, offer grace to yourself and others, and share time?
This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(3) Book of Discipline 2016, paragraph 336.
Old Testament Lesson: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 7:24-37
From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, October 7 ~ Saturday, October 13
Sunday: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 As we begin this season of stewardship, we also enter a season of prayer. Pray for how you will share your time. We are each given 525,600 minutes a year. How will you use each moment in 2019?
Monday: “A time to be born, and a time to die;” Ecclesiastes 3:2a. Pray for those who have been born in 2018. Give thanks to God for new life. Pray for those families who are remembering loved ones. Give thanks to God for the lives of those you have loved.
Tuesday: “A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” Ecclesiastes 3:2b. Pray for those who are planting and growing food that nourishes the body and that which nourishes the soul. Pray for those who discern when projects are completed and concluded.
Wednesday: “A time to kill, and a time to heal;” Ecclesiastes 3:3a. Pray for all those who have been affected by death. Pray for those in healing ministries.
Thursday: “A time to break down, and a time to build up;” Ecclesiastes 3:3b. Pray for times in which energy propels itself forward, as well those times in which destruction is a reality. May God’s presence bring comfort in the midst.
Friday: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh;” Ecclesiastes 3:4a. The body of Christ is encouraged to laugh with those who are laughing and cry with those who are crying. Pray for those who are burdened with weeping. Pray for those who have joy.
Saturday: “A time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4b. Pray for those who are in a season of grieving. May they also know dancing. Pray for those who are in a season of dancing. May they be mindful of those who are grieving.