“Looking For Nickels”
In the 22nd chapter of Matthew, we read about the Pharisees’ plot to entrap Jesus with his own words. As the discussion continues, we hear the very familiar words of our Lord as he says to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) We often hear this verse in our Fall stewardship messages. We’re not in Fall yet, but I would like to lift up this verse as I offer you something to consider during the warm Summer months.
Harry Emerson Fosdick once preached a sermon that was entitled “Parking on Another Man’s Nickel.” With a sermon title like that, you know this sermon is old. Fosdick’s point was that you’re driving down the street hunting for a place to park. Finally, you come to an open parking place that has a meter. Someone has already inserted a coin and luckily, there is still time on the meter. You think, “This must be my lucky day.” You pull in and park on someone else’s nickel, or quarter or credit card charge. Fosdick goes on to say that some of us go through all of life parking on someone else’s nickel. This is especially easy for those of us who have been born in a nation where freedom reigns. Someone else has paid in blood, sweat and tears for the places where we are parking our lives. And so, we are constantly tempted to enjoy our luck and good fortune without ever taking any responsibility for those who will come after us.
Sometimes, the people of God are also tempted to park on someone else’s nickel. Have we ever considered: the place where we worship, the faith that has been instilled in us, the experiences we had growing up in the church where we were raised, or the efforts of those who came before us to make everything we enjoy possible? Every day when I come into the church, I am reminded of those who came before me and made this wonderful church and faith community possible. Some of their names are written on plaques attached to walls – pastors, teachers and congregational leaders. It would be really easy to admire the work of these past leaders. It would be easy to park on their ‘nickel.’ But that is not what Jesus calls us to do as his followers.
In the words “give … to God the things that are God’s” we are challenged and encouraged to consider all that we have and all that we are and realize who has given it to us. We are constantly challenged to give back to God a portion of the blessings we enjoy. We are, in my own words here, called and challenged to fill up the meter for those who are coming after us. What does this mean? It means we are to be preparing the church for the current generation as well as for the next. Certainly we must care for the property, but more important is that we care for the lives and faith of those who are here and those who will come. We must continue to grow in our faith so we can share that faith with others.
What does this “giving to God the things that are God’s” look like? I remember the ladies who taught my Sunday School class and shared stories from the Bible with me. I remember the pastors who preached sermons that warmed my heart with a faith and love for God. I remember the elderly man who first welcomed me to a Lutheran Men’s meeting. I remember the couple who were my youth advisors. And I bet you remember those people too! Every one of us has someone that modeled the Christian faith for us and taught us about God’s love. We remember those people who with their lives and actions deposited a nickel in the meter. That’s a part of the reason we are still active in the life of the church and the faith community today. And yet, we have to wonder who is going to fill the meters for our children and others who are coming here to know Jesus? Will it be me? Will it be you? Could it be all of us?
I once read where someone had said, “You can’t out give God!” That’s what this Herald article is about – asking each of us to give to God the things that are God’s. Specifically, can we give ourselves in ways that fill the meters for those who are already here and those who are coming? Will you teach? Will you lead? Will you model the faith? Will you invite someone to come and be a part of this family? Will you give yourself to God and the ministry this church is called to conduct? Will you put your nickel in the meter of Christian faith?
Aren’t we all looking for a place to park our lives? This is the perfect place. But we need some people to become nickels.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +