Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Stewardship, Burwell+ Style.

This past Sunday we at ECOOS listened to a skit put on by the stewardship committee. ECOOS stewardship campaigns are generally low key and only sometimes come off as desperate pleading. On occasion, we might hear a word from the pulpit about tithing, but it is generally all handed over to the stewardship and finance committees to discuss such matters. During the stewardship committee's skit, I chanced to wonder what was going on in the churches of the various nominees for bishop of Upper South Carolina. Given that each has only a one in six chance of being elected bishop this go round, I suspected that it would be business as usual in those churches. Later, as I relieved myself after coffee hour, imagine my horror as a gnarled, blotched, ancient hand reached under the stall door, pushing an envelope towards my feet.

I whispered, "Deep Pew, is that you?"

I heard no response except for the sound of the door closing. Opening the envelope, I found that Deep had obviously been to church at Holy Cross Sullivan's Island and documented John Burwell's sermon on stewardship. I knew there was some cross pollinization between the two dioceses of South Carolina, but I never guessed that Deep Pew buzzed between here and Sullivan's Island. Thanks Pew, that saved me the trouble of searching through and listening to the recorded sermons on-line (which would have been a little awkward at the time).

Here are some highlights from a sermon given by John Burwell+ on 10/25/2009. He starts off with,
"This morning, Let’s talk about expectations, and impossibilities, and the power of God!
Look with me again at our middle lesson – From the Book of Hebrews, chapter 13. I want to call you attention to verse 6:
'So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?!' Have you seen this verse before? Recently? Anybody looked closely at the pledge card in your possession this morning? (That’s right, it’s on the pledge card!)
Do you know why that verse is printed on our pledge cards? It has to do with expectations, impossibilities, and the power of God."

After an exposition on Exodus, we get to where the Israelites are trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea,

"With the calm confidence that only comes from a life surrendered to the Lord, Moses told the Israelites, 'Fear Not!' It’s verse 13. You see it? Middle of the page. Left hand side. Moses says, 'Do not be afraid!'"

Is he actually asking people to read from their Bibles?
"He says 'Stand firm. The Lord will fight your battles, you need only to stay out of his way!'
The only way to become free of fear is to know that God is with us. To know that HE is in charge of all our impossibilities!"

A bit further on,
"What seemed to human eyes to be a cul-de-sac of impossibility wasn't. God still had one more move to make. And the parting of the Sea became a metaphor of what God can do with impossibilities!!"

And towards the end,
"Now, what has this to do with you? In particular, what does MOSES and the Red Sea have to do with the pledge cards you now have in front of you this morning?
Well, God has led you here, to this place and time - Just like God led the Israelites out to the Red Sea. And today – this morning - I'm asking you to place your faith in God's almighty power.
I’m not just asking you to put a dollar amount on the pledge card. I’m asking you to consider what God can do with impossibilities!!
I’m asking you to tithe!

The last time we heard that at ECOOS was about $100,000 ago.
Today is Stewardship Sunday. Today is the day to fill out that Stewardship card and hand it in and make a pledge to God that shows that you trust Him.
...We’re talking this morning about expectations, and impossibilities, and the power of God! All throughout the Bible – in both the Old and the New Testament – the tithe is God’s expectation of his people.
Not because it’s easy to give that much - but because He wants you to trust Him.
Most of us today look at pledging 10% of our income as an impossibility! ...God’s expectation is a tithe, and the majority of us don’t even pledge, so let me tell you I understand if tithing sounds like an impossibility to you!"

He is playing the "T" card, but tying it in with scripture and his theme, clever...
"Hear now the good news!
That Same God, who did the impossible in opening the sea, is the Lord who came and lived among us. All the power of God dwelt in Jesus Christ!! And that Same Power is available to us today through his constant, ever-present, living presence! Make no mistake - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever! The same love that blessed Israel long ago, has liberated us from the bondage of guilt and sin and self-doubt and condemnation!
Stack up the impossible against that! Go ahead!!!"

"Hmmm...I really should listen to more of those recorded sermons on-line," I thought.

Is the stewardship campaign being conducted at Holy Cross Sullivan's Island really any different from the campaign going on in your church? If so, in what way? If different, does John Burwell's approach work for you?

In fact, I need to find more sermon material from the other nominees too. It would be fun to compare their stewardship sermons. In the absence of any reports from the field, I guess I shall have to keep on digging. After all, there are only six weeks to go before the election.

Oh Deep Pew, where are you?

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