October 8, 2023 Sermon: All In Stewardship

Rev. Steve Nofel
First & Franklin Street Presbyterian Church
September 10, 2023
Matthew 21:34-40
Luke 4:8 and Romans 12:11

In our house with two theologians sitting across from each other at the dinner table, conversations can sometimes can quickly become interesting. We do visit about our days, what’s up with the guys, what TV we want to watch that night. Then wham, suddenly we are in the middle of a theological discussion. As I told Kim about our plant kick-off our F&F Stewardship Season this week, I asked, “OK, in one sentence – one sentence: What is stewardship?” She grinned that grin that still makes my heart skip and said, “Everything that comes after ‘Amen.” I chewed on that along with my bite of chicken and finally said, “Stewardship IS everything before and after ‘Amen.’”

Which leads me to the two Scriptures that I combined just a few minutes ago. These Scriptures are often used as a call to worship, and they are a call give to God what is God’s – which is everything. Just as God in Jesus Christ gave us everything – including his life. There are no wishy-washy sentiments here. There are no “Well, if you…Well, when I…” No! This is it listen again to these words. Luke 4:8 and Romans 12:11: Serve God alone. Worship the Lord your God. And serve God only. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit. Serve the Lord. Did you hear the POWER words? Nothing wishy-washy before or after AMEN.

WORSHIP – Give praise to God. This is the center of Christian life and YOUR TOTAL Devotion, Faith, and Action.
GOD – The Supreme Creator of the universe. The ONE who created EVERYTHING out of nothing; who made you; who loves you completely and unconditionally in Jesus Christ.
SERVE – Devoted work, meeting needs, and carrying out your duty.
DO NOT LAG – Do not fall behind or become less intense as time goes on.
ZEAL – Enthusiasm, fervor
ARDENT –To burn with passion / ardor
SERVE – Do your DUTY. Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. We are called to live in imitation of the Lord –
LORD – The Supreme Being to whom YOU owe all Allegiance, Obedience, Service and Worship. The Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we give our Total Commitment!

C.S. Lewis put it best, Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.” Go All In. The first time I ever experienced the phrase All-In, I was watching a Poker tournament on ESPN. Everybody is sitting around the table. One of the players suddenly got a look on her face and pushed her whole stack of chips in the middle of the table. The crowd gasps, the announcers talk a little faster and she stands up and paces around the table. It is an audacious action. It is hard. It is edgy. It is a risk, to put everything into one action. It is frightening to push who you are, all you have, and maybe your future into the center of the table.

When our son Matthew was realizing success as an archer we held a family meeting. We asked him what was his ultimate goal? He answered, “A gold medal at the Olympics.” Honestly, I believed in him, but it did seem a little farfetched. The Olympics were something we watched on television, not something that seemed achievable. Still, we agreed. If that was his goal, and if he would go “all in” to try to make it a reality, as a family: Mom, Dad, Brother, and Grama (Kim’s mom), we too would go “all in.” At the time, we were mostly thinking about the financial commitment. At the time we were a pastor, archery coach / part-time pastor, retiree and two students. There wasn’t a lot of ready cash. We gulped and said, “All in.”

Financial. Matthew is a professional athlete, but as you can imagine, his sport does not come with an NFL type salary. Of course, being “All In” means money. As Abraham said on the mountain, when God asked him to do the hardest thing ever, “The Lord will provide” Genesis 22:14. The Lord has provided financial resources, but Abraham had to make that commitment to climb that mountain and put his son, whom he loved on that rock altar. An All In commitment to whatever it is we are passionate about is financial that’s a reality AND SO MUCH MORE.

Time. Dedicating ourselves to getting him to practice, tournaments, his dedication to training. Can you imagine how many hours a day it takes to shoot hundreds of arrows a day and engage in fitness training? The time commitment has been just awesome.

Talent. Yes, Matt’s talent as an archer. Kim’s talents as a sports agent, travel agent, driver, and coach. Grama & Chuck’s talents as encouragers and cheerleaders. My talent to organize, journal, and keep us on task. Not to mention prayer and more prayer.

Celebrate What Has Already Been Accomplished. When we had the family meeting, Matt was already successful. We took time to celebrate how far we had already come on the journey. Enjoy the moment. Thank those who had already journeyed with us and with whom we could not go farther without.

Coaching. We had to ask: Is Coach Mike still the right coach for Matt? Absolutely, Coach Mike was great! And Mike and successive coaches have all helped us drive forward in their own season.

Developing Expectations. All In meant postponing and perhaps giving up my expectation that Matt would go college. Just a short time before our “all in” conversation, I would have been horrified promised to “drag him to university by the ear.” Our choices involved seeing our expectations change.

Also, Matt is now 24 years old. What it means for us as parents and family “all in” is not the same as it was when he was 17 years old. We have needed to be flexible and nimble.

Sometimes Gladly Doing What We Personally Do Not Want To Do. One of us drove with Matt from Colorado Springs to Denver twice a week while I-25 was going through what was called “T-Rex Construction” because it was so monstrous. We never would have chosen to do that, but Matt needed to be with coach, and to compete.

Include Others on the Journey. We knew and know other family and friends love Matt and want to see him succeed. So, we invited them to be sponsors. While that sometimes seems awkward, people have been more than willing to help. Sponsorship has meant financial contributions and sharing housing, storage of equipment, and many other services we never have imagined.

Keeping One Goal In Mind & Sticking to It Through A Lot of Peaks and Valleys. Since that family meeting the ups and downs of high-performance competitions has been remarkable: sometimes soaring, sometimes bumps and sometimes reverses. “All In” has meant we stay as dedicated as possible when it is easy and hard.

Keep Driving Forward – Always a Next Goal / The Job is Never Over. Matt made the Olympic Team for the 2021 Games as an alternate. It was a time to celebrate and cheer, and then get back to work. As he WILL make the Olympic Team for the 2024 Paris Games the job will not be over.

What does all this have to do with Church and Stewardship? Just look at what it means for us to go All-In. To “Take up your cross.” To be like the woman who gave the two pennies. To have the same mind as Jesus Christ who gave up his place in heaven to obediently accept even death, death on the cross? It means going “All In” – ALL IN FOR CHRIST AND OUR CHURCH!

In the next few weeks culminating with our Stewardship Sunday on Nov. 12 with worship and a luncheon, myself and F&F family members will share what stewardship means to us before and after amen.

Financial – I will share the greatest stewardship moment I ever experienced, and a lesson of financial stewardship that remarkable disciple who I sits across from at supper taught me.

Time – We will discuss how stewardship of time is so vital. In today’s world, time really is our most precious commodity. Isn’t it? I feel like a short, stocky Lebanese Uncle Sam. I want you. I want your time and your

Talent – Talent maybe something great and super. Sometimes as simple as prayer and encouragement. Moving chairs. Making coffee.
We will celebrate F&F. Celebrate What We Have Accomplished – Look who we have been and look at how great we are right now.

Going All In means willingness to be coached – How exciting that our PNC is turning around the clubhouse turn and heading down the stretch for our new Pastor? (I’ve been wanting to turn that phrase since moving to the home of Pimlico Raceway).

Going all in means Celebrating who we have been and Developing Expectations – We are not the same church we were in 1875, 1928, 1965, 1982 or 2020. Always doing new things, including things we are just now imagining.

Sometimes Gladly Doing What We Personally Do NOT Want To Do – Our job is to build up the Body of Christ, the Church even through giving up some of our personal preferences sometimes.

Including Others on the Journey – Going all in means donating your contacts list. This part really excites me. Invite others, even non-believers to be a part of this incredible community. Others want to be a part of FF, even if they are not Presbyterians or Christian – History, Architecture, Music, those dedicated to LGBTQ+ support and Art lovers. Seek them out and invite them to join us on the journey even though it may feel awkward.

Keeping Our Goals In Mind & Sticking to It Through A Lot of Peaks and Valleys and Keep Driving Forward – The Job is Not Over – The Kingdom of God is has come near” and we forever reach to Heaven as Jesus reaches down to us.

And prayer and more prayer!

Giving to God what is God’s which is everything. Our stewardship season will be focusing on some of the different ways we are called to go “All In” as individuals and as a church. All In Stewardship means stretching our church family in dedicating our time, talents, money, and commitment. We need cheerleaders, some bravado, trust, hope, bravery and all that we are and can give. Prayer and more Prayer! Christ wants all we got. Not just so much of our time or so much of our money or so much of our work or so much of our devotion. Jesus wants and deserves all we got! No wishy-washy worship or stewardship at F&F. The Grace and Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

ABOUT REV. STEVE NOFEL: Steve was originally ordained in another denomination 32 years ago. He has been a PCUSA pastor for 28 plus years. His wife, Kim, is also a PCUSA pastor. Right after they were married, they moved to her first call in southeast Nebraska. Steve fell into interim / transitional ministry and found his calling. He served as an interim minister for 11 years. Then Kim and Steve became co-pastors for 12 years in Cortez, Colorado. After leaving Cortez, he once again found his niche in transitional ministry. Steve has been serving congregations in Baltimore Presbytery as “Staff Interim” for the last year.