Presence & Treasure: Many Hands
Topic: Many Hands Scripture: Matthew 9:35–10:4
“Many Hands make light work.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said that phrase, but I can tell you that I said it a lot more when I was serving in student ministry than at any other time in my life. Often, I would say this line three or four or sixty times when I was leading a missions trip or working on a service project. I want to be very clear about something: I really don’t like the assumption or preconceived notion that teenagers are lazy. In fact, if anything, I think operating under that assumption is lazier than the accusation is. In all the years I worked at Highland Presbyterian Church, I saw the students of that youth group serve as some of the hardest and most dedicated workers I’ve ever seen in any church context. That being the case, it did sometimes take a bit of not-so-gentle persistence on my part to get them going. So, I’d clap my hands, sing off a little tune, and say, “Many Hands make light work.”
The reason I would say that old moniker so often wasn’t because of the laziness or work ethic of my students. It was because of the tasks that were before us. Sometimes it was hard to believe how much we hoped to accomplish. Whether it was packing 10,000 meals for the non-profit Rise Against Hunger, building a wheelchair ramp off a mobile home, or even just trying to conquer the herculean task of cleaning and organizing the youth room…the work before us would be accomplished more faithfully if everyone rolled up their sleeves and joined in.
We have entered our stewardship season here at First Pres. That word, stewardship, sometimes comes with baggage. Oftentimes, the first assumption or consideration we link to stewardship is money. And that is certainly a part of church stewardship but it is not what we are going to discuss this morning. Our theme for the 2022 stewardship campaign is Presence & Treasure. The stewardship committee has worked very hard the last few months exploring the needs of our church as well as the hopes that are present in our congregation for what God might be calling us toward. I hope that you received the 2022 Narrative Budget document in the mail this weekend. If you didn’t, it should hit your mailboxes soon and we’ll have some available next week as well. This document represents not only a profound amount of work from your stewardship committee and our Administrative Assistant, Anne Lunt, but also an inspiring amount of insight, dreaming, and discernment from our staff, committee chairs, and ministry leaders. For the six primary ministry functions of First Pres (Worship, Mission & Outreach, Adult Discipleship, Children & Student Ministries, Congregational Care, and Operations), you’ll find what it will take in both Presence & Treasure for us be all that we feel called to be and go where we feel called to go next year as a people following Jesus. New to the narrative budget this year, you will see not only how much it costs for us to do and offer all that we hope for, but you will also see the incredible wealth of presence, time, and energy it will require in the form of volunteers, in the form of people, what it will require from you. And the truth is, our church is nowhere near the first to do something like this. In fact, it was actually what Jesus did. When our Savior was beginning his earthly ministry, He prioritized urging others to join Him in the work of bringing God’s kingdom and all of its beauty, grace, and truth to this world. We see this especially in Matthew 9:35-10:4. Let’s check it out.
Leading up to our text for this morning, Jesus has just completed something of a grand miracle tour. He’s healed the blind, the mute, the paralyzed, and the possessed. He’s calmed a storm to stop and even raised a little girl from the dead. Not to be discounted for its own miraculous quality, he also held the attention of a large crowd as Jesus delivered his longest sermon and there is no mention in the biblical text of the people yawning or checking their sundials. After all those inspiring and supernatural labors, we’re told that our Savior traveled from town-to-town teaching and healing all He encountered. Verse 36 even gives us a touching insight into the heart of Christ when we read that Jesus had compassion on all the people He saw as He witnessed the pain and need that was in their life. The Greek word there for “had compassion on” is actually literally translated to something like “to be moved in the inward parts.” One New Testament scholar and professor, Michael Wilkins, shares that this word for compassion in Greek usually indicates deep feelings in the heart and affections.
So, Jesus’ heart is moved in an intimate way when He encounters the lives and stories of the people and it is that stirring of our Savior’s heart that leads Him to turn to His followers and say, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Jesus knew that for a labor this important, this transformative, this personal that it would take Many Hands. And so, Jesus did what needed to be done. No, not by Himself - though we know He could have easily done so. No, Jesus found others who would share in this work of ministry and gave them the calling and authority to go out and get started. We even have a listing of their names. But we’d be mistaken if Christ’s call was directed only at this dozen. Again, Michael Wilkins offers some valuable insight on this. He says that Christ’s call “need not be restricted to the Twelve here. The disciples are all those who have responded to his summons to the kingdom of heaven.” That “as long as there are needy crowds, Jesus calls disciples throughout the ages to become harvest workers.”
Disciples just like you. This year, our stewardship campaign is putting forward a two-fold focus. Presence & Treasure. We’ll get to treasure next week. This morning, I want to talk about how much we need your presence. When you look through our 2022 narrative budget document, I think you’re going to be blown away by just how many volunteers and leaders it takes for us to do and be all that we are here at First Pres. It is incredible what the Lord has built here, and as I’ve repeated several times since August, God isn’t done yet. And I want to say something right now that I believe with all the conviction I have as your pastor: We will not be able to do all that God is calling us to do without you. So, I am asking you to look at your 2022 narrative budget document and look at the areas of need we have, all the open opportunities that are available. And I’m asking you to pray, consider, and jump into at least one of those areas of need.
I can’t possibly go through every need listed in this document, but I do want to provide some examples. We can directly apply the words of Jesus right here to First Pres. The harvest is plentiful here. The potential before us to serve our God and our neighbor is huge. So much so that we’re going to need Many Hands to faithfully join Christ in the compassionate work of the harvest He talked about in Matthew 9.
A lot of you have told me how our identity here as a warm, welcoming church is very important to you. Perhaps it was a friendly greeting or an intentional conversation with someone from the church that lead to you joining First Pres. If our church being a place where everyone is welcomed and shown that where they belong is close to your heart, then I want you to look at the open need we have for Welcome Center volunteers. That role is literally being the welcoming, smiling presence for folks who visit our church, handing them a gift bag, and ensuring the name of those guests are passed onto me and others so that we can connect with those folks intentionally. You might be thinking, “Ah, I’m not really that outgoing.” That’s fine. Serving the church doesn’t come with a mandatory extrovert card. We have plenty of teams and opportunities that could use hard workers and that require little to no public speaking. Maintaining the beautiful gardens and green space we have here takes a lot of work and we need people who can help us grow beautiful things and who can help us keep the grass just below the level of meadow or savannah.
Maybe your heartbeat lies in the roles of oversight, visioning, and planning. Our church has a long tradition of trying to serve our neighbors, offering help to the needy, and laboring for justice in this world. But right now, we have a really pressing need for folks to join our mission committee. This is the team that discerns and executes all of the funding, programs, and opportunities regarding mission, peacemaking, and justice. Everything from how we can financially support great local organizations to how we can create new service opportunities for our congregation. Maybe that’s where you can offer your presence. Some of you are teachers, whether by trade or just by gifting. We need people who would be willing to facilitate classes and discussion spaces for adults here on Sunday mornings.
We have seasonal needs like serving in specific, once-a-year programs like our CAMP event or VBS or our senior high missions trip. We need people who are comfortable with technology who can serve in the back on Sunday mornings and we need singers who can join in with the other voices of the choir. We need folks who can read Scripture and prayers, we call them liturgists, and we need people who can spend a few hours each week with kids from our community during our after-school program with Fairview Elementary.
I’ve named less than half of the "presence" needs we have that you’ll find in the 2022 narrative budget document. What I’m asking each and every one of you to do in the next few weeks is to go through that document and see all the spaces of harvest that are right here. I want you to think about the people from the church that have impacted your life, from your childhood up to even this morning, and I want you to realize that those people were just like you and they made the decision to participate in the work God was doing in that place. And then, when it comes time to fill out your pledge card for 2022, I want you to write down at least one specific need that you want to learn more about so that, maybe, you can join in on the inspiring work the Lord is doing here in this place. The harvest is plentiful. We need the workers. To do this, to be the church God is calling us to be, we will need Many Hands.
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