This morning we celebrate both Christ the King Sunday and Thanksgiving Sunday. We are also bringing in the harvest of our stewardship conversation. During the offering you will have the opportunity to share your estimate of giving cards so that we might celebrate the commitment that we are making as a community to support the ministry of this church.
Back during my days teaching at Northwest Christian University, a couple of my students asked me what I thought about them living as a group of students in community. I remember acknowledging their interest in this arrangement, but since one of the students involved had just gotten married, I suggested that they might want to take it slowly and cautiously. While they decided not to pursue the venture, one of those students ended up forming just such a community. That community in Eugene is part of a movement that has come to be known as the New Monasticism. This movement builds off the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who called on Christians to live together in community and pursue life lived under the guidance of the Sermon on the Mount.
When we gather at the Table, we take a small piece of bread and a little cup of juice. It’s not enough to satisfy our physical hunger or thirst, but it is enough to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst. When we share in the bread and wine, we share in the blessings of Jesus’ presence. We too are like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus comes to us in the meal and invites us to share in the abundance that is God’s realm.
During “stewardship season” I usually preach at least two stewardship sermons. In the first sermon I usually introduce the topic of stewardship and then at the end preach about thanksgiving. This year, I’m going to double that number and preach four stewardship sermons, which will be centered around the theme “From Bread and Wine to Faith and Giving.” These passages of Scripture selected by our friend Ron Allen of Christian Theological Seminary focus our attention on the Table and on the continuing presence of Jesus as we join God in making present the realm of God on earth as in heaven.
“He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John has his own story of how the Spirit fell upon the followers of Jesus. It’s different from the traditional Pentecost story, but what he does is connect the Holy Spirit with the very essence of life. In fact, there’s a connection between this story and the story of creation in Genesis 2. In that story, God created the first human being by forming a body from the dust of the ground, and then God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The biblical words for breath and Spirit are the same. So to have breath is to have the Spirit.