Stewardship of Time
“Stewardship of Time”
A Sermon on Acts 2:38-47
Preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Independence, Missouri
October 13, 2019 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Our text this morning comes right after the day of Pentecost. If you remember, the disciples are gathered together and the Holy Spirit rushes in and appears like flames. The disciples begin speaking in every language, and a crowd gathers to see what the commotion is all about. What we have here is the end of Peter’s sermon to that crowd. It’s calmer than the fire of Pentecost, but no less remarkable – much of the crowd is baptized and devotes themselves to walking with Christ. And then we receive this lovely summary of what that early church was like – people living in awe, spending time together, sharing all they had in common, serving all the people, and growing as a community. It’s an idealized summary, of course – it glosses right over all the hiccups and rough patches they must have faced – but even this rose colored summary teaches us something very real and important: how we spend our time matters to God. And in reflecting on this passage, I’d suggest that our time is meant to be spent caring for ourselves, serving others, and being in relationship with God.
Time is one of the few things in our world that God makes explicitly Holy. At the creation of the world, God intentionally rests on the seventh day; after the non-stop labor of slavery in Egypt, God commands the Israelites to remember that day of rest and keep it holy; throughout his ministry, Jesus took opportunities to rest. Beloved, it is important for you to take time to rest and care for yourself. We have this myth in the church that we should always be putting others first, but I think doing that “always” is more extreme than God intended. Scripture tells us to serve others, and to even treat them as we would ourselves, but it never says that our personal needs come last. In serving others, we shouldn’t burn ourselves out – we should take time for holy rest. Without it, a spiritual life is pretty impossible. In our text today, we’re told that “awe came upon everyone” as they experienced the preaching of Pentecost. If you are exhausted and stressed all the time, you’re not going to ever be in awe. To hear messages like the one Peter preached, to have awe at the wonderful things in the world, to have any spiritual life at all – you need to spend time caring for yourself. We need to make room for awe and wonder. And so as you budget your time, please budget time to rest and care for yourself. If not, none of these other things will be possible.
Because the second thing we learn from this passage is how important it is to spend time serving others. Acts tells us that in the early church, people shared all of their resources so that no one would be in need, sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the poor, and shared their food together. Do you hear the amount of time and energy dedicated to helping others? Sure, they used their resources to serve – and we’re going to talk about sharing our resources later this month - but they also just spent time together. This is so, so important. So much of serving others doesn’t take your money or any special skills, but simply your time. At Trinity Table yesterday, we needed people to greet at the door, and others to take a plate of food from the kitchen to the table. While the people who did that did it beautifully, the reality is that the biggest thing it took was the gift of their time – a couple of hours out of their Saturday. This afternoon, a group of you will go to the CROPWalk. That time spent serves the hungry in our community. Many of you spend your time calling the homebound or visiting in the hospital or saying extra prayers for people or simply hanging out with each other. Serving other people can take a lot of things, but the most important thing it takes is your time. If we don’t spend the time to serve, then there’s no chance for us to use our other gifts.
Finally, it’s important to spend time on our relationship with God. We talked last week about how worship just an hour a week doesn’t lead to very much. It’s true this week, too. Acts tells us that the early church spent time together in the temple praising God. Friends, of all the things you can give back to God, your time may be the most important. Time in worship, time in study, and time caring for the church. A group of you came to a baptism yesterday for a family in our congregation; that was a gift of your time to that family and in worship to God. There is a group of you who faithfully attend Sunday School and monthly Bible studies – that’s time spent with God. Time with God and for God is time well spent.
Of all the resources you have available to you, your time is perhaps the most important. Time for yourself, time for others, and time for God. I wonder if, as we think about Stewardship over the next few weeks, if you might think about whether or not you tithe 10% of your time. In a seven day week, 10% of your time is a little over 16 hours. I wonder, if you added it up, if any of us spend a full 16 hours dedicated to self-care, service, and God. I wonder how many of you might spend more time than that? I suspect if we tithed our time to these three things, we’d experience lives a little more like this ideal version of the early church.
As we talk about Stewardship over the next few weeks, I encourage you to consider how valuable your time is to God and to the church. In a few Sundays we will pass out time and talent pledge cards, and I think you’ll find that most of them simply take time. There are ways to serve through your time, either by attending a service or giving a plate of food or doing some cleaning or spending time in prayer. Your time is one of the most valuable gifts you’ve been given – and like all gifts, it is a privilege to return a portion to God. Amen.