Matthew 25:14-30 “The Talents”

This is such a familiar parable. The basic interpretation is easy. What have we done with what God has given us? To often the only result of this asking this question is shame, guilt or a sense of uselessness. But that is not where I want us to go today.

But I first I want to show you some history. This is a chart of our church membership 1997 to 2018. This time covers several pastor’s ministries here at First Press. There is no blaming someone for all our losses, that will not help us. But it does show us that we are not and have not been getting the job done. My focus is not on how we have failed but on how we can turn this chart around.

So we are going to look at the talents that God has given us, what are the things God has given us to work with. God has given us a building, that’s one thing. How are we using this building? How can we use it better?

We have a piece of property how can we use it? What would help people in our area? Perhaps a garden where people could grow veggies for the table.

Perhaps you like fly tying or quilting, crafting or painting, you could gather a group of people with shared interest.

We could have a sportsman group that shares how to hunt or fish, or other adventures. A wilderness survival class.

How about a classic reading group or even a Christian classic reading group.

What about a cooking group where you share recipes and ideas.

We could have a Christian end of life choices, funeral planning, advance directives and such.

A care giver support group.

If you have an interest let me know and we can get things organized. You don’t have to teach or lead all you have to do is show up and talk with people who have the same interest.

The Monday art group. No leader, we just share what we are doing, see what others are doing, talk about life and eat a lot.

How does this help your church?

  1. it gets people in the door.
  2. it shows people that we are more than holy people. We are like them.
  3. it builds relationships with people we might not normally meet.

What talent has God placed in your hand? Your head? Your heart? All these things can be used by God to change lives and even build the church.

Pastors year end report

This has been a good year for our church. We have some new people in our congregation. Though we have also lost some old friends. Your session has been working very hard at finding the future of our ministry at First Presbyterian. We will be having New Members classes starting in February. Over all I have a great sense of hope for our church.

We have also had to deal with some long standing problems. For several years we have had trouble maintaining 5 people on Session, so this year we reduced the number to 4. We did this so the nominating committee would not be burdened with the constant search for a 5th person. This year we also are making some needed budget cuts. These cuts do not reflect a lack of giving or a change in giving, but a rearranging of priorities in our church.

First some facts about our church. Since 2000 our church has been on a steady downward slide from 170 members in 2000 to 76 members in 2016, which works out to about 6 members a year. Over this same time our expenses have risen from $95,000 to $117,000. These two things together mean that the cost of running the church has risen from $600 per member in 2000, to $1400 per member in 2018. At the same time that our church has gone from 170 members down to 76 members our staff, pastor, secretary, custodian, and pianist have stayed the same. Very few churches of 70 -80 members have this level of staffing.

Our income is a testament to the giving people in our church. Our giving has been about 114,000 a year since 2007.

The difference between our income of $114,000 and our budget of $117,000 has been handled by not spending money in the budget designated for Mora Mission and Outreach, along with other areas. The result is that we do not spend money in areas that would bring our church growth. We want to change this so that we can make these items in the budget a priority. To do this we will need to cut our budget to equal our income.

At this point we have chosen not to change our staffing at the church. We have made the choice to cut salaries by 10% instead, with the hope that through our missions and outreach we will grow our church to a membership that can support our staff.

These cuts will be a sacrifice on the part of all of our staff.

How should you respond to our budget cuts? First don’t feel like we are failing, this is just a realignment to fit income to goals. Second maintain or increase your giving, so we can carry out mission and outreach. Third, find ways you can reach out to people in our community. Invite people to come to church, talk with them about your faith. Earnestly pray for the growth of our church and for people in our community to come to faith in Jesus.

I believe in our church, I believe it can and will grow! I believe in you the members of our church. Kathy and I believe in the future of this church so much that we not only give our tithe of 10% of what we earn to the church, but now we are giving another 10% through this pay cut, back to the church.

Believe in Jesus and Believe in your church! Working together we can and will Grow!

“The Wedding Cloths” Matthew 22:1-14

This parable of the Kingdom might strike you as strange, but is has something important to say to us about what to wear.

What should you wear to meet the president of the United States? One mother was horrified when there on TV her daughter was one of the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse players who wore flip-flops to meet the president.

First we will break down this parable. The invited guest are the Jews who have not accepted Jesus. The people brought in from the road are the gentiles. God, the King is delighted to have everyone there except one person who is not wearing wedding clothes.

We may think the King unjust, how was this man supposed to have wedding cloths when he was out traveling? The only explanation is that wedding garments were provided.

The understanding is clear. God has called us to the wedding banquet and He has provided us with cloths to wear and expects us to wear them.  Lets look at some of the garments God has given us to wear.

Isa 61:3 grant to those who mourn in Zion to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

A headdress and garments of praise, instead of ashes and mourning. It is interesting how we manage to make being a Christian more like being at a funeral than a party. Yet Gods picture of people coming to Him is filled with rejoicing and celebration. Isa 61 continues with.

Isa 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Are we putting on His robe righteousness and garments of salvation or are still clothed in the filthy rags of our past.  

Phil 3:7-11 7  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.   8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ   9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

Jesus has given us new cloths to wear, Cloths of His righteousness, Cloths of Joy, to replace our guilt and shame.

Psalm  30:11 & 12 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

While the rest of the world has no choice about what cloths they will wear, you and I have been given the cloths of a king. We dare not put them on. The King expects us to wear the righteousness, salvation, joy and praise He purchased for us on the cross. We need to put away our somber faces and seriousness, it’s time to put on the Kings wedding garments and rejoice in the party for we have a seat at the table of the King.