Taking Care of God's House

Following is a sermon I delivered on June 30, 2013 at Pocatello First United Methodist Church.

Genesis 2:8-15 NIV

As we read in Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

And there we have it.  God created the world, and then he created someone to take care of it, and we have the invention of stewardship.  God put the person (because at this point in the story there was only one), put the person in the Garden to work and take care of it.

As beautiful and fertile as the Garden was, it still wasn't a vacation resort but a workplace.  All of this is before any talking snakes, apple eating, “original sins,” disobedience, curses, or punishments.  From the beginning, God has given us responsibilities, expectations to take care of things, stewardship.

Stewardship is a very misunderstood word.  If you were to ask most people in the church what it means, they’d probably say “money” or “tithing.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s an important part. Don’t stop … And, I thank you for your generosity, but it is not the only part.

Today, with Beautification Sunday, we are looking at a particular aspect of this, taking care of God’s House.  Obviously, there are other aspects too.

But Wait, There's More ...

Taking care of God’s creation can take many forms.  It may be a driving passion for ecology.  It can take the form of appreciating the mountains.  It can be as a firefighter protecting the people and the animals who live in those mountains.  It can be running for public office or giving blood.  Keeping your car in good repair, helping a lost child find her parents.  The list is endless.  It can be overwhelming if we each, individually, try to do it all.

That is the blessing of our different gifts and talents.  Individually, we can’t do it all, but there’s something we do really well.  There’s something that we’re passionate about.  If we focus on those things, together, we can make a difference.  As the UMC puts it, we can transform the world.  We can transform it to be more like it was in the Garden of Eden.

With Beautification Sunday, we are looking to pool our talents.  We have this magnificent space in which to come and worship, to have classes, to serve as a gathering place to help others, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.  It has been entrusted to us.

Back in Genesis is says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

The LORD God places us here in this church at this time and place to take care of it.  This is God’s house, and we have been given a special honor.

Sometimes, we need to take a step back to see the full picture.  Observing from the outside, we have to ask ourselves, “Does it look like anyone cares?”  What impression are we making on potential new people, guests, or our community?  It’s not about being shallow or superficial.

It reminds me of a story by George Wood, a pastor from Missouri.  The church owned the next lot over.  They weren't doing anything with it and let it go to seed. With the grass and weeds about waist high, it looked neglected.  During his prayer time one day, he has a prompting, “George, if you cannot take care of the lawn, how can I trust you to take care of people?”  Is that the impression that we’re making?

It’s not about having the biggest or the newest thing.  It’s about taking care of what we have.  Yes, we have people who do the day to day upkeep, and they do it well. What we’re trying to do today is more like a Spring Cleaning where we look at the more occasional things.  By doing this together, we are reminded that we are not merely religious consumers with an other worldly focus.  We are a real community, with things we share in common and must take care of together.

Doing it together does not mean we all have to do it the same way.  I have something to confess.  I’m not a gardener.  There.  I've said it.  I love flowers.  When I was in Boise last weekend, I was blown away by the rose garden.  But, I cannot keep a plant alive to save my life!  On the other hand, I can organize things like nobody’s business.  I also take direction well.  I was telling something the other day that I love taking an old toothbrush to a light switch plate and making it sparkling.

What am I getting at with all of this self-disclosure?  You may not think that you have a way to contribute to Beautification Sunday, but I bet there’s something.  The Trustees have come up with a wide variety of things.  Indoor and outdoor.  Higher intensity – lower intensity.  I’ll bet “adviser” is someone’s gift.  You know, the person who watches and says, “You missed a spot.”  But I will say that we have a limited number of those slots.

So stay.  Do some “beautification.”  Have some lunch.  Have a snow cone!  Help spruce up God’s house.

I’ll close with a final story.  There was a lay leader who invited the new young pastor to his farm house for dinner his first Sunday.  While the family was getting the food ready, the farmer showed the preacher around his well-kept farm.  Every time the farmer pointed with pride to the barn, the tractor, the well-kept fields, the young pastor would say, “Well, the Lord is so good.”

Finally, the lay leader had enough.  He said to the preacher, “Yes, I know the Lord is good, and I acknowledge that.  But you should have seen this place when the Lord had it by himself!”

The Good News is that God created this world that we live in, all that we have, this sanctuary we worship in, and he asks us to be in partnership with him to take care of it as if it was our own.  It can look like work.  It can even feel that way sometimes, but what a blessing that really is.  So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it.



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