"The Family Album"
All Saints Sunday
"The Family Album"
(1 John 3:1-3)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A mother realized that she had never shown her four-and-a-half-year-old son her own baby pictures. After going through the family photo album and showing the pictures to the little boy, he said, "If those are your baby pictures, where are the dinosaurs?"(1)
In John Steinbeck's great novel, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, a migrating "Okie" family is told not to waste vital packing space on photographs and other items of family history and memories. One of the family members objects and asks, "How will we know it's us without our past?"
Family Albums are fun to look at. The remind us who we are. They capture moments of our history that evoke all kinds of emotions.
When my Mom died, one of the things I was able to do was put together a video tribute of her life. My brothers and cousins and Uncle and I went through 3 boxes of photos and photo albums. We found pictures none of us had ever seen before. We laughed and cried as we went through the pictures. We all commented on how bad the fashions were during certain periods or asked, "What were you thinking?" when we saw certain forgettable hair styles. Some of us even remembered having hair.
Going through those photos, looking back at Mom's life and creating that video was cathartic and healing for me. It reminded me who I was, who I am and who I'm connected to.
Our passage of Scripture for this morning does exactly the same thing. It reminds us who we were, who we are and who we're connected to. Three simple verses with a deep encompassing message for the people of God. 1 John 3:1-3 (NRSV)
 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
 Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
What an awesome passage. If you ever forget what kind of relationship God wants with you, read this passage. "See what love the Father has given us."
If you ever doubt WHO you are or WHOSE you are, read this passage. "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are."
If you think our faith is only about some pie in the sky future that has nothing to do with today, read this passage. "Beloved, we are God's children now."
This passage is a significant part of our Family Album. In those few words, we've perused 3,000 years of Biblical history. In those few words, page after page of all the saints who have gone before us can be conjured up and celebrated because they too were the children of God.
Our Ask, Seek, Knock Stewardship Campaign has pretty much been modeled after a modern Family Album. We've been perusing the pages, looking at snapshots of the life and ministry of this church. Members have been sharing with us the difference this church and the ministries of this church have made in their lives. Once again I want to thank everyone who participated.
These members who have shared are modern living saints. They're probably cringing because I called them that. But that's really what they are. That's really what YOU are.
How can we be called saints? Aren't saints perfect? No! In good Wesleyan theology, saints aren't perfect people, saints are people who are being perfected by God. "Jesus didn't choose the brightest and best, the smartest and the richest for his disciples. He picked the mediocre, the poor, the everyday and the ordinary and then molded them into the extraordinary." (2)
The main difference between a Saint and a Sinner is really quite simple. It really doesn't have anything to do with whether or not someone has accepted Christ or not. The main difference is an affair of the heart and the soul and the focus of the heart and soul which of course makes it a Stewardship issue, which is why I bring it up.
Now, I know there are more attributes to both, but one of the main differences between a saint and a sinner is: "a saint loves people and uses things, while a sinner loves things and uses people."
You and I, are the Children of God. We have been called to be Saints. We might be the mediocre, the poor, the everyday and the ordinary but God, through Christ, is molding us into something extraordinary. It shows in the Family Album. We've seen it as we've perused the pages of all the testimonies we've seen and heard over the last few weeks. We are growing Saints.
That's what ministry is all about. That's what Stewardship is all about. Stewardship empowers the ministry which empowers and enables the Children of God to become Saints who are being perfected
The Biblical witness for giving is the tithe or ten percent. Everything we have and are comes from God and is really God's to begin with, and all God asks is that we return a portion as a means of giving thanks. And God said that portion should be ten percent or a tithe. And that tithe should be from the first fruits not the leftovers.
You see if you give God the leftovers, that's like eating an apple and giving God the core. And the apple core isn't very appealing is it? You wouldn't give it to your children or your spouse would you? God doesn't want it either. God wants a tithe of our first fruits.
I know some of you aren't there for whatever reason. But you can be. Challenge yourself through proportional giving. Start wherever you are. If it's 3% then give 3%. But in 2 months make it 4%, then 2 months later make it 5%. Keep growing your giving and God will bless your effort.
You're not blessed because you tithe, but when you tithe, you'll find that you have been blessed beyond compare. Because the focus is God and not the money. It's an affair of the heart and soul and the focus of the heart and soul that matters in Stewardship.
Our focus is this great love God has for us and our desire to share that love with others through the work and ministry of the church.
Dr. Tony Campolo likes to tell how God is like a grandparent who visits with friends and relatives, and then begins to pull out all the pictures of their children and grandchildren. And the grandparents will say, "This is my Tony, this is my Suzy, this is my Eric, this is my Mary, this is my Jennifer, this is my Johnny."
Dr. Campolo asks if it has ever crossed your mind that God does the same thing, because we are his children?" Don't worry if the picture you are looking at is not as beautiful as you think it should be. God sees you and loves you and that is where our real beauty comes from.
Remember, there is always more grace in God than sin in us. Remember, God sees us and knows us and has promised to love us in spite of ourselves.
"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now..."
1. Nazanin Tooyserkani, California. Today's Christian Woman, "Small Talk." (Adapted)
2. Brian Gowing, Tides Church, Lake Elsinore, CA (Adapted)
3. Bible Illustrator for Windows
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