A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Randy Hammer, November 2, 2014
Matthew 25:14-29 NLT
Two weeks ago I began my sermon by sharing my love of Jeeps, how I have wanted a Jeep since my teenage years, and how that every time I pass a beautiful Jeep of a different color, I want one of that color too. I drew a spiritual analogy to my interest over the years to different denominational colors. Well, there is a bit more to the Jeep story that I wanted to share with you today. Over the past few months, the Italian carmaker Fiat became the major stockholder in the Chrysler Corporation, which includes the brands Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep. So the official name of the newly merged automobile company is Fiat Chrysler. The CEO of the new company is Sergio Marchionne (marc-e-o’-ne), who has high hopes for boosting the sales of both Fiats and Chryslers (including the Jeep brand) worldwide. Sergio is passionate about making Fiat Chrysler a stronger global enterprise.
Well, a few weeks ago I read in the Wall Street Journal where that Fiat Chrysler stock, under the ticker name FCAU, was going public. I knew that if I could at all, I wanted to buy some stock in this newly organized company. So I watched for the opening, but then waited a few days to see what would happen with the price of the stock. Well, it just so happened that along about that time, the stock market took a dive. So I continued to wait until I thought it was about as low as it was going to go, and then I bought a few shares of FCAU stock. So far I have done okay.
Now, the point of this sermon is NOT that I am advising you to buy stock in Fiat Chrysler. I would never advise anyone on how to invest in the stock market, as it can be so unpredictable and volatile. The point I want to share with you, and expound upon from a spiritual standpoint, is why I bought stock in Fiat Chrysler. I did so because of my own personal passion, beliefs, and affinity with the Jeep brand. I am passionate about the Jeep, its history, and reputation. I believe in the Jeep product. But I also believe in Sergio Marchionne who has been described as being “obsessed with quality”1 and wants to address any problems with any of the Chrysler brands and boost and multiply Jeep success worldwide. So I bought stock in it. Or to put it another way, I invested in the Jeep brand via the Fiat Chrysler Company because of my passion, beliefs, and affinity with the product they produce and the passion of the CEO at the helm of the company.
Now, people who deal in the stock market will be quick to tell you that you also need to do your homework and make sure you are making a wise investment and not investing on feelings alone. I get that. But the point is, I invested in something I believe in and am passionate about. And I will not invest in something that I do not believe in and am not passionate about.
Several years ago, our favorite restaurant happened to be O’Charley’s. Our entire family loved the restaurant so much we bought a little bit of stock in it. We kept it a few years and then sold it when we needed the money, and we made a decent profit on it. We certainly would not have bought stock in a restaurant we didn’t like or didn’t believe in.
Well, in the parable attributed to Jesus by Matthew, Jesus talks about investing. In the particular translation I chose for today, the word “invest” is used three times. If we were to narrow the message of this parable to one concept, it probably would be this: dedicated investing in the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls for wisdom, devotion, diligence, and a certain amount of risk. He calls for followers to make responsible use of the resources and talents that each one is given. He calls upon hearers to take good care of that which is entrusted to us. The principle for Christian giving in a nutshell is proportionate giving: each one giving in proportion to what he or she has received and is able to give. That is Christian financial stewardship pure and simple.
We sit here today in our comfortable Chapel, and we can see our children and grandchildren receive spiritual development in our Sunday school classes, and we can take pride in our three-star nursery school only because of the investments of those who have gone before us. We were able to install sixty-some energy efficient windows in our education and office building, make needed repairs to the roof, make improvements to both our Chapel floor and education building because of the investments of those who have gone before us. We are able to support an almost half-time Director of Education and resource for families with children and Assistant to the Minister position because of the investments of those who have gone before us.
But when it comes to the day-to-day operation of the United Church, we depend upon the investments of those who are here today. Our investments, our gifts, enable us to keep the doors of our church open, provide full-time services and pastoral care, provide Sunday school and many special activities and events throughout the year for our children and teenagers. Special events like this past Sunday’s Trunk or Treat and Fall Fest, the Christmas Family Worship coming up in December, the UNITY youth retreat at Camp Wesley Woods planned for January—these things are possible because of the financial investment that we make in this church. And when it comes to outreach, the hundreds of families that we touch throughout the year through our Community & Worship Service mission gifts and my Pastor’s Discretionary Fund are possible because of our financial investment.
Most of us believe in this United Church, who we are, and what we stand for. And so, we are happy to invest in this place we believe in. And just as with Fiat Chrysler who has a CEO that is passionate about extending the Jeep brand, you have leaders here in this United Church who are passionate about this church and working hard to make this church successful. Our Board members, Sunday school teachers, all of our paid church staff, Suzanne, and yours truly—all of us are passionate about this church, and all of us are working hard and have a vested interest in the continued success and growth of this congregation. A couple of months ago, I conducted evaluation interviews with the six church employees I supervise. On questions having to do with job satisfaction and passion for this church, all scores were 4 or 5 on a scale where 5 was positive or great. That being the case, then this United Church is a place where all of us can invest with confidence.
All of our active members should have received a Loyalty Letter this past week from our Finance Committee and Church Board. We hope that each one will prayerfully and faithfully consider the resources that have been given and then pledge toward next year’s budget accordingly. I invest in what I believe in and am passionate about, including this United Church. It falls to each of us to consider what we believe in and are passionate about, and then answer the question, “Where and how much are we going to invest?” Amen.
1”Sergio Marchionne: Resurrecting Chrysler,” CBS News, March 25, 2012 (available on YouTube).