The idea for this sermon comes from the Rev. Canon Lance Ousley and his weekly Stewardship Stirrings writings.
What do you hold dear? Jeremiah tells us what God holds dear: the people of Israel, but also the blind and lame, women and children and especially pregnant women. These latter are the outcasts of society. They have no power or wealth but they are the beloved of God. Jeremiah wants to assure that we know that God loves us. God wants us to know we are loved.
How are we to assure that people in our community know they are loved by God? This was important to Jeremiah because God had laid it on his heart to let the people know they were loved. How can we spread this knowledge into the world?
Paul also notes that God loves us—through Jesus we are offered grace. Paul states we were loved not only before we were born but before the Earth was formed. That is a long time to be loved! Paul encourages us to know God and Jesus better so we can live in hope and the knowledge of God’s love and power that is used for our benefit.
What do we hold dear? I believe the way we maintain our building shows that it is beloved by us. We also care for one another, which Paul also commends. But we are also willing to give to our community—we are happy to help those who are outcasts and those who are in need. We visit the sick, proclaim Good News to those in prison, and support companion ministries with the homeless, the hungry, children and families in distress, and survivors of abuse.
We are good stewards of these things we hold dear. We hold dear – things, people, and ideals. This falls under stewardship—the willingness to protect what we hold dear. God protecting the Israelites, the outcasts, and us.
So we have the story of the wise men. What did they hold dear? They saw this phenomenal sign in the sky and they were willing to sacrifice time and expense to go see the King so proclaimed. And that is another aspect of stewardship—surrender or sacrifice. What are we willing to give up to protect what is precious to us? These Magi are a prime example of this.
They surely had heard stories about Herod. Caesar said of him that it was better to be Herod’s pig than one of his sons. Herod’s cruelty to his people and his own family was well-known. I can see these Magi sitting around a Bedouin campfire and listening to stories about Herod. Yet, Herod would have realized they were in the area so they must have felt obligated to visit him.
It may have been up to two years since the star had appeared in the sky so they were dedicated to finding this new King. Herod would have been seething that these men had brought gifts for a child not even part of Herod’s family. I think these Magi knew his true nature.
After finding and seeing this child and spending time in Bethlehem—they must leave. This baby is so precious to them, they risk Herod’s wrath and return home another way. And Joseph, understanding from a dream, that his family is in danger, flees to Egypt. They give up home, income, and country to protect what is precious to them. I think of the centuries of immigrants who have come to this country to protect and care for their families because they are precious. And, yes, those who still come at great sacrifice and risk to provide a better life for their families—what do they hold dear?
So today we travel with Jeremiah, Paul, the Magi, and even Joseph and Mary. As we travel, do we carry Christ and his love with us? Are we willing to surrender some of what we have—time, talent, and treasure—to protect what is precious to us? And are we willing to give up some of what we have to know Christ better? Are we willing to be companions of outcasts by representing their beloved status? Can we recognize we are all God’s beloved? What do you hold dear?