"Our Money Story: Restore"
The First United Presbyterian Church
“Our Money Story: Restore”
Rev. Amy Morgan
November 1, 2020
Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2 He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3 He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, "Who are these with you?" Jacob said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant."
6 Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7 Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8 Esau said, "What do you mean by all this company that I met?" Jacob answered, "To find favor with my lord."
9 But Esau said, "I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself." 10 Jacob said, "No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God-- since you have received me with such favor. 11 Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want." So he urged him, and he took it.
12 Then Esau said, "Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you."
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
There are 13,000 parts in a typical car. And my husband’s Uncle Rich knows each and every one of them. For decades, he was a high school shop teacher, and he continues to enjoy restoring classic cars.
For a serious restoration, Uncle Rich begins by removing each of those 13,000 parts, meticulously cataloguing them as he goes, creating what he calls a disassembly manual. This manual is invaluable when you come back a year later to reassemble the car. Uncle Rich describes this manual as your restoration “bible.”
Now, once the car is stripped down, it is in a very vulnerable state. Without a body, parts, and paint, the chassis can rust and collapse. The car is also a sad sight to behold in this condition, a skeleton of its former self, devoid of its former beauty and function.
But any restoration attempt that short-cuts this complete disassembly is going to be lacking in the final product. Replacing a few pieces and parts, cleaning up the paint, and throwing some dice in the mirror will not restore a car to its original mint condition, its “as it was” condition, as Uncle Rich calls it. Rich’s goal in restoring a car is to make the car just as it was on the lot the year it was sold.
And that is God’s goal for the whole creation. Restoration to “as it was” condition, the original very goodness of creation.
In our stewardship series, we’ve been talking about our money stories. We’ve explored how these stories are not just about money but intersect and influence our relationships with God and others, our love for our neighbors, and our work for justice in the world. Over the last three weeks, we’ve remembered stories of God’s provision in our wilderness times, stories of God’s love and grace even when we fail, stories of our dependence on God. We’ve been invited to release our grip on money and possessions so that we can be released from the confines of power and status, from fear and insecurity, so that we can be a life-giving force for our community and our world. And last week, we re-imagined economic structures that align with the reign of God in the world, including an invitation to transform our own denominational structure to make it more just.
All of these stories are part of God’s larger story of restoration. Like the work of restoring a classic car, we need to remember what it was originally like – the goodness of the creation in the beginning. We need to release each and every piece and part, be stripped bare. And we need to re-imagine how good and just the world can be. Remembering, releasing, and re-imagining lay the groundwork for restoration.
But when that is all done, we may be left in a vulnerable state. This process may leave us feeling stripped bare, a skeleton of our former selves, unsure about our function or value.
In the final chapter of John’s gospel, this is the state in which we find Jesus’ disciples. They have been disassembled by the trauma of Jesus’s crucifixion and astonishment of his resurrection. They have been literally stripped bare. Nothing works anymore, not even their old reliable trade of fishing. They are vulnerable, hungry and naked, confused and worn out and afraid. Like a naked car frame in a garage, they have been sitting in the dark, waiting for restoration.
And that is when Jesus comes to them. That is when the work of restoration really begins. Jesus restores these vulnerable, exhausted, frightened disciples by remembering, releasing, and re-imagining. The miraculous catch of fish reminds them of the miraculous provision of food in the wilderness. His offer of bread reminds them of their final meal before his death. He releases them from doubt and fear with the comfort of his physical presence. He releases them from anxiety and scarcity with the abundance he provides. He helps them re-imagine a world governed by the reign of God’s love and grace by inviting Peter to feed his sheep, to re-imagine a world where everyone has enough and all the sheep are cared for.
The disciples are pieced back together, bit by bit, over bread and fish, through community and conversation. With Jesus’s care and attention, they are restored to relationship with him. And they are restored to their original purpose: to care for God’s flock.
Right now, we are vulnerable and worn out and traumatized, like those disciples on the lake at night, like a stripped-down car sitting in a garage in the darkness. If our money stories told us that we could buy health or security or happiness, those stories have been completely dismantled by the year we’ve had so far. If our money stories told us that if we do or say or believe all the right things, God will make our lives easy, those stories have been undone by the suffering we’re experiencing in these times. If our money stories told us that we could ignore the injustice in the world around us, the structural oppression of those on the margins, so long as we were generous and faithful in our personal matters, this year has disassembled those narratives piece by piece.
And we are ripe for restoration. This is precisely the time and place when Jesus comes to us, ready to start the work of restoration. And when we are restored, it is an all-encompassing project. Our whole lives are restored, including our money stories. Our broken or worn-out narratives are dismantled, cleaned up, repaired, and sometimes replaced. Our restored money stories help us serve the purpose for which we were created: to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. Our restored money stories reveal our original beauty and inherent value.
Fortunately, we have a manual that will help us in the process of restoration. It is our bible, and it details every piece and part of our complex story. It tells the story of God’s restoration in great detail, over 600,000 words that make up 66 books and multiple stories.
But it’s not as simple as opening up the Bible and looking for a list of what goes where and exactly how it all fits together. If I were to look over Uncle Rich’s disassembly manual, I’m certain it would make no sense to me. I don’t know what an intake manifold is or what a gasket seal does – other than seal gaskets, I suppose. But I don’t even know what a gasket is – other than something that occasionally blows. My point is, reading the Bible as a manual is a bit like me trying to read Uncle Rich’s disassembly manual. We need someone who knows something about it to helps us sometimes. It helps if we read it together and help each other understand it. And we might have to learn about things outside the bible to understand what’s in it. But if we do that, the Bible does outline for us how God’s world came apart and how it can be put back together. It can restore our money stories so that we can participate in God’s ongoing restoration of the whole creation, so that we can feed God’s sheep.
But before we can do that, we have to be restored ourselves. That’s why we come to this table. In all our vulnerability and fear, in all our exhaustion and confusion, we come to this table to be pieced back together over bread and juice, through community and the comfort of Christ’s presence with us. Here, we remember the depth and breadth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and the abundance of God’s provision. Here, we are released from the burdens we carry. Here, we re-imagine a world governed by the reign of God’s love and grace. Here, we are restored - to relationship with God and our neighbor.
And today, as we remember on this All Saints’ Day those beloved ones who have been welcomed into the eternal feast of the saints of God, we are restored to hope. Hope in Christ’s victory over death. Hope in the eternal nature of our relationships with God and all God’s children in every time and place. Hope that in God’s new creation, God’s “as it was” restoration, death will be no more, crying and pain will be no more.
As we look forward into that hopeful time, the leadership of 1st on 4th is inviting you to make a financial commitment to the church for the coming year, to participate in the money story that we are continuing to shape. For some of us, that may be tremendously difficult, with uncertain employment, unknown medical expenses, or unforeseeable economic challenges. Many of us can’t be sure what the future holds for the next year. We understand that.
But I will tell you what is certain. 1st on 4th will continue to be the Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland. We will be an agent of God’s restoration here in this community and in all the places we now reach through the virtual world. We will be partners in God’s work of restoring people to relationship with God and our neighbors. We will be the physical presence of Jesus to people who are vulnerable, hungry, scared, and broken.
Because if we aren’t doing those things, we aren’t First United Presbyterian Church. This is all we know how to be. Christ’s hands and feet, loving the neighbor on our doorstep.
So if you are ready to be restored to your calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I invite you to feed his sheep. Any pledge, in any amount, is a commitment to that purpose. Any pledge, in any amount, is an act of restoration.
And then I invite you to come to the table, to feast, to commune, to connect, to love, to hope. Come to the table, come and eat at Christ’s invitation. Be restored to the work of restoration.
To God be all glory forever and ever. Amen.